This post was originally published on 20 March 2020 and updated on 16 March 2021.
Like most poker players you want to play the Sunday Million. But right now, your bankroll doesn’t stretch to the full buy-in.
What would be great is a way to play the Sunday Million, without playing the full price.
Put another way, how do you play this must-play event, for a fraction of the $109 entry fee?
Well in this article we’re going to explain exactly how to do that.
Because while most players buy-in directly to the Sunday Million, roughly ten per cent win their way in playing satellites of some sort.
And in a tournament that regularly has a field tens of thousands strong, that’s a lot of satellite seats.
Here’s how to join them.
Start with the right satellite
Every week, in almost every tournament, satellite tournaments award seats into big events. The type that the players in them couldn’t typically afford to play.
Which means as far as your concerned they’re the perfect. They’re your way into playing.
So here you’re going to learn about strategy. That’s how to pick a Sunday Million satellites, but also how to play them well.
Even better, in some satellites you don’t need to win the entire thing, just finish in the top spots. We’ll go through that too.
And even better than that… the strategy that’s explained here will help you when you make the jump up to the Sunday Million itself. And in any other tournaments you like to play.
The two step solution to getting it right
And you can get this following two simple steps.
First, it’s about finding the right satellite to suit you. There are lots of them, in various shapes and sizes. It makes sense to play the ones you have an edge in.
Then we’ll take you through the different stages of a satellite. The early stages, middle and then late stages.
Remember, in some satellites it’s not about winning the whole thing. But this guide will get you where you need to be.
How to get started
So first you need to find, and then choose the satellites available. That’s what we’ll go through first.
Remember, the Sunday Million is the biggest event of the week on PokerStars, with satellites running throughout the week.
Start by logging into the PokerStars client (if you don’t already have one, you can download the software here. It’s completely safe, and only takes a matter of minutes).
Click on the Tournaments Tab, and then Sunday Million. Alternatively, just type “Sunday Million” into the search box.
You can sort by date, but you should see the Sunday Million listed. Open the lobby of this event by clicking on it.
What you see will look a little like this…
At the bottom you’ll see a list of satellites in date order, with the buy-in shown as well as how many tickets are available to win.
So, in the example above you’ll notice $1.10 buy-in satellites with 5 tickets guaranteed.
Think about that for a second. It means you could win a seat worth $109 for a little more than a dollar.
If you scroll through you’ll also see $11 satellites with 50 seats available.
So there’s a choice of “winner takes all” for a small entry fee, or the top 50 finish with a seat for slightly more.
You can sort these by date, buy-in, prize pool, and other categories to help you sort them into an order you want.
Clicking on the Go to Satellites button will take you to the full list, where you can find the satellite you want to play.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to study what sort of strategy will suit you best…
This is where PokerStars Schools becomes an invaluable resource.
You’ll find hundreds of training articles to suit every scenario. But here we’ll go through satellite strategy with the aim of getting a Sunday Million seat.
Remember, the best way to improve your chances of qualifying is to pick a satellite that suits your strengths.
So, for example, if you play lots of Sit and Go’s, then you might prefer a one table satellite. And if you’re a Multi-Table Tournament (MTT) player, obviously that should be where you start.
And don’t forget the structure itself. Turbos suit some players, but not others.
So, consider what would be the ideal satellite for you.
But let’s get started on the assumption you’re playing an MTT.
The Early Stages
The early stages are about accumulating chips, but also getting reads on players.
If you’re new to the game, or think you lack skills on this, you can read how to take better poker notes here. But try this to immediately ramp up your reading skills whenever anyone shows their hand…
- Pay attention to what hands players at your table are entering a pot with
- What hands did they limp with?
- What hands did they raise with, or call a raise with?
This doesn’t require math skill or any secret tricks. It’s just about paying attention.
And if you can’t memorize everything you see (you’re not alone!) then make notes as you go.
Here’s an example of that from PokerStars School:
“When you see a player limp in from early position, call a raise from a late position player, check/call down on a board of KT673 and then show 65o, it only requires this sample size of this one hand to know they are a very loose/passive calling station.
“Checkmark, now we know how to exploit them… we will value bet them more often and larger when we have the goods, and not try to bluff them when we don’t.”
Again, there’s nothing complicated here. Nothing that requires years of experience. Paying attention pays off even if you’ve only been playing poker a short time. That’s completely in your power.
What’s more, it’s a good habit to get into. It’ll help you get to the next phase of the satellite, which we talk about next…
The Middle Stages
If you’ve followed the steps above, you should have some basic notes on the players you’re directly up against.
This will also have identified which players to look out for, and which to try to play against.
So, let’s look at some quick examples…
- Try 3-betting more often against opponents that open with weaker hands.
