On the other hand, as a benefit, satellites also put tons of weak players into big buyin events. It's commonplace to find players in the "Big Sunday" tournaments who usually play $1, $2 and $3 events. This type of dead money creates incredible value for the experienced players. Therefore, I think satellites are most definitely a good thing for online poker. However, I also think people misunderstand the nature of satellites. Here's why:
When you win a satellite, you're not "qualifying" for a ticket, a seat or whatever else people might call it. There's no such thing as poker qualifying, which is usually defined as demonstrating ability or meeting a set of requirements. Let's face it, when you win a satellite, you're winning restricted money. On some sites, it's more restricted than others, but it's always restricted in some way. As mentioned previously, the sites restrict the money to "lock in" the rake that will be generated in future tournaments. Of course, it also forces weaker players into events that they might otherwise choose to skip. But the thought that you got into an event for X amount of dollars is just silly to me. After all, you WON that money, it wasn't given to you. Not only did you invest a buyin, you also invested your time.
When you're playing the bigger event, you're most certainly not on a freeroll just because you only paid $3 in a satellite to get into the $200 tournament. In reality, when you enter a satellite, you've decided that you want to buyin to big buyin events and you think the satellite is the best way to get you there. So just because the money is restricted doesn't mean you didn't make that choice to try to win the money to be able to buy in to a big buyin event. Make no mistake about it, you ARE buying in because after all, money is money, and it doesn't matter where it came from when you choose to spend it. In a satellite situation, you're just making an agreement with the site on where or how to spend your hard-earned dollars.
So, why, then, should good poker players continue to play satellites? The number one reason is the incredibly weak fields. The number two reason, in some instances, is the favorable payout structure. I'll discuss both below.
First, the players. If you haven't play many satellites in the past, you might not know what I'm talking about. But I'm sure anyone who's set foot in a few of these knows exactly what I'm referring to when I say that satellites contain the weakest big buyin tournament players online. In your typical Stars $160 WSOP double shootout, you have about 60 huge fish, some good players and, of course, some great players. But where else are you going to find a $150+$10 tournament multiple times a day with so many fish? The answer is nowhere. The fact is that satellites offer incredible value - not because you can "qualify for seats" using "less money" (remember what I stated earlier with regards to qualifying), but because the fields are incredibly weak in relation to the buyin size.
Second, the payout structures. The best players know how to close out a final table. After all, if you're not getting your fair share of top 3 finishes in regular MTTs, you're unlikely to make a significant long-term profit regardless of how often you squeeze into the money. Many satellites, although not all, reward closers to the greatest degree. For instance, the double shootouts of all sizes are great for those who have the ability to close. Another example is the $33 rebuy satellite, which typically awards one or two large prizes. In fact, the typical double shootout has 81 players contributing $150 to the prizepool, for a total of $12,150. The first place finisher receives an astounding $11,000 (plus an extra $1,000 or hotel for the first seat won). If you do the math, 11,000/12,150 is 90.5, meaning 90% of the prizepool goes to the first place finisher. Can you imagine if the $1 Million Big Sunday paid $900,000 to first and $12,500 to 2nd through 9th? While this type of payout causes a ton of variance, it also dramatically increases the expected ROI for the best players.
And when you're dealing with a tournament, such as a double shootout, that runs multiple times a day and has a field of only 81 players, the variance that a player goes through in the typical WSOP qualifying season isn't all that great, and in the end, I'm sure it's well-worth the additional payoffs.
As WSOP satellite season winds down and the WCOOP season starts up, remember what satellites are useful for and why you should be in them. Winning a satellite to a $1000 event on a $250 roll is NOT a good excuse to play the main event. Instead, continue to re-invest in satellites so as to take advantage of the unique qualities mentioned in this article. Good luck at the tables.