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February 25, 2014

Poker Strategy – Qualifying for Live Events

Poker Strategy

Qualifying for Live Events

My name is Gerry Kane (aka TheGatherer) and I have been a member of forum for many years. In that time i have qualified for many big live events all over the world including the WSOP, WSOPE & many more huge events. This year so far I have qualified for the final 2 Grand Live events being played in Cyprus & Marbella.
It was suggested I perhaps discussed some big hands involved in my winning recent live packages but I felt that it may be useful instead to discuss how I have generally gone about planning to satellite into LIVE events over the years. Folks may find the following very tedious and boring but if it helps even 1 of you to join me at a table overseas somewhere then great!
I am sure some of you would maybe like to win a live package but consider that it might just be too dfificult, a long-shot or generally too expensive. This may be the case but I think if we look at a plan properly then the cost and odds of winning can be significantly reduced. I have certainly found this to be the case over the years.
I think that many people simply see a nice live package advertised, find an affordable sat, jump in and hope to run good all the way (perhaps through 2 or 3 sat rounds) to the prize.
bankroll management

Plan ahead to maximise chances

This can of course work but the odds are pretty astronomical. I actually won my first 2 packages this way! I won a $20 sat to the final then got 1st of 120 for a Pokerdome $13k pack. A few months later at my next try I then won a $5 sat to final containing 110 for my $23k WSOPE package. Like I said, looking back these were both real long shots no matter how well you play.

After that I analysed it a little and came up with what I thought was a better plan and a system that would better increase my chances to get more experiences like those. The following spring I tried this out for a WSOP tilt and since then I have modified it more. This has brought me a WSOP pack, 7 x EMOP packs London Betfair live and my recent 2 x GSOP packs plus some very near misses. Now please don’t think I write this to brag. I am far from being a great player yet I have won these. What I am saying, is that with the right plan and strategy, I believe a decent average player should be able to get just the 1 live event package that many would like – IF they have the right plan, dedication and patience.
I think it best to just cut to what is topical and discuss my GSOP pack win to Cyprus which I leave for today. With the EMOP circuit finished I needed to find new events to satellite into so I had to look around the net to find something that fitted pretty well into my way of doing things these days. The important things that I looked for were as follows:


1) Finals need to be at least 3 packages guaranteed,
2) Finals are straight freezeout with no rebuys,
3) Finals with a large buy-in relative to the package worth so that there would be 1 package for every 10 or 15 or maximum 20 players.
WSOP etc packages are great but you may find you have to battle through 60+ players then get to heads up where you find you are now only HALF way to a seat and sweating over a huge bubble!
After some searching I found the GSOP series run through ONGAME had $3k packages where the Sunday finals were $212 buy-in (1 for every 15). Furthermore, these finals offered 5 packages GTD. Perfect! I won a Mansion pack through Ongame but they moved to ipoker so I found a new skin (Paradise) and made a deposit.
We can talk about style of play later but for the moment lets continue to focus on the game selection plan.
grand live cyprus package win

Screenshot of my first package win for Cyprus

My plan was to deposit $200 allowance for satellites and an extra $100 for small tournaments which would use to try and win small amounts to subsidise more sats if I ran bad. Ongame give you a token to use within 30 days to play whichever final suits you. With this in mind I like to play as many small sats as is needed to win 3 tokens (or until the $200 runs out!). From memory I think it cost me about $120-$140 to win my 3 tokens. This is important because having those extra tokens makes you feel relaxed with less pressure and reminds you as you play that you are working to a plan/goal and not simply trying to straight fire your run good to a package. This inevitably helps you to play at your best I feel and really helps you to cope with the variance and inevitable bad beats that can come along.

After busting my first 2 finals with QQ v JJ and QQ v AA I was fortunate to win with my 3rd token. The final itself had some 58 runners I think and 5 packages gtd to Cyprus. By this time I had managed to get my Ongame roll back over the $300 mark anyway so would simply have started again if needed. I managed to win the next series stop package to Marbella at my first try in a field of 91 runners which gave 6 packages. I still have my initial deposit at ongame so the plan has worked out very well indeed.


Small satellites to finals:

For GSOP these were available as $5 rebuys and $10 rebuys with 1 x $212 ticket gtd. Not ideal but workable as the rebuy periods were only for 30 minutes. My plan for these was for the $10 games to NOT rebuy but to add-on at the break so maximum $20 per sat and the $5 sats I allowed 1 x rebuy and add-on so maximum $15
Some things in poker never change and 1 old maxim for poker is that it is generally correct to play the opposite in style to the rest of the table. I find this works well in this format and I therefore play slow and tight during the rebuy period and will over bet big hands or get all-in. The main goal is to simply get to the break and then start to play more aggressive. Most players are loose during rebuy period then tighter after the break! I find my style to be the most cost effective way when playing a series of sats whereas most people plan to play 1 sat only and therefore feel they must rebuy and keep moving. Playing them with a set bankroll as a series helps you not to blow too much on 1 sat then give up after feeling it isn’t worth it and back to the “longshot” mentality. The $10 sats often have 6 to 10 players only and few rebuys whereas the $5 have double and many more rebuys.

