Satellite Tournament Play: When shut down & fold to victory?



Is drawing with AK
Jan 2, 2007
Total posts
Okay, so we all know how satellites work. 400 enter, 20 players get prizes that are equal for all, and rest get nothing. Thus, we're not trying to accumulate chips. Survival is the only thing that matters.

So, at what M level do we start trying to fold our way into the winnings? Yes, I know it all depends, however, are there some general guidelines on this sort of thing?

I'll give you an example. Recently I was in a tournament where I was in 19th place, with an M level of 11. 20 players got paid, there were 25 players left. Thus, I think I'm pretty much in, since the next closest stack has an M level of 7.

Thus, I start up the fold-o-matic, I wait a few rounds, and my M quickly drops to 6-7, and there are 2 players left to be eliminated, and I'm in 20th place. The short stack who is UTG and has an M of 1.4 or so goes all in, and doubles up, giving him an M of roughly 4.

At this point, I start to worry a bit, but he hits the blinds before I do, and my stack is still bigger. Also the table is fairly loose, so I avoid playing since they'll probably call and I'll be racing for my tournament life. I fold TT in MP with 1 limper, ect.

The table orbits a time or two the short stack (M of 3) goes all in again UTG. He doubles up again! Now he has an M of ~8, and I'm at an M level of roughly 5! Crap crap crap.

So the blinds hit me, and I go card dead for an orbit. All of the short stacks that I was counting on to bust out didn't. I'm in 22nd place with 22 left, and I bubble out when I lose a coinflip.

Where should I stop folding? Is this just dumb luck that the short stacks won so many races? Is there some guideline I can use to avoid bubbling out again?


Feb 2, 2005
Total posts
M isn't what you should be looking at, Q is. ie the average stack.

If your M is 5, you could still fold into the money as there could be numerous players in the 0-3 range who are about to bust.

I don't think we could pin an exact formula on this (at least if it were possible it'd be much more complicated than saying 'fold into the money when you have an M of X').

It mainly comes down to your experience in them and your analysis of how likely the remaining players are to bust before you are. Lots of info to digest in doing so too (stack sizes, the shortstacks' positions, your stack size, the blind levels, the amount of time until the next blind level, the number of players left vs the pay spots, etc etc).


Sep 7, 2007
Total posts
Funny this came up as I was reading a good article in a poker magazine recently where the author discusses this very scenario. After reading his advice I totally agreed with him since I also learned the lesson through being the bubble.

The advice was: When placing doesn't matter and you're close to hitting the threshold then be very prepared to fold AA pre-flop. There is absolutely no reason to risk a sizable chunk of your chip stack when others are prepared to do it for you.

I think that sums up my thoughts on the scenario you are discussing.


Nov 16, 2007
Total posts
Online versus Live.

First online. You can watch the tables with shorties. Make sure they're playing and not sitting out. 5 sitters and I'm folding ITM everytime. If they're playing you have to presume some will double up when they eventually push. So being 19 when 20 cash isn't a great spot with 5 still to go. I would have tighted to a top 5 premium hand preflop hand selection and play small ball. But I definately would steal blinds and antes for aditional orbits with position. I love Harrington on Holdem ie "M" ect. But when playing I prefer the old term orbits. I'm old school after 30 years on the felt. An orbit and M are the same thing. But orbit brings home the true value of stealing playing position. ie button or over the top in the cut off if you have a weak button player. The second key is the size of the stacks in the blinds. You don't want big stacks when stealing. And stealing against shorties will get them all in. You need average to slightly below average. These are the folks that get hurt when they call an all in and lose. And are generally safely ITM. These are the folks who should even consider folding aces. Your looking for true leverage for fold equity when stealing on the button. In fact it's stealing and small ball pre ITM for me in a satelitte tourney. One last point. Be a student of "table image". If you've developed a table Image of tight and aren't trying to steal on the button every orbit along the way you get more credit for a top hand when you use position late to steal. If your table image is loose you might try trapping with a monster as a way to double up and get safely ITM. I'm tight and never trap here personally.
Live play is slightly different. You have to deal with the emotional side of the game as well. I generally talk more close to the bubble. You don't try to put a target on your forehead to begin with. But here be on your best behaviour. Some try to get folks upset so they make bad decisions. I've found that gets you way more action than you want. Again as I said above stealing blinds and antes and small ball here as well. But live you have to really be aware of players emotions also and how that will effect thier play. Shorties will steam on thier own no need to have them involved in your hands also by aggrevating them. We want to steal orbits not play all in pots were any 2 cards can win any hand.
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