Poker Satellites and Freeroll Tournaments – Functionalities, Differences, and Objectives

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Freerolls and satellites are usually parts of the promotions system of an online poker room. Freerolls are called that, because entry for them is free. Not all freerolls are accessible for just anybody who happens upon the poker room offering them, though. There are some freerolls, (like the daily $500 guaranteed over at Bodog) you can register for without actually being the proud owner of a real money account, but most of these online poker freerolls only accept real money account holders, and on top of that, some also require players to fulfill certain criteria. An example would be: a promotional freeroll for those who generate more than a certain preset amount of rake, during the course of a month.

A satellite is usually a tournament, which awards its winner access to a more prestigious, bigger tournament, possibly a live event. Buy-ins for large-scale live poker events are usually extremely expensive, well above what an average player can afford. Satellites require much reduced buy-ins, thus offering an alternative route to events like the Moscow Millions or the WSOP, for those who are handy with their cards, but not so much with their finances.
Most satellites to events like the WSOP (World Series of Poker) also feature sub-satellites. These are even lower buy-in “satellites to satellites” and they provide a theoretical chance for a player to qualify for something like the WSOP, literally on a few bucks. I said “theoretical” on purpose, because at this stage, being one hell of a poker player may not prove enough. You’ll also need to be about as lucky as you’re good.

As far as strategy goes, freerolls and satellites are both in a MTT (Multi Table Tournament) format, so the basic approach is the same for both. There is one major difference between the two, which I’ll get into, after having explained what that “basic approach” is. In MTTs, it is usually recommended, that you start up extremely tight. There are lots of maniacs early on in the game, and they are going to make it extremely difficult for you to commit on anything else but the absolute nuts. As internet poker goes, they’re going to make it tough for you to see the flop, let alone any later streets. Keep tight, but do move in on extremely good starting hands because:

  1. You always want to help some people commit chip suicide, if possible.
  2. You need to build up your bankroll for later stages.

As the tourney progresses, and there are fewer and fewer people left around the tables, you should gradually loosen up. Remember, if you are set on reaching ITM (In The Money), you need a hefty bankroll, because in tournaments, bigger is definitely better as far as chip-stacks go.

The major difference between freerolls and satellites is the following: in a freeroll, the objective is to reach the money stage. In a satellite, anything short of victory is a failure. While in a freeroll, being a "farmer" (a guy not aiming for absolute victory) might cut it fine, in a satellite you have to be a “fox”. Also, bear in mind, that all the other players you’ll be going up against in later stages, will be aware of this, too.

Read more (Online Poker Freerolls Part II)