WSOP Live Satellites: A Guide to Single Table Satellites

The floor at the World Series of Poker* will be packed with various ways for you to earn seats into various events, but it’s our bet that the softest routes will likely be the STT, or Single Table Tournament, satellites. STTs are the WSOP equivalent of the gum and tabloids by your supermarket check out – impulse buys that attract a wide range of customers. We’re going to break down the details and let you know where we think you’ll find the best value in live one-table satellites this year at the Rio.

There are two basic varieties of STTs at the WSOP – STTs that pay the top two finishers 50% of the prizepool each and STTs that pay one finisher 100%. Those are marked as SW (single winner) and DW (double winner) below. Buy in levels available are as follows:

$55 + 10 (800 chips, 15 minute levels) – SW
$110 +10 (1000 chips, 20 minute levels) – DW
$112 +13 (1000 chips, 15 minute levels) – SW
$162+ 13 (1000 chips, 15 minute levels) – SW
$212+ 13 (1000 chips, 15 minute levels) – SW
$220 +15 (1500 chips, 20 minute levels) – DW
$262 + 13 (1500 chips, 20 minute levels) – SW
$312 + 13 (1500 chips, 20 minute levels) – SW
$320 + 15 (1500 chips, 20 minute levels) – DW
$420 + 15 (2000 chips, 20 minute levels) – DW
$512 + 13 (2000 chips, 20 minute levels) – SW
$520 + 15 (2000 chips, 20 minute levels) – DW
$620+ 15 (2000 chips, 20 minute levels) -DW
$1015 +15 (5000 chips, 20 minute levels) -SW
$1020 + 15 (5000 chips, 20 minute levels) -DW
$2035 + 15 (10,000 chips, 20 minute levels) – DW

There are some minor difference between the buy in levels for one winner and two winner satellites, but it’s mostly a couple of bucks on way or the other to make the prize pool split evenly.

The satellites from $120 to $635 share the same structure:

25 / 25
25 / 50
50 / 100
100 / 200
150 / 300
200 / 400
300 / 600
400 / 800
600 / 1200
800 / 1600

The structure for the 1k and 2k sattys is similar, but removes a level at the start and adds more at the end

25 / 50
50 / 100
100 / 200
150 / 300
200 / 400
300 / 600
400 / 800
600 / 1200
800 / 1600
1000 / 2000
1500 / 3000
2000 / 4000
3000 / 6000

With that established, what’s the right satellite for you? We’ll put aside bankroll considerations for a moment and assume you have a basic understanding of the bankroll you need to play a certain level comfortably as focus instead on value. Let’s examine some key considerations.

This is a pretty critical one, as the rake structure for STTs at the WSOP is more or less flat. You’re paying basically $15 bucks in rake (with the exception of the $120s) no matter what level you play, which means the rake as a percentage of your buy in can vary wildly. At the $120 level you’re paying about a 9% rake; at the $2k level you’re paying less than a 1% rake. That’s a significant difference, especially if you’re planning on playing a solid amount of satellites. It’s not a reason in and of itself to jump ahead a few buy in levels, but it’s something to consider.

The two critical gaps here are the jump in stacks from the $120 to the $235 (1000 to 1500) and the $635 to the $1035 (2000 to 5000). Considering the blind levels, 1000 chips won’t result in much play – after 30 hands or so blinds will be approaching 50/100 and the game will quickly turn into a push-fold contest with much of the table likely remaining. That’s a poor scenario for players who have strong push-fold skills, as they just don’t get as many spots to utilize them. 1500 chips fares a little better – not only will you get an extra level or two before people are likely to be open-shoving, but you’re also likely to be bit shorter player-wise, as more hands = more confrontations = more chance of eliminations.

2000 chips with 20 minute levels allows for plenty of play. You’re likely to see frequent opportunities for post-flop play or legitimate three-bet steals preflop well into levels 5-6, but the structure is quick enough that you should still be playing push-fold at or around the bubble.

5000 chips is some deep stacked poker for a satellite, even with the first level removed. If you’re a SNG specialist, this may actually work a bit to your disadvantage, as it might be quite some time before the game becomes push-fold and the cash-game regulars likely to populate the higher buy in levels will be far more correct to play the satellite as they would a cash game.

Likely Caliber of Opponents
This gets into some pretty speculative stuff, but here’s a few thoughts on what types of players are likely to be drawn to the various iterations of STTs available. Keep in mind that your ideal satellite opponent is a recreational player who is tight-passive – basically, scared money that won’t be willing to shove or call light as the stacks get short and won’t be in tune with the math behind satellite play.

So, what type of satellite will attract those types of players? They’re probably going to be on the lower end of the buy in scale more often than not (the casual players at the higher end of the buy in scale tend to be more LAG players). You’ll also probably find more of them at the 2 place payout satellites than the single place payout satellites, as the former seems like a safer gamble than the latter.

There’s also something (albeit possibly of negligible impact) about the prize awarded. Casual players often don’t grasp the idea of tournament chips or don’t want to deal with the ‘hassle’ of selling them, so they are a bit likely to gravitate to sattys that award a prize amount that corresponds closely to the buy in for an event. The most likely candidate for this player’s attention: the $335, which essentially awards two $1500 event seats.

The Best Satellite Value is …
It’s a close call between the satellites in the $300-$600 range, but we’d suggest (bankroll permitting) going with either the $320+15 or the $420+15 two payout satellites. Both have reasonable structures and stacks and are likely to attract very weak fields to to their buy in size (affordable), and both offer a very beatable rake (roughly 4% and 3%, respectively). We’d suggest gauging the quality of play between the two when you’re at the Rio, and preferring the $420+15 because of its superior structure and rake % if the players seem more or less interchangeable.

Article by Chris Grove.

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