Here at the Rio the live satellites run virtually non-stop and unlike years past a separate room has been dedicated to the activity. Sponsored by a certain instructional site the satellite room sits adjacent to the main tournament room, just up the hall from the bikini-clad girls from the Sapphire gentleman's club promoting the Rio's topless pool.
Most of the time there's a long line snaking out the door, which leads us directly to the advantages, and disadvantages, of playing World Series satellites.
The reason there are more players than there are seats, hence the aforementioned lines, is the overwhelming interest in these qualifiers. Daily mega's and a steady stream of sit and go's are evidence enough.
This is also the reason they can be a profitable option for players with even a modicum of skill. Indeed, there are many who play without any intention of using the winnings to actually enter a WSOP event. Prizes are awarded in tournament-dollar chips but these can be sold for cash to anyone entering a tournament through direct buy-in.
It's not unusual to sit down at a lower buy-in satellite and peg at least a few people as complete beginners. Taking a shot at a satellite is less intimidating for newcomers. There's a set price and it feels like a home-game, despite the casino dealer and setup.
For other players it reminds them of another style of game, the online turbo sit and go. If you're used to playing these at your favorite online room the live ones will be strikingly familiar, only faster. At the lower buy-ins here players are given 1,000 tournament chips which, in combination with the 15-minute blind levels, make for a very quick resolution to each match.
The structure is fast which takes some of the skill out of deciding the outcome, especially over the course of just a few games. Better players may look on this with disdain but it does benefit some.
These days the WSOP is as much an entertainment event as it is a poker tournament. One great thing about poker, even if it is a belabored point, is that fans really can come and play with their heroes. The truth is, however, that the events aren't cheap to enter.
For new and inexperienced players the short structures in the qualifiers put enough luck into the equation that they really can have a realistic expectation of winning. It's kind of a catch-22 though because these same weak players are the ones who ultimately make it profitable for the sharks.
In any given match the winner will most likely be the player who got the best cards. The opportunity for exploiting weakness is there, certainly, but it's a short window quickly shut by the rising blinds. The levels are aggressive and if it's been a tight table for the first half hour to 45 minutes even the tightest players will be calling your shove when they're sitting in the big blind with Q-8.
On the bright side, many matches are simply a deluge of all-ins and eliminations which, if you do find a good spot to double, can leave you one or two off the money and in good shape before you know it.
Of course the live side of WSOP satellites is only one piece of a much larger picture. For months leading up to the Series nearly every online site has programs in place to get their players down to Vegas and in front of the live felt. And, as you may have deduced, if the caliber of play is low here in Vegas, it's 20,000 leagues under the sea online.
It's like we keep saying, the WSOP just isn't the same without you here. There's a ton of ways to lock up your small square of green playing space and it doesn't take $10,000 to make it happen. Just remember, winning a satellite seat is just the beginning of a long and difficult process. The next step is packing your bags for your flight to Las Vegas.