In 2003, an accountant from Tennessee by the name of Chris Moneymaker (you can't make this stuff up) bought into an online satellite tournament for $38 and turned that into $2.5 million by becoming the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.
Online poker enjoyed a massive increase in popularity thanks to Moneymaker's historic victory, with the result being referred to as the "Moneymaker Boom," how cool is that? Until that point, online satellite tournaments to live events were few and far between, but in 2014 they are one of the most popular tournament formats in the online poker world.
Satellite tournaments' rules are the same as standard multi-table tournament, but the way to approach them is completely different. In fact it is so different that many successful tournament players struggle to switch to the ideal satellite strategy.
Most satellites come under one of two guises: (1) Winner-takes-all and (2) A certain number of seats / tickets / packages per satellite. Let's deal with the first of these now.
In a winner-takes-all satellite you have to win the entire tournament in order to win the prize on offer. The name says it all really. In this format, it pays to play aggressively in an attempt to accumulate as many chips as you can because you need to win each and every single chip in play in order to win the event.
Compare this to a standard satellite where survival is the key. In a satellite that offers 20 seats to the target tournament, you are rewarded the same whether you finish 1st in the satellite or 20th. Although you still need to accumulate chips, doing so is not as important as preserving the chips already in your stack.
One top tip is to figure out how many chips the average stack will have at the time the prizes are distributed. You can do this by multiplying the starting stack by the number of entrants and then dividing that figure by the number of places paid. For example, a satellite you are playing in starts with 3,000 chips and attracts 200 players (600,000 chips in play). It pays the top 15 places so the average stack will be 40,000 when the prizes are paid out. Aim to build and maintain your stack at this level and you will sail through the game with little to no problems.
Another tip for a standard satellite is to avoid unnecessary close confrontations. While it may be tempting to four-bet jam all-in with As-Ks, it is likely you are up against a very strong range and in a virtual coin flip. It would be much better to pick a spot where you know (or feel) you have a much larger slice of equity.
Satellite tournaments are a great way to play in larger buy-in events while preserving your bankroll. Play them correctly and you could be playing for huge prizes for a small outlay, and who doesn't want to be doing that?