By Tony Dunst
With live poker tournaments postponed for the foreseeable future, the World Poker Tour has partnered with partypoker to create the WPT Online Series from May 3rd through 19th and added a series of step satellites to win a $5,500 WPT Passport that will cover the buy-in of all three events.
I’ve always been a fan of the step satellite system, and I especially like what partypoker has done here by having the final round be closed to direct buy-ins; that way professionals can’t buy-in at the highest tier after players battle their way through the lower steps. Every Sunday between now and May 3rd, partypoker is running the WPT Passport Final round, which guarantees 10 Passports.
To win your seat into that final, there are three tiers of daily step satellites that allow direct buy-in, each with slightly different structures. Let’s talk about the strategy at each tier:
WPT Passport Round 1: A $0.55 buy-in starting with 500 chips at 3/5 blinds and plays 18, three-minute levels.
With three-minute levels, Round 1 essentially has a turbo structure, and after 30 minutes of play, your starting stack has become a 10 big blind push/fold decision. That means you’ll want to focus on open-shoving ranges, and won’t need to be as comfortable post-flop. And while this format requires plenty of luck, the flip side is that it takes less than an hour.
2. WPT Quarterfinal: A $5.50 buy-in starting with 5,000 chips at 25/50 and plays 16, six-minute levels.
In the quarterfinal, you’ll have about an hour before your starting stack falls to the push/fold range. As the structure slows down, your strategy shifts towards more re-shoving preflop, and defending of the big-blind around 10 to 20 big blinds. A big thing to note here is which opponents shove their entire range when under 15 blinds, and which get cute and only min-raise huge hands.
3. WPT Passport Semifinal: A $55.00 buy-in starting with 50,000 chips and playing 16, eight-minute levels.
Another reason I like step satellites is that chips carry over from round to round, creating fewer bubble situations—which can be slow and tedious. That’s the case from Round 1 up until the Sunday WPT Passport Final but it’s important to realize that because there’s no direct buy-in into that final, the last few levels of the Semifinal round will have some bubble effect. Your chips will still carry over to the final, but opponents will likely be more cautious nearing the end of play.
Once you’ve reached the Sunday WPT Passport Final, your job is first chip accumulation, then survival as the field approaches the money. Finding the exact balance between the two is the art of bubble play, but a simple late-game adjustment is that many open raises (and re-raises) become all-ins to apply maximum pressure on your opponents. That part of satellites has a real Russian Roulette feel, so hopefully, you’re the one holding bullets.