This article looks at the most important factors in determining whether you should play a particular poker game. The author then provides advice on how to apply this information when considering your opponent’s hand and table position, as well as some rules for applying these concepts in real-life situations.

“Poker satellite strategy” is a game selection and ICM strategy for the poker games of “poker satellites”. This includes both NLHE, PLO and Pot Limit Omaha.

Professional poker player Dara O’Kearney’s newest book, written with long-time poker author Barry Carter, was just published. The third book in the pair’s “Poker Solved” series, Endgame Poker Strategy, promises to assist players break through in the last stages of a tournament.

Players may learn about game selection in this extract from the book and current edition of USPoker’s Online Poker Strategy Session. The book also includes an examination of ICM, with the writers delving into that facet of the game.



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ICM & Game SelectionEndgame-Poker-Strategy-%E2%80%93-Game-Selection-ICM

The softer a competition is, the more players there are. “If a tournament gets 1,000 competitors, it must be excellent, since there aren’t 1,000 good players,” says my buddy and great podcaster/author Andrew Brokos.

The greater your advantage in a tournament, the more individuals remain. When there are two tables remaining, you will have a greater advantage than when there are just five players. At a nine-max table, you’ll have a higher advantage than at a six-max table.

This may go against the belief in poker that short-handed games are gentler. Short-handed blunders are common among novice players, but the more terrible players that stay on the field, the higher your own ROI.

Take a look at the victory rates of the greatest SNG players in the world, which are often less than 10% ROI for single table events. This is why normal SNG (sit and go) players prefer to move to tournaments, where they have a greater advantage. When it comes to one table, most regulars drastically overestimate their edge, but underestimate their edge when there are two or more tables remaining.

Keep an eye out for the nasty guys.

The fewer players there are, the more poor players there will be. Even if they are on a different table, when a terrible player makes a mistake, it boosts your equity. Every error is shared among the remaining victorious players in the event.

In certain hands, equity from one terrible player is transferred straight to another bad player, who subsequently makes bad choices with a larger stack. Your equity is compounded when you play with bad players.

Does this imply that we believe you should spend all of your time working on 10,000-runner fields? No. In fact, from an ICM standpoint, we believe the best approach for most MTT grinders is to focus on small-field events, with occasional shots at larger-field tournaments thrown in.

There are three reasons why you should focus on MTTs with fields of 50-300 runners rather than those with fields of 600-10,000 runners.

1) ICM Techniques

ICM was the most important component of the game for players who started out in SNGs like myself. Then, for a long, ICM fell out of favor with the poker world, but now everyone knows they need to re-learn it. People who understand they have severe ICM leakage account for 75% of the private counseling I do.

ICM is the most significant part of poker strategy while playing one-table SNGs. ICM isn’t as important to those who play on fields with 10,000 runners.

They understand the need of playing tight on the bubble, but they only reach the final table once per 1,000 MTTs, so ICM isn’t as clear to them.

Avoid common blunders.

Unfortunately for them, this means that when they do reach it to the final table, they often make major ICM errors, which are compounded by the large prize pools relative to the buy-in. For example, in PokerStars’ $22 Mini Sunday Million, an ICM error might lose you $3,000 in equity.

However, if you play in 200-player tournaments, you will reach the final table every 20 events on average. You get to encounter more ICM severe circumstances and put what you’ve learned in books like this to use.

You’ll know the ranges inside and out, as well as things like the Bubble Factor, when to ladder, what a good bargain looks like, and so on. When you do go deep in a big tournament, these things will be second nature to you.

I previously published a contentious piece in which I said that in the World Series of Poker Main Event, I would pick an ordinary mid-stakes online MTT grinder two tables out over Irish poker great Andy Black.

Andy is a fantastic live poker player, although at the time he had only made 15 major live final tables. I’d rather go with the man who has made hundreds of final tables and knows his ranges inside and out.

Endgame-Poker-Strategy-%E2%80%93-Game-Selection-ICMBarry Carter and Dara O’Kearney are co-authors.

