An Exciting Satellite Finish Part Two
2006 Randy Saylor  

The Short Stacks Win Some Hands

I still wasn’t terribly worried. The short stacks in seats two, three, and six would be getting pounded soon. I liked my chances.

Seat two won when forced all-in, holding 82. Seat four was knocked out a few hands later, so we were down to nine. Seat six then won two straight hands while all-in in the blinds. Seat eight might still bail me out, though, since he held less than one big blind. Alas, my hopes were dashed when he woke up with A9 in the big blind, enough to beat KQ. (Incidentally, I also had A9, but there was no way I was playing it under the gun. That’s results-oriented poker.)

Seat five made a terrible mistake on this hand. Here are the appropriate stacks and hands:

(I know what the small blind was holding, because he mentioned it in chat afterwards.)

As seat five, holding a good hand here, and plenty of chips, what is your move? You know the small blind also has a lot of chips, so if you simply call, the small blind will complete, and two of you will cooperate to knock out the seat eight player, who is all-in. Seat six was lucky to get through the blinds intact, so you know he’ll fold any two cards. Seat five didn’t simply call, but raised instead. This forced seat seven to fold what would have been the winning hand (he would have paired his four). The tournament did not end for four more hands because of this major blunder. In a tournament with smaller blinds, this is the type of mistake that can come back to haunt a player. Don’t make it yourself.

The Big Blind Comes Back to Me

My worst fear has been realized. This tournament never would have come back around to me had the short stacks not had some tremendous luck. Here are the stacks:

After posting my blind and ante, I only had 3463 chips left. After posting the ante, seat two only had 1492 chips left. First to act, seat ten went all-in, holding AA (I know now). It folded around to me with 57 offsuit. What’s your move?

There are 400,002 chips in the pot (333,463 of which I’ll get if I win the hand). It’s 3463 for me to call an effective pot of 330,000. I’m getting better than 95-1 odds. Do you call? In a cash game or a non-satellite tournament, you make this call every single day of the week (twice on Sundays). In a satellite tournament, in this specific situation, I made a big mistake. All I saw was my incredibly short stack of 3463 and my pot odds of 95-1. It looked good, so I called.

The board was a six-high straight. My seven was enough for the win. I got very lucky.

My Mistake

Many of you without a lot of satellite tournament experience think I’m smoking something funny here, but I’ll explain why it was a mistake. Seat two was the key.

After posting the ante on the hand, seat two had only 1492 chips left, not even enough for a whole ante. If I fold in the big blind, I would begin the next hand with 3463 chips. After the antes were posted, seat two would be all-in. I would then have to put up the small blind, which I wouldn’t have enough for, so I too would be all-in. It would be (at least) a three way all-in with the big blind (plus hopefully some other players would call as well).

Assuming random hands, if three players go to showdown, I am a 2-1 favorite to win a satellite seat. See, I don’t care if I win the hand. I only care that seat two does not win the hand. If seat two and I are knocked out on the same hand, I finish one place higher because I started the hand with more chips. That one place is the difference between $215 and $20.

If the big blind, seat two, and I take this hand all-in three ways, I win if I have the best hand or the big blind has the best hand. An extra factor in my favor is that if seat two wins, but I have the second-best hand, I’m still alive for two more hands, so I am actually quite well off here. I only lose if seat two has the best hand and I have the third-best hand. Since I have no way of guessing what those hands will be, I only know that I will be a better than 2-1 favorite to win the tournament (by finishing eighth). It is impossible to calculate the exact odds, because if seat two wins the hand, and I have the second-best hand, I will have 3942 chips on the button. Seat two will have 4476 under the gun.

Now, go back to the AA versus 57 hand. If I make the reasonable assumption that seat ten went all-in under the gun, he is likely to have some sort of high pair. Against any pair higher than seven, I am a 4-1 underdog. I saw those 95-1 pot odds, and I made the cash game play of calling. The satellite tournament play was to fold. I confused my 95-1 pot odds with my 4-1 tournament odds. Bad choice.


1) 4-1 underdog on this hand. If I lose, I’m out.
2) Better than 2-1 favorite on the next hand. I’m only out if two wins and the big blind is second best.

Which scenario would you rather face?

Was the AA All-in a Mistake?

The reason I analyzed this hand so closely was to consider whether the AA player had made a mistake by going all-in there. It seems ridiculous to even consider the possibility. After all, when would you NOT want to be all-in preflop with AA? There are certain satellite tournament situations where it is actually proper to fold aces.

If the AA player had simply folded under the gun, he would have had enough chips for the blinds and antes the next five hands. With the incredibly short stacks at this table, that probably would have been enough to win. If one of the big stacks decides to call, the AA could be knocked out in ninth place on a bad beat. The questions to ask are: 1) how many players are likely to call me, and 2) what are my odds of winning the tournament and surviving five more hands?

The answers to those questions are difficult to determine, and I will say that it was a very close decision. I feel that I would have folded the aces, but I can’t criticize the decision made. I am glad I spent so much time analyzing the aces decision, because it exposed a flaw in my game. I was fortunate to have won the hand, and I went on to win a seat. The aces player got a seat too, so all worked out well.

There are times where winning a tournament takes precedence over winning a hand. Although the situation I presented here would be quite rare, I feel that studying these occurrences makes us all better poker players. Good luck in your next satellite.

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