How to Win Single Table Satellite Tournaments

Satellite tournaments are a great way for players to advance to larger tournaments while only risking a small buy-in. This article is going to discuss strategy for single table satellites - that is, satellite tournaments with only nine players. Also, we are focusing on satellites that are winner take all - meaning that only the first place finisher receives a buy-in to the larger tournament.

Start of the Satellite

The beginning of these tournaments should be played with the intention of doubling up. The start of this tournament is where players should be playing the tightest and the best way to do this is by playing premier hands such as high pocket pairs, an Ace with a 10-King, and in some situations KQ and KJ.

A great way to double up at this stage is by getting all-in pre flop with AA, KK, QQ, or even AK. Now with these hands it is necessary to make a raise preflop that is about 5x the big blind. Making a smaller raise will cause players to call your raise with a much smaller hand that could end up cracking your hand on the flop causing you to lose in an early position. Also, by making a 5x raise you could induce a player with a mid pocket pair such as 99, 1010, or JJ to re-raise your bet which could help you to double up in the beginning.

You can also call raises at this point with a smaller hand such as suited connectors and low pocket pairs, but only make these types of calls when facing a 3x or less raise. When calling these types of raises you should be trying to flop a set, make a straight, or even hit a flush or better. The big thing to remember is to not over play these types of hands if you happen to miss the flop.

The Middle Stages of the Satellite

The middle of the tournament would be when there are six-four players remaining. At this stage, you should begin to become very aggressive which includes making raises from the cut off and button, firing on the flop after you raise (even if you miss the flop), and also trying to steal pots away from other players.

The range of hands you are raising with and playing should also become wider. It is very important to be the one that is raising and not the one just calling bets. An ace will become a very big hand regardless of the kicker and each time you have an ace try to make a raise of about 1.5 to 2 times the big blind. Making raises at this point will help to increase your stack, and even if you do get re-raised when you have a sub-par hand then folding will not decrease your stack by much at all especially in comparison to the amount you win by stealing so many pots.

Above we mentioned that raising with small pocket pairs was fine, but to not overplay them on the flop. Well at this stage it now becomes necessary to make a continuation bet on the flop and possibly even the turn in order to win the pot and push your opponent off their hand. With this type of play also comes stealing pots when you are in position. An example of this would be calling a small raise with KQ. If the board comes out ragged, like 4-5-8 unsuited, then you should make a play to steal the pot because your opponent probably has big face cards and missed.

Down to Three Players

Once you are down to the final three players, the majority of your strategy will be dictated by your stack size. At this point you need to accumulate chips as quickly as possible, so don't be afraid to play very aggressively. Third place is just as bad as second, so there is no sense trying to outlast the other players while your stack dwindles.

When you are on the button you should raise the majority of your hands, including any Ace, any pocket pair, any King, and suited connectors. Really, any two decent cards are worth a raise on the button.

When you are in the blinds, you will have to occasionally take a stand against the button, who will probably be raising quite often. When you pick up a decent hand in the blinds, throw out a substantial re-raise and put the button in a tough spot. If he/she folds, you know that they are raising sub-par hands so you can continue to re-steal.

As I mentioned before, this is no time to get passive, so don't be afraid to get all your chips in preflop with a solid hand. Your sole goal is to win the entire tournament, so entering a coin flip isn't the worst thing in the world.

Gain chips through raising, be aggressive in position, and always put pressure on your opponent, and you will be on your way to winning that satellite.

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