How To Qualify For Live Poker Tournaments

Satellite tournaments

Have you ever dreamed of winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event or becoming a champion on the European Poker Tour (EPT). Of course, you have because tournament poker is one of the most exciting forms of the game, and one that gives you the chance to turn a relatively small investment into a massive sum of money.

Although there are thousands of tournaments running every week on various online poker sites, nothing beats the excitement of sitting down in a real-life casino, feeling the cards and chips in your hands, and competing for huge cash prizes and elaborate trophies and bracelets.

The three biggest and most popular live tournament festivals are the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the European Poker Tour (EPT) and the World Poker Tour (WPT), although the PartyPoker LIVE, 888poker LIVE, and Unibet Open are worth mentioning, too.

All of these festivals offer dozens of tournaments at some amazing venues around the world, capped off with a high buy-in Main Event that pays hundreds of thousands of dollars (or euros), or millions in some cases. It’s also a chance for players to immortalize themselves in the poker history books by winning titles and the accompanying trophies.

However, the high cost of entering these major live tournaments is a significant deterrent to many budding poker players. A typical EPT Main Event costs €5,300 to buy into, whilst WSOP entry prices range from $500 and increase to an eye-watering $50,000 for the highest buy-in events.

Unless you are a successful professional poker player or have a very well-paid job, investing €5,300 plus travel and accommodation for a single tournament may be a step too far. Fear not, however, because thankfully, there are ways to win your seat at the biggest championships, and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home