Best Online Poker Sites for Satellite Tournaments

What is a Satellite Tournament?
Satellite poker tournaments are generally identical to regular tournaments, with one crucial difference: Instead of awarding cash as prizes to the top finishers, satellite tournaments primarily award seats to more expensive tournaments.

Here's a quick example that will help to illustrate how satellites work.  Satellites have been a crucial part of the World Series of Poker for many years, especially for the $10,000 Main Event.  A typical satellite at the WSOP might cost $1000 to enter.  For every ten players that enter, 1 seat to the Main Event is awarded.  If 30 players entered our hypothetical, the prize would be one seat each for the top three finishers.  If 31 entered, the top three players would get seats and the fourth place finisher would be awarded the extra cash.

Below you will find a complete list of the top sites with satellite tournaments. These sites always offer satellites to major events, like the WSOP, in addition to smaller land based tournaments across the United States, Canada and Europe.

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What Kinds of Tournaments Can You Satellite Into?

With the explosion of online poker has come an accompanying explosion in satellite tournaments.  You can now play a satellite for just about every tournament imaginable, from online poker tournaments with $50 buy ins to the much-ballyhooed $1 million buy in Big One for One Drop at the 2012 WSOP.  In short, satellites are almost always available for big-ticket tournaments (live or online) and are available more often than not for tournaments with lower buy ins, especially online.

What are Some of The Different Satellite Formats?

Most satellites take place in a format very similar to a standard tournament.  With the growth of online poker, turbo, super-turbo and even hyper-turbo satellite structures (structures with very rapid blind increases and relatively shallow stacks) have increased in popularity, giving players the chance to satellite into a tournament right up until the minute registration for the tournament closes.  Turbo tournaments have also gained a foothold at live tournament events as a way to give players one last shot to get cheaper entrance to a large buy in tournament.

There are even events called "super-satellites," which are generally satellite tournaments that award entries to larger satellite tournaments.  Such events tend only to occur when the buy in of the target event is very large or seats in the event are restricted in some way.

Advantages of Online Poker Satellite Tournaments

The main advantage of playing satellite tournaments online is fairly obvious: You get the chance to turn a relatively small investment into a shot at a very large payday.  However, there are other advantages to dabbling in satellite play; for one thing, satellites tend to attract more casual and inexperienced players than your typical tournament - a phenomenon that is equally true for both online poker and live poker.    For another, satellites can be a good way to reduce your variance - while you might be able to afford to buy directly into a tournament, that doesn't mean you're required to.  Finally, satellites can provide you with a tournament option that is generally short and sweet - a nice feature for those only looking to put in a bit of play on a given day as opposed to a full-length grind.

What Online Poker Room is the Best for Satellite Tournaments?

This ends up being a close race between PokerStars and Party Poker.  Party can legitimately be considered the originator of the online poker satellite craze, as the site was the first to offer a serious satellite lobby with paths to major live events.  Today, the room continues to offer a nice array of satellites to WSOP and WPT events, along with a full range of satellites for the major tournament events hosted by Party.

PokerStars may claim a slight edge in this category over Party, but it's more or less a coin flip.  Stars gains an advantage thanks to their position in a variety of regional poker tours such as the EPT and the APPT, meaning they offer a broader menu than Party for live events.  The online satellite lobby at PokerStars is also an advantage the room enjoys, as it's easily the busiest of any poker room on the Internet.

Best US-Facing Room for Satellite Tournaments

Satellites were once all the rage for US players, with droves of players converting online wins to live tournament entries.  As the US market has shrunk, so has the appetite for major satellites.  With that said, you'll still find a handful of satellite options at US-friendly rooms, most notably at Lock Poker and Carbon Poker.  Both rooms also boast a reasonable amount of traffic in their online satellite lobby, giving players interested in trying satellite play more than sufficient options in terms of buy in, times and formats.

Top Canadian Online Poker Room for Satellites

While PokerStars may claim the overall title for satellite play, Party Poker definitely has an edge when it comes to satellite offerings that will be of interest to Canadian poker players.  This edge is largely due to Party's ownership of the World Poker Tour, which easily hosts the largest amount of premiere live tournaments in North America.  As you might expect, Party features WPT events very aggressively in their poker lobby, often providing extra value or ancillary benefits to satellite participants that other rooms simply can't match.

UK Poker Rooms: Top-Ranked for Satellite Tournaments

While a reasonable case could be made for an iPoker room such as bet365 Poker or Paddy Power Poker, PokerStars ultimately elbows out the competition to take the satellite title not only overall, but for UK players as well.  Again, it's the presence of PokerStars in regional poker tournament leagues and events that puts the room ahead of the competition, but the massive selection of online-focused satellites the room provides to players certainly doesn't hurt.

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