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Buying an entry into a tournament seems like a straightforward affair: You put down your money and pick up your chips. That’s true for smaller tournaments, but you can also try to qualify for tournaments with large entry fees, typically $200 or more, by winning a smaller tournament where the prize is an entry into the larger tournament. These qualifying poker tournaments, called satellites, often charge you either one-tenth of the larger tournament’s entry fee and give away one seat, or charge you one-fifth of the larger tournament’s entry fee and give away two seats. You can also put up a smaller amount of money and play in a super satellite, where you compete against a bigger field for the same number of seats. If the satellite you’re in gives out multiple seats, you play until you get down to the number of players as there are seats on offer; there is rarely any additional money on offer for winning a satellite.

Buying In to a Tournament
Buying In to a Tournament

If you choose to go the satellite entry route, T.J. Cloutier advocates buying into three satellites to give yourself a shot at getting in for less than the full entry fee. There’s a lot more to think about when playing in satellites than we can cover here, so we recommend you buy Championship Satellite Strategy by Brad Daugherty and Tom McEvoy (Cardsmith Publishing, 2003). They cover all the angles and then some.


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