In their most simple form Satellite Tournaments are poker games which give the participants an opportunity to qualify for a higher buy-in event. These range in size from satellites with prizes of World Series seats to sit and goes for just a couple of dollars with the prize of an entry into a multi-table tournament.

This article looks at the various kinds of satellite tournaments available online and asks the question of how these can benefit the player.

The biggest online satellite tournaments which offer seats in major televised events often cost many hundreds of dollars to enter. Fortunately many sites offer lower-buy in satellite tournaments to qualify for the later super-satellite. The competition in the larger buy-in satellites often becomes a mix of the very strong (often professional) players who buy-in to them directly and many inexperienced players who win a seat for a few dollars in a sub-qualifier.

The most common form of satellite tournaments are those that give prizes of entry into the big weekend tournaments that most sites host. These can take many forms, multi-table tournaments, re-buy tournaments, double-shootouts or single table sit and goes. The theme of these is that the number of seats given as prizes directly reflects the prize pool of the satellite qualifier.

There are two benefits of satellite tournaments for the player. Firstly the opportunity to win a big prize for a small outlay – Chris Moneymaker famously won the WSOP after entering a $30 satellite on PokerStars.

Secondly there is the opportunity for the skilled poker player who is able to adjust their strategy to suit satellite tournaments to reduce the cost of tournaments that they would have bought into directly. In order to see how this could affect profits we need to look more closely at the opponent"s who enter these tournaments.

Many players with little or no satellite experience will enter these tournaments online in order to have a shot at the big weekend events. While these players get lucky once in a while their chances are small, the strategy adjustments not correctly understood and their expectation negative. This negative expectation is the profit the thinking poker players make. For example if half the field has a negative expectation of 50% of their buy-in each time they enter, then the averagely skilled player has a positive expectation of the same amount.

It is important to put this number in perspective. If you would have brought into a Sunday tournament but instead choose to enter a series of satellite tournaments then in effect you are reducing the cost of your buy-in by 50% (in the above example). This reduction needs to be balanced with the time spent qualifying. For example if the satellite lasts for 3 hours and the verage saving is $100 then you must ask yourself whether your hourly rate in other games is above or below this.

Satellite tournaments are a great way of gaining poker experience and the potential big win for a small outlay. These come in many game formats and buy-in levels to suit all players. Understanding that your expectation from a satellite is based on your potential saving compared to your normal hourly rate is the key to deciding whether these should be entered.