Online Satellite Tournaments Is it Possible to be a Pro Satellite Player?

Satellite Qualifiers Can Be Very Profitable Poker Games
– But Are They Profitable Enough To Go Pro?

Online Poker Satellites involve a very specific skill set. Whether you play Turbo Rebuy Tournaments, Double Shootouts or are a SNG Satellite player then having a good understanding of the Bubble – as well as how to navigate the earlier stages can give you a huge edge over the competition.

The fact that there are so many casual satellite players who do not understand the key poker strategy concepts should give you a positive expectation from these games over time. The question thus becomes this:

‘Do Good Satellite Players Have a Good Enough Expectation to Play Online Satellites Professionally?’

To answer this question we need to do three things. Firstly work out what the expectation of a good player might be, both in terms of dollars won and hourly rate. Secondly compare this with an hourly rate of that same player for other forms of the game (for example SNGs or regular poker tournaments). Thirdly ask whether there are enough games and opportunities to turn those wins into cash to make this worthwhile.

Q1 – Expectation and Hourly Rates for Winning Satellite Players?

This is a difficult question to answer as there are so many variables involved. Satellite tournaments usually have an ‘overlay’ of money provided by certain player groups. We will use a $5 Turbo rebuy with 100 players as our example.

  1. 10% of the players will buy-in once and not add on, nursing a small stack until they bust. Others in this group will rebuy once when they lose a hand and then give up. We estimate that these players add +$100 to our prize pool.
  2. 10% of the players will be rebuy-maniacs, pushing any-2 over and over and spending 8 - or even 10+ buy-ins per game. Sure, these players can often get a big stack and play for a place but over time their wins will not make up for the money spent! Estimate for these players is that each add $25 (their negative expectation) to the pool so +$250 over all.
  3. 20% of the players will get the early stages right but will not understand the bubble. Sure, their mathematically ‘crazy’ calls will sometimes work out well for them, but over time the equity risked compared to their gains will be a negative expectation – they will donate money to the game. Will add another +$300 ‘overlay’ to reflect this.

Ok, so the groups of players above might add a total of $650 to the prizes… but how would we account for skill differences compared to the rest of the field? Let us be generous and say that out of the remaining 60 players our winner is in 20th place – that is over time she will beat 40 and lose to the remaining 19. Since there is not too much time for skill differences to become apparent in Turbo Rebuys then we will give a $5 for each – so (40*$5)-(19*5) = +$105

Now we are in a position to work out the expectation per game.

Assuming 100 players and 15*$150 prizes for an average of $20 invested (2 rebuys and 1 add on). Add to this the $755 covered from opponents errors.

  1. Prize pool = $3000
  2. Average Wins = 15% + 5% ($755 = 5 more places from opponent errors) so 20%

So over 100 games

  1. 20 Times we win $150 = $3000
  2. 80 Times we lose $20 =  $1600

Total profit = $1400 / 100 games or $14 per game – this is a healthy ROI of 70%.

We are now in a position to calculate hourly rates. Turbo rebuys generally last about 100 minutes. But this is not the same as the average time spent playing as we will bust out early on many occasions – we will work with 60 minutes per game on average and look at 2 or 3 games simultaneously (thought is that any more would reduce effectiveness of being able to watch the other tables at the bubble etc and so reduce wins).

  1. 2 games at average of $8 buy in and 4 buy-ins per game = (48*0.7) or $33.6 / hour
  2. 3 games = $50.4 per hour.

That’s a good hourly rate for most lower-limit poker players but we are still not finished quite yet! The winnings (assuming Poker Stars) are in Tournament $ and not cash we need to convert to Cash in order to get an accurate picture. There are many places to sell your T$ and 88% is a reasonable expectation so our $50.4 changes to $44.35.

Q2 – How Does This Hourly Rate Compare to Alternative Games?

What else could our winning player be doing? Here are a couple of examples.

  1. SNGs – Playing $27 Turbos, averaging 6 per hour at a ROI of 15% = $24.3/ Hour
  2. Cash Games – 3 Tables of 50c/$1 NL at 10BBs / Hour = $30/ Hour
  3. MTTs – 3 tabling $30 MTTs (on average) with a 50% ROI = $20 / Hour (if we assume 2 hours for each MTT i.e. some include early bust outs + others v.long)

Q3 – Are There Enough Games?

We are focusing on Poker Stars here as this is the only site that lets you buy and sell your Tournament dollars for cash. While there are many Satellite tournaments of different types it would not be realistic to assume that everyone would be able to play an 8 hour day of exclusively Turbo Rebuys.

The good news is that at the weekends this is almost certainly possible. Also at times when there are Satellite qualifiers to special events such as the World Series or EPT Tournaments increase the number of Satellites available dramatically.

Final Thoughts + Next Steps

The amount of ‘dead money’ in online satellite qualifiers appear to make these a viable option for players who understand the strategy concepts involved.Poker Stars is the site of choice for this for two reasons. Firstly the wide choice of games and number of players make Satellites a viable choice. Secondly, you are able to turn your Tournament Dollars into cash at reasonable rates at many websites.

If you are not already benefiting from the huge number of soft satellite qualifiers available at Poker Stars make sure you do not miss out any longer – you’ll soon see for yourself why PokerStars are the number one Poker Room Worldwide. Use Marketing code PSP3108 (when you register) and Bonus Code STARS600 (when you deposit) to claim your 100% match to $600 bonus which can be spread over your first 3 deposits - check them out right now!


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