Grand Live Marbella Poker Package win

Grand Live Marbella Poker Package win

Playing larger buy-in finals:

Firstly, it is important to realise that satellite finals are very different from ordinary tournaments and should be played differently. 5th place pays exactly the same as 1st place and it is a survival game. So many players just don’t get this at all. You must be willing to leave your ego and pride at the door and if you can’t do that then my advice is simply not to play them. I have seen many a big chip leader blow it at the final table when he could have sat out and booked flights instead!
These finals are pretty deep stacked and leave lots of room to play. Nothing is won in the first 2hrs and the game really only starts when down to the last 2 tables. At least 3/4 of my packages have been won when I was a short stack for most of the game before making a late run. We all have different styles but we also must adapt to the specifics of these finals; if you can do this then you have a significant edge over random good tournament players. My style is generally as follows:
Early on I keep pot sizes controlled and no way get all in in spots where I am likely racing or even if I am pretty certainly a 60% chance. Getting in a preflop raising war holding AK is pretty unforgivable and same goes for JJ. A double up early on is obviously +EV but in no way does it cover the neg EV from busting in a race. Generally my pots are small preflop and manageable on the flop and only really boosted when the turn card allows me to feel I have a big lead.

Ok then, lets say you hit a few sets and straights cheaply then built big pots and have made the FT with 5 or 6 packages up for grabs. This is where a bit of practice and success from before has helped me nowadays to feel more comfortable. Remember to adapt to the prize structure and ditch your ego. Certain differences from normal tournaments are vital here and I will give 2 or 3 examples.

1) If a short stack pushes all in and you have say QQ or JJ and a healthy stack then normal play would be to isolate him by reraising fairly big. That is not correct here though as players will be calling very very tightly so a small reraise or a flat call is correct as the players behind you are very much “on your team” so to speak and any action from them means almost always AA or KK unless they too are short which alters nothing anyway. As I said before, I have seen many big stacks reshoving all in v a short stack only for players behind to get huge hands.

2) Very rarely should you be calling with AK or AQ or 99 etc as medium stacks can become short stacks very quickly indeed and races are really to be avoided at all costs unless you are a shortie yourself.

3) Spots where you would normally open shove all-in or raise-commit (10-17xbb’s) are different in these games. When the players behind have medium stacks it is profitable to raise small instead due to the extreme tightness in calling ranges and even tighter re-shoving ranges from players. It is also worth noting that most chip leaders with 6 or 7 left will protect their stack and can really be exploited when you are the shortest stack but still have enough chips to drag him back into the pack! The plan is to do what is necessary to get enough chips to not be the short stack and then just maintain that position that is all

Remember, no calling off to race on the bubble with AK – better to shove a short stack with 92o!  Sorry for the marathon post but trying to offer some help only. If anyone wants to chat over some of this stuff or to offer different advice then just let me know in the comments below or in the BonusBanter Forums

I would also love it if you could check out my progress in the Grand Live Cyprus poker event which is this weekend. There will be updates on my progress in the forums and if I cash I will be donating 10% of my winnings to the players of BonusBanter who have supported me. This will be used as buy-ins for players to qualify online for the next big event. So YOU could be coming along and playing in a venue such as the one below in Cyprus where I am today !!

Todays venue for Cyprus Grand Live Poker

Todays venue for Cyprus Grand Live Poker


  1. All the best Gerry!! Sure you’ll run good mate

  2. ste clarke

    yeah good luck pal …………………Take It Down

  3. sef

    Fantastic article Gerry. Best of luck mate.

  4. UrABawBag2

    very good post gerry

    myself ive played poker over 8 years now and a few years ago i won a 1k package for killarney through ladbrokes.

    was my 1st big live event with over 800 players in it, finishing a respectable 95th just outside the money…..sigh.

    as to all your comments playing sats i totally aggree with you, different ball game to any normal mtt.

    any 1 new to the game should take these all onboard.

    all the best this w/end.

    were will the best place to find updates on your progress.

  5. BBTipster

    Well done Gerry. Didnt get good run in the main event but went on to win the side event for almost €2000.

  6. hendy27

    Great read and well done Gerry.

  7. sir pip

    some cool tips, and the strategy is deffinatly working for you Gerry, top tip is definatly to loose the ego (hard for some)
    I play 10man double through sng for fund raising, and think a few games of this could be invaluable for the package ft
    gl in Cyprus, we will all be rrooting for you pal

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