- Doing so puts pressure on them to defend their hand, which can be a bad decision when out of position.
From PokerStars Schools…
“If you’ve seen someone open 97s from under-the-gun, they are way too wide to defend vs. your 3-bets adequately.”
By paying attention to how your opponents are playing, and applying that to your own game, you increase the chances of amassing more chips.
The field will be thinning down by now. The looser players will have departed. The shorter stacks will be going too.
The players who do well at this point are the selective aggressive players. That’s what you’re going to be at this point.
Using your notes your plan is to steadily amass chips. That’s what this middle stage is about — getting the chips you need to move into the latter stages.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about next…
The Later Stages
Getting this far is a significant achievement.
You can’t predict what will happen in poker. But if you’ve kept notes and used them well, using the guidance in this article, you’ll have put yourself in a great position to go that next step.
Here we’re going to help you take that final step.
And that goes for whether you reach this end game with a big stack, a short stack, or if you have something in between.
And remember, your strategy now depends on the type of satellite you’re playing.
That will vary significantly if there’s one seat available to the winner, or it’s a 50 seat super-satellite.
So, let’s start with the best case scenario…
This is the dream scenario – a big stack in a super satellite, with the bubble fast approaching.
You’re practically guaranteed to win a seat at this stage, provided you avoid certain nightmare scenarios. So, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do:
- You SHOULD min-raise pre-flop into players with medium stacks using any two cards. You’ll pick up the blinds and antes. If they move all in, you can just fold (but they’re likely to fold a lot of hands).
- You SHOULD call any all-ins from the short stacks. They won’t risk your position as one of the big stacks, and you want to try to knock them out.
- You SHOULDN’T get involved with any confrontation with another big stack. This is really the only threat to you at this point.
So, provided you don’t get into any unnecessary scraps with other big stacks, you should be fine. A seat will be yours!
But that’s the ideal scenario. What about the opposite of that, a short stack?
Let’s examine that next…
The poker world looks very different from the point of view of a short stack.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage and turn that world around!
That’s what the aim is here.
So, what can you expect?
Well, most players will be waiting for you to bust. They won’t be getting involved in any hands unnecessarily.
What does that mean for you?
Well, it means you don’t need to be afraid to be aggressive, especially when you’re short, but not perilously short stacked.
You can judge this based on your stack size.
Here’s an example to illustrate this…
“If it folds to you on the button and you have a 7 big blind stack, a shove will get through the blinds at a high frequency if your opponents are sitting on 13 and 12 big blinds respectively. They have stacks that can afford to wait out shorter stacks at the bubble.
“If they call you and lose, THEY become the short stack.
“If we are shoving our 7 big blind stacks into a 58 big blind stack, they can obviously call more liberally to try and bust us because the damage to their stack doesn’t jeopardize their position should they lose.”
So, it’s about judging your own stack alongside your opponents. Avoid the big ones, take advantage of those worried about swapping places with you.
There’s one more scenario to examine, which we’ll get to next…
In some ways this is the harder of the three scenarios.
The world is quite simple as a big stack or a short stack. With a medium stack though, you have a bit of a tightrope to walk.
But that’s what we’re going to go through here.
Like in the other scenarios, you need to be aware of your own position in relation to the other stacks at your table.
Start with how many super-short stacks are there?
This is where patience is a virtue. If you can wait them out, then that’s a wise strategy.
But you can’t always depend on that being the case. So instead, look out for these two scenarios:
First, a premium hand. The ideal scenario always helps. You can play knowing you’re in a strong position.
But those premium hands have a habit of disappearing when you need them most.
So, what else can you do?
Well, you can pick out the other medium stacks who are also trying to wait out the shorter ones. Which of these would be critically damaged if they lost a hand against you?
The notes you’ve been keeping will help on this, if you don’t know them already after reaching this far.
These players will have no choice but to fold without a great hand.
That makes a great position to exploit and turn your medium stack into a more stable big one.
Get started right away
If you’re still waiting for the right time to have a go at reaching the Sunday Million, the details above have hopefully shown you that there’s really no reason to keep waiting.
Using the right satellites, and the simple guide for each stage of the event outlined here, you can make enormous progress.
And when satellites start at $1.10 (or even less) you can use this strategy repeatedly.
No more watching from the rail. No more missing out. No more reading the results wondering what if. And most importantly of all, no more feeling powerless to turn your game around to become the player you want to be.
You can get started right away by checking out the Sunday Million satellites in the PokerStars Lobby.
And remember, that while the hard work of getting to the Sunday Million has been done, you now must prepare yourself for the event itself, and the type of field you’re up against.
They’re likely be to more experienced, and just as eager to get their hands on your chips.
That’s why we address how to take on these players in CHAPTER 2: HOW TO STOP BEING BULLIED.