What do Dr. Vic Fey, an obstetrician from Clinton, Oklahoma, and Erick Brenes, a farmer from Costa Rica have in common? They both made it to the final table of The World Poker Tour's Aruba Poker Classic. And what makes it more remarkable is they won their $ 6,000 buy-in and the trip to Aruba by playing a $ 27 satellite tournament at the online poker room, Ultimate Bet. Neither of these men are professional poker players but at the end of the tournament Vic Fey finished in 6th place and won $ 105,000 and Erick Brenes finished in first and went home to Costa Rica $ 1,417,000 richer. Not bad for a $ 27 investment.
What are satellites and how do they work? Basically a satellite is a way to enter a major tournament and play for big money without having to pay the large buy-in required. For example, the buy-in for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is $ 10,000. An on-line poker room could sponsor a tournament with a $ 1,350 buy-in (they will also charge somewhere around 9-10% for a registration fee). For every 10 players in the tournament there would be a prize pool of $ 13,500, enough for the single buy-in to the WSOP and some extra for spending money. So for a $ 1,350 you could win your entry to the major tournament. If there are 100 players then the players who finish in one of the top 10 positions would be on their way to Las Vegas and a chance at $ 10,000,000, the estimated top prize in this years tournament.
A thousand dollars is still a little steep if you ask me but you're dying to play in the WSOP. So you go to an online poker site like Royal Vegas Poker. There, they have a way for you to make it to the World Series for as little as $ 1. It takes six steps and works like this:
Step 1: You pay a $ 1 buy-in and a $ 10. registration fee. You play against ten other players. If you come in first or second you've made it to step two.
Step 2: You enter this tournament by either coming in first or second in step 1 or by directly buying in for $ 5 + $ 0.50.
Come in first or second and you move on to step three. Come in third and you get to play level 2 again free.
Step 3: Same deal. Enter by placing 1st or 2nd in the previous step or buy-in for $ 22.50 + $ 2.25. The final 2 players get free entry to step four and third place lets you repeat step 3 and pays you $ 2.75.
Step 4: The buy-in for this level is $ 100 + $ 10. Come in first or second and go to step 5. Come in third and play step 4 over again.
Step 5: If you happen to have $ 450 + $ 45 you can buy-in to this level. If you've been lucky enough to come in 1st or 2nd the previous step, it costs you nothing. The first two finishers go to the final step, third place gets to play step 5 again.
Step 6: You've made it to the final step. Of course you can just cough up the $ 1,350 + $ 135 to play in this game or you might have gotten here all the way from step one for $ 1. In either case, finish 1st in this ten player table and you're on your way to the WSOP. Come in 2nd and you win $ 1,000.
This is just one example of an on-line poker site's roadmap to the WSOP. At FullTilt poker you can get there for as little as $ 4. And they have a promotion in which if you gain entry to the tournament through their site and win the $ 10 Million at the WSOP, they will match it with an additional $ 10 Million.
Party Poker has satellites starting at $ 9, InterPoker can get you there for $ 10, and UltimateBet has games for as little as $ 3.
There are even some sites where you can gain entry through freerolls (tournaments with no entry fees).
There are all sorts of tournaments like this at many different online poker sites and they all follow the same basic pattern. You buy-in at a low level to win entry into a higher level tournament. I narrowly missed making it to the PartyPoker millions tournament with a $ 10,000 buy-in and a prize pool of $ 7.5 Million. For $ 6 I worked my way up to the finals where I needed to come in one of the top 4 positions. Unfortunately I finished 9th, but there's always next year. And boy, did I get a lot of entertainment and excitement for my $ 6.
So if you're looking to be the next poker star and you do not want to put down $ 10,000 to get in the game, check out the different online sites and see if you can turn $ 1 into a million.
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