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With TCOOP coming up, perhaps you will be playing some of the numerous cash/FPP satellites that Pokerstars has to offer.  

 

There is plenty of value in playing these satties, if you know how to play them optimally.  Here I will pass on some tips I've learned over the years about how to maximise your chances of cashing.

 

Note: this guide is for multi-table freezeout satellites.  Rebuy satellites will have some similar principles.  

 

What is the goal in a satellite?

To make the money/get the ticket.  Accumulating a monster stack is not important because all places get paid evenly and the tourney will never be played all the way to the end.

Sometimes there will be an extra smaller prize just on the bubble.  It will range from a few $/FPPs to an amount worth just under the main prize.  Generally, if the mincash is "decent" in my mind, I'll include it as an in-the-money spot.  If it is too small, I will ignore it and only count the target tickets as a cash.

 

How can I make it to the money?

In this guide I will divide the satellite into 3 distinct stages and explain my preferred strategies and the reasons behind them.

 

 

Early stage

The aim early on should be to not spew chips.  It's fine to play a few pots but keep them small, and get out early unless you have a big hand.  Losing too many chips in the first few levels will hurt you later on, as your fold equity will be reduced, and any double ups you subsequently make will be for less than they would have been.

You don't need to play ubertight, if you get a hand that you'd normally play early in an MTT, then play it.  Just be very aware of your chipstack and don't waste chips unnecessarily.  Think of your chips as fuel.  The more fuel you have, the further you can go.

If you get a chance to double up early, don't be afraid to take it.  But make sure you have them crushed!  Avoid marginal spots early on.

It's not important to stall in the early stage.  The blinds will have little effect on your stack, and you are still in the chip accumulation stage at this point.

 

 

Middle stage

I classify the middle stage as the point at which a high % of players will be shortstacked enough relative to the blinds that they will be raising or 3betting allin preflop.  Generally this will be around the 50/100 level or 75/150 - or whenever players get below around 15 big blinds.

By now late registration should be closed, and it's a good time to work out approximately what stack size you will need for a ticket.

The following sum will provide you with the average stack when ITM is reached:

(Current number of players / Total number of places paid)  *  Current average stack

All of the needed info can be found on the satellite lobby. You should be aiming to amass at least 50% of the ITM average stack. Satellites will often go down to the wire around the bubble, so being prepared and knowing what stack you'll need is hugely important.  I put 50% as an estimate, but the closer to the average stack the better.  The deeper you get, the easier it'll be to judge what stack to aim for.

Chip accumulation is the dish of the day during the middle stage, but only if you haven't reached a good stack (as above.)  You should be looking for good spots to jam or minraise, depending on your stack and the villain's stack/style.  Here are some examples of good spots:

- Late position steal.  Works best against tight players or ones that you don't think will want to risk losing their current chipstack.  Works worst against shortstacks and loose/crazy players.  If stacksizes allow it, opt for a minraise with a plan of folding steal hands and calling value hands if someone plays back at you.  If you are getting shortstacked then an allin (or allin minus 1, see below ) might be best.

- Blind v blind steal (same as above but from the SB)

- Pot odds calls against shortstacks.  It's okay to call their shoves on the blinds IF you have a good enough price, good enough hand, AND crucially if by calling and losing it won't hurt your fold equity.  Fold equity is your best friend in satellites.

- Steal jams into a bigger stack.  Bigstacks can be your friend in satties, if you choose the right spot to jam into them.  You want to look for players who have enough chips to feel secure at the moment, but would be shortstacked if they doubled you up.   Consider how many chips they'd be left with if they called you and lost.  For this reason you have improved fold equity over certain stacksizes, whereas by jamming into shorter stacks they have much more incentive to call and double up.  Be careful when picking stack-based steal jams.  You don't want to be shoving into too many people, especially people who can either call you comfortably and still cash, or shortstacks who need to gamble.  The stronger your hand, the less you need to worry about those factors.

- Bigstack bully.  If you find yourself fortunate enough to have a bigstack, you can apply pressure on shorter stacks by making raises.  Be careful if the table is too loose or people start playing back at you.  You don't need the extra chips, but by taking them away from other players you are improving your chances of cashing.  Never risk losing your bigstack if you feel you have the ticket locked.

Hopefully with a bit of luck, you'll find yourself with a big enough stack to survive the crucial endgame.  Once you reach that point, it's time to slam on the brakes:  

 

Late stage

If shortstacked at the very end, you're going to have to gamble and try to regain some fold equity, in order to reach a safe stack.  Assuming you've reached a position you feel is likely to get you ITM, the important things now are chip preservation, timing and planning ahead.

Chip preservation: means that you want to hold on to your chips at all costs! Folding all hands can often be the correct play, even aces lose ~10% of the time whereas by folding you can have 100% chance of cashing.  I'm not saying always fold aces, but there are definitely times for it in satellites.

Timing: here I'm talking about stalling as much as possible, to decrease the number of hands you have to play and thereby minimise the number of chips you lose.  

Another top timing tip is to constantly check the tourney clock, and muck your hands quickly if you are trying to get through the blinds before a deadly blind increase.  Conversely, if you can time it so that you get on the small blind with <1min remaining, you can make sure you have the button for the new level and everyone else has to go through the higher blinds before you.  The higher the blinds, the more crucial it is to try to use timing to your advantage.

Super advanced timing tip: if you are going allin, go allin minus one instead.  Stall before raising.  If reraised, stall before calling.  If flatted, stall and try to check down all streets or value bet on the river  The key to this tip is that it gains you extra time.

Planning ahead: being aware of how the blinds will impact on your own, and the other players' stacks.  This can often mean working out how many chips they'll have in X amount of hands time, and comparing it to your own.  You may also need to factor in the blind increases which could occur. The shorter stacked you are, the more you need to pay close attention to stack sizes.

 

Last of all, ONLY EVER GAMBLE IF YOU NEED TO.  If you are in a spot where you know that by folding all hands you will not make the money (having checked other players and making sure they are not going to get killed by the blinds first)  then you will probably need to find a spot to gamble.  Generally it's best to only do this from the big or small blind.  The reason behind this is that by doubling before the blinds, you still have to go through them and this could re-cripple/kill you.  By waiting for the blinds you will probably have a worse hand, but will more likely be headsup and if you win you don't get instacrippled by the blinds again.   That said, if you do get dealt a good hand from another position then go with it, but only if by doubling up you'd definitely be able to survive the next blinds.

 

 

Cliffs:

Don't spew early.  

Find spots to accumulate chips with as little risk as possible.

Work out a target stack and acquire it.

Once comfortable, stall and use tactics to seal the deal.

 

 

 

This is my first strategy blog post here, I've spent ages writing it and I'd love to hear some feedback.  

 

Obb x

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