The Perfect Poker Tournament Part 4: Which Satellite Tournaments Are Best?

The Perfect Poker Tournament Part 4: Which Satellite Tournaments Are Best?

Dara O’Kearney, Igor Kurganov, Dominik Nitsche, Adrian Mateos, and Niall Farrell weight in on satellites.

In the first three parts of our exclusive series of articles, we’ve been discussing what constitutes the perfect poker tournament. We looked at the table occupancy, the poker format, and discussed the antes.

In this last part of the series, we spoke to our five poker professionals about which satellites players of all levels should play.

Our five poker professionals are: Spanish poker powerhouse and Winamax sponsored Adrian Mateos, Scottish pro and player favorite Niall Farrell, Unibet Poker Pro Dara O’Kearney, PokerStars Team Pro Igor Kurganov, and Team 888Poker’s Dominik Nitsche. Let’s get down to business.

What Kind of Qualifier is Ideal?

Mateos: Satellites are pretty important in the poker economy, it affects the big tournaments.

O’Kearney: All things being equal, the best type of satellites are satellites to a specific event, whether that’s the Irish Open, a Unibet Poker event, EPT Main Event, or partypoker MILLIONS. But the problem the sites always have is that liquidity can be an issue.

Nitsche: In the real world, you need major liquidity in your games to run satellites. Poker sites tend to get this much-needed liquidity from subsatellites, which are good, and professional satellite grinders, which are less good but necessary.

I believe that in an ideal world, anyone should only be able to qualify once. I could go on about this for hours, but anyone who has any idea how the poker ecosystem works can see that the whole idea of satellites is to give little guys a shot.

Mateos: Satellites are pretty important in the poker economy, it affects the big tournaments. When I was starting, I dreamed of playing the World Series of Poker or EPT and the only way to play those events without the bankroll was to qualify through a satellite.

Kurganov: One change that PokerStars has done that I like, but that also made me play fewer satellites, was that if you have won a seat to the live event, you cannot play the same satellite again to grind tournament dollars. I think that’s good because the intention of the satellite is to feed into the tournament. That it was hackable in the past by amassing tournament dollars was just a glitch in the system, I think; it didn’t satisfy the initial goal.

Farrell: A lot of the time, the satellite professionals tend to make the games run and provide the liquidity for the satellites, so you’re in a tough spot. You need to provide the happy medium between providing the liquidity and discouraging one guy from winning fifty tickets. You want as many different people playing the Main Event via satellite as possible.

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As recently as just a few years ago, PokerStars was still seen as the last word on qualifying players via satellite. But that’s a situation Farrell identifies to have changed.

Farrell: I know on PokerStars, the online offering isn’t anywhere near as good as it used to be, so you get lower numbers. I would like to see partypoker go for a direct system, marketing MILLIONS tournaments with direct satellites.

O’Kearney: The partypokerLIVE idea is interesting and different because it completely separates the target tournaments from the satellites, so you’re just winning money which you can use to buy into any event. That solves the problem of liquidity by creating a nominal currency for live events, but you can’t use it for online. Partypoker are a halfway house in that people like me can grind up a roll but we can only use them for partypokerLIVE tournaments.

Farrell: “For the recreational player, it’s just more confusing.”

Farrell: What I want to see is direct satellites to a Main Event rather than a flexible system. When you play an online sat, you know what you’re trying to satellite into. If you’re a pub player, you might see a tournament advertised and think ‘I’m going to try to win my way to Prague.’ But if you see it’s a satellite to winning partypokerLIVE dollars, then for the recreational player, it’s just more confusing.

O’Kearney: I was talking to some Lithuanians who grind the satellites in Nottingham and we reckon that the winner of that will run up $600,000 PPL dollars and if they get another $100,000 PPL on top of that, those dollars expire over two years. The winner will have two years to play $700,000 of live events. That’s really difficult. You’ve pretty much got to go to every live event, play every $25k, every $10k, maybe firing multiple bullets as much as you can. You’re not getting there just playing $5k Main Events, that’s for sure. There seems to be this flaw in the system whereby people will be able to accumulate partypokerLIVE dollars much faster than they can spend them.

Mateos: partypoker satellites also qualify people for Day 2 with their stacks rather than their entry. That creates a different dynamic at the tournament itself and in the satellite. The problem in their satellites is that they could be a little boring in the end, as people are waiting to get into the money.

Nitsche: “Professionals aren’t loyal. If a site offers better value, either with better promotion or softer games, they’ll go where they make the most money.”

Nitsche: It evens the playing field and gives more recreational players a better shot. If you have money to burn as your marketing budget, you should throw it at the little guy. If those people qualify for a big event, they’ll be happy customers for life. They’ll tell their mates about the awesome experience they had playing on TV. Cater to the grinder’ll sit in his basement and collect all the EV he can until the site stops throwing free money at him.

Kurganov: Pros at PokerStars can only get one seat. Once they have their seat they can’t play those anymore. I assume that the average field strength has gone down quite significantly. For example, I have a PCA seat and therefore haven’t played any satellites since I won it a couple of months ago.

Nitsche: Professionals aren’t loyal. If a site offers better value, either with better promotion or softer games, they’ll go where they make the most money.

Kurganov: Every site has a satellite structure, so in terms of best value, it depends who is adding on most stuff. It happens everywhere a bit, but I think it’s tough to beat what ‘Stars was doing recently with the PSPC $30k Platinum Pass giveaways, they’ve been adding those to satellites and other tournaments.

We came to the idea of a perfect poker tournament by considering the tournaments that are offered, along with satellite qualifiers. As well as those variants, we added antes and the number of people around a table. Niall Farrell thinks he has the perfect tournament pretty well set.

Farrell: You’ve got a freezeout Main Event that is the crown jewel of the festival, plenty of side events, and you market the satellites as qualifying for the specific event, making it a good experience.

Throw in the big blind ante, which proved itself most popular with our pros last time we gathered them, and you have the perfect poker tournament, it would seem. Poker is a game that is always evolving. Keeping up with those changes to please the recreational players is where the forward-thinking poker site will guarantee their own future in the industry, the pros seem to think.

VERDICT: Satellites should qualify players to that specific event and not be a flexible live tournament wallet. Players should only be able to play them until they’ve won a ticket to the event.

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