Guest blog by Barry Carter
In October the MPN network released a new tournament lobby with a number of new features to check your standing in the tournament. This includes an indicator which shows your current position in the tournament, the total number of chips in play and also the action on other tables.
For the most part I would say such things are useful but you should not spend too much time looking at them, instead it is better to focus on your play at the tables. The once exception to this is in satellites, like the ones for the MPNPT Grand Final in Madrid. If you are serious satellite grinder you should have the lobby open for most of the second half of a satellite. I am the co-author of Poker Satellite Strategy and in the book we explain all the strategic adjustments and nuances you can expect in satellites, for example when it is correct to fold Pocket Aces preflop. It surprised a lot of people to discover we had a whole section on how to scan the lobby of an online tournament to see what is happening on other tables before you make your decisions.
So looking at the new MPN lobby I wanted to highlight a few ways in which you can use this to make better decisions in satellites.
Once the late registration period has concluded, the chip stacks counter is very useful. Here is where we can get an approximation of how many chips we need to survive the bubble. You don’t have to hoover up all the chips in a satellite you only need to get enough to make the money, because all the prizes are of equal value.
When the late registration period has ended, simply take the number of chips in play and divide that number by the number of tickets on offer. So if there are 1,000,000 chips in play and four tickets, the average stack when the bubble bursts will be 250,000. This is your target stack, once you get around this number it is time to slow down. In practice, you can usually start to slow down once you are about 70% of the way there, so in this example you can play much tighter at 210,000 chips.
More important is the counter that tells you your position in the tournament. This comes into its own when about 1/3rd of the field will get a seat, so in the above example it would be when 12 players are remaining. At this stage all your decisions should be filtered through the lens of where you are relative to the field. If you are currently 2/12 with four seats to be won then you should be avoiding any needless risks or showdowns because you currently have a seat locked up. If you are 12/12 then you know you need to get your money in the middle soon to build a stack. If you are 6/12 then it’s awkward, you don’t want to gamble just yet but you can’t sit around forever.
This can even mean folding a hand like Pocket Aces preflop if we look certain to win a ticket. We have a rule in Poker Satellite Strategy whereby if you are inside the bubble by more positions than there are players left to bubble, you are almost guaranteed a seat. So if you are 2/5 in that four ticket tournament there is only one player left to bust and you are safer than two other players also in the money. This is a spot where it would be insane to get all your money in the middle, even if it was Pocket Aces. This is what we call a ‘fold everything’ spot because there is no hand strong enough to justify risking elimination when sitting out would guarantee you a ticket.
If you are playing a mega satellite where 10 or more tickets are on offer, you can usually tighten up much sooner. You can often fold your way to the money with 50% of a target stack because there are usually a few massive chip leaders and mostly micro stacks, rather than everyone with average stacks. If you are 15/40 in a 20 seat satellite you can also usually safely fold your way to the money.
When you are down to the last few players it is handy to watch the action on other tables. You might be 11/11 with a micro stack in a 10 seat satellite but you are on the button, meaning that you have a few hands to go before the big blind hits you. On another table the player who is 10/11 might be about to post their big blind forcing them all-in before you. It really pays to know what is happening on other tables before you make a decision when the bubble is looming.
Finally, a good reason to scan the lobby in satellites is because it is a good way to stay engaged. Some players make the mistake of thinking that satellites are boring because the last 30 minutes is stalling and folding. Satellites are actually very mentally engaging when you are scanning the lobby and staying on top of your position in the final furlong. It might just be the thing that stops you doing something stupid with Pocket Aces when you have a seat locked up.
100 copies of Poker Satellite Strategy are being given away on Betsafe, Betsson & NordicBet this January
Barry Carter is the editor of PokerStrategy.com and the co-author of Poker Satellite Strategy, which he cowrote with legendary satellite grinder Dara O’Kearney.