For those of you that have been playing poker online for a while, you probably already know the value of playing a satellite event. Many larger poker tournaments have entry fees that are out of the reach of the casual player, so being able to qualify for an event through a smaller tournament provides a lot more action, therefore making the large event even bigger.
However, there hasn’t been much in the way of innovation in the satellite world in the last few years. The most recent change that seems to have had a lasting impact is the Step tournament, which allows players to enter for multiple price points to qualify at a level that is suited to a player’s bankroll.
America’s Card Room has not stopped trying to innovate even in the face of a less than friendly US poker landscape, and this is not lost on its player base or the industry as a whole. ACR has seen significant growth over the last few years (as can be evidenced by the growth of their Online Super Series, which we review here). This week, the management team behind the network announced a new, innovative way to play satellite events called the Cyclone.
This new satellite structure is set to launch on November 14th and will start by focusing on qualifying players for the $2,650 Venom event being held in early December. Let’s break down how these events will work.
When is a satellite not a satellite?
The Cyclone events have a Step feel to them – the ones being launched for the Venom tournament have seven different levels from which you can enter, with the lowest entry fee being 25 cents. Imagine making your way to a major poker tournament with a $1 million first-place prize for only a quarter! This is what you can do if you have the skills to grind out the Cyclones.
The main difference between these satellites and traditional qualifiers is that you don’t have to wait around to have a bubble burst to win your entry into the next level. Instead, no matter what level you start in, all you have to do is accumulate 5,000 in chips to be awarded a ticket to the next level. This should save players hours of playtime as many will be able to accumulate those chips early on in an event. Aggressive players will have an opportunity to chip up and get out of an event much faster than before.
Starting Stack size is the key
Obviously, there has to be some sort of change to the tournament structure to accommodate a new form of qualifying. This is definitely the case – as ACR points out on their website, your starting stack in each event will be equal to approximately 10 big blinds. This doesn’t give you much room to play with, but a couple of double-ups and you are through to the next level.
Let’s look at the Venom Cyclones as an example here:
Step Buy In + Fee Starting Chips Target Stack Prize
1 $0.23 + $0.02 697 5000 1.5 + .15 Ticket
2 $1.5 + $0.15 1135 5000 6 + .6 Ticket
3 $6 + $0.61 1118 5000 15 + 1.50 Ticket
4 $15 + $1.51 1364 5000 50 + 5 Ticket
5 $50 + $5.01 1163 5000 200 + 15 Ticket
6 $200 + $15.01 1588 5000 600 + 30 Ticket
7 $600 + $30.01 1133 5000 Venom Ticket
As you can see from the above, the starting stacks at each level are not even. This will affect your decision making early on at the table, but at least you know everyone else is also trying to hit the magic 5,000 level.
Play at your own pace
Adding another wrinkle into the Cyclone satellites, you are going to be playing Blitz Poker (ACR’s version of Fast-Fold poker) as part of these satellites. This means that no matter what your chip stack is in a given event, you can stop playing, and your count will be stored. Want to jump back in later on that day? No problem, you will be given your stack when you are seated as though you never left.
This presents an interesting scenario for players – not only do you not have to worry about beating 90% of the field to win your next ticket, but you don’t have to sit for hours trying to grind it out all at once. This is a very innovative way to have players qualify for events, especially when playing from a mobile device where you may only have a few minutes before you have to leave the table.
Buy-In for a Discount
Finally, if you are the kind of player that is getting close to the required 5,000 chips to move to the next stage but just can’t seem to get across the goal line, America’s Cardroom has you sorted as well. With the For The Win feature in the Cyclone tournaments, you can simply pay a fee to be given the chips needed to earn the next level’s ticket. A running price can be found at the bottom of your screen, which is updated after every hand you play. This is yet another brilliant way to get more players into the main event of tournaments without continued frustration of being oh so close to qualifying.
A sign of things to come
With all these great innovations, ACR continues to find itself ahead of the pack when it comes to creating new, fun atmospheres for the casual and professional player alike. You probably already know that the site offers a marketplace for players to be able to sell their multiple entries to events to others, and this is no different with Cyclone tickets. If you happen to be better at some levels of play than others, then you can rack up as many tickets you like and post them on the reseller market.
We’ll no doubt see these Cyclone qualifiers being used for more of the larger events on ACR once players get used to them. However, we are certain that ACR will not stop the innovation train here, and we’re very excited to see what the company has in store for the poker industry in 2020.