2) Reduction of Variance

If you had limitless time and patience, you should only play 10,000-runner fields since they give you the biggest advantage. In the WSOP Main Event, the top players in the world enjoy a 400 percent advantage.

It would not be 100 percent in a soft 100-runner real game. In a 45-person field, it would be about 40%, whereas in an SNG, it might be as low as 20%. The link between variance and ROI is proportional: the larger the field, the greater the edge, but also the greater the variance.

To get an advantage, your sample size of tournaments must be larger than the field size. In my 14-year career, I’ve never had a year with a loss of more than $20,000, but it’s common for guys who play 10,000-runner fields to have losing years.

When the field sizes are 100-300, you don’t need a large sample to appreciate your advantage. This is one of the reasons why Super High Roller tournaments, which often feature 30-50 runners and are made up of difficult regulars, flourish; you may just need a sample of 500 MTTs to see why.

a few instances from the internet

Let’s put some figures to it. Take a look at PokerStars’ main online poker event, the $109 Sunday Million. Assume it attracts 7,000 runners every week on average, and you have a 25% advantage in this competition.

You may see what occurs if you play that event every Sunday for 10 years (520 game sample) using the tournament variance calculator at


From 1,000 simulated samples, 20 random samples are shown in the graph above. As you can see, there is one huge outlier when we make about $500,000 in profit, but the majority of our runs are losses.

Our EV is just $14,170, with a $83,632 standard deviation. With a $10,000 bankroll (100 buy-ins), our danger of ruin is 86.5 percent, and our chance of losing is 56.9%.

Compare that to Unibet’s €109 SuperNova on Sundays, which attracts more than 300 runners each weekend.


As you can see, our 20 random samples are all closer together, but with a lesser upside when everything goes well. Our expected value is $14,170, with a standard deviation of $15,115. Our chance of failure has dropped to 15.1 percent, and our chance of losing has dropped to 17.3 percent.

The Sunday Million has a significantly higher potential, but we’ll lose money 56.9% of the time if we play it every weekend for a decade. In the SuperNova, this occurs just 15.1 percent of the time.

In a large event like the Sunday Million or the WSOP Main Event, you’d need to play a sample size of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, to realize your advantage. When you run the simulation for 10,000 tournaments, your danger of ruin drops to 30% and your chance of losing drops to 0%.

This will never happen; you’ll never be able to realize your advantage in a tournament like this since you’ll never have enough time, but you’ll be able to do it easily in a 300-runner field event like the SuperNova.

The last word on big tournaments

Players that focus only on big-field events usually become poor and have to get staked to keep playing in situations where they will be in makeup for lengthy periods of time, or they need a substantial bankroll.

Because I’ve always focused on low volatility formats, I’ve never had to be staked to play, except from selling pieces.

Taking shots at larger field events is a fantastic idea; in fact, it’s a viable bankroll strategy. Binking a large field MTT is a stepping stone to greater stakes — you can’t actually grind your way up to the big money.

Because I’m at a point in my career where I have alternative revenue sources for when I’m on a downswing, I now play huge field tournaments. Concentrating on smaller fields will keep volatility at bay for up and coming players and those who wish to stay in the game for a long time.



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3) Mental Challenge

If the Sunday Million simulations worried you, it brings me to the third reason why I recommend playing smaller field MTTs.

You’ll have less mental game issues if you don’t have to deal with the swings of big field MTTs and have rehearsed all of the difficult ICM areas in smaller field MTTs over and over again.

Long losing streaks may put a lot of talented players out, and the strain of playing in key games can cause a player to perform badly when it counts most.

In my career, I’ve never had a downturn of more than $20,000. However, I know several really brilliant players who wonder whether they will ever win again.

You’ll have a lot clearer brain while playing poker if you don’t have to depend on staking or wearing cosmetics. Knowing you’ve been in this scenario hundreds of times before in a difficult ICM circumstance makes it easier to do the right thing and cope with when things don’t go your way.

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“Poker Strategy” is a poker game that has been around for centuries. The “poker guide” is a resource that will help you learn how to play the game, and also includes information on how to find games online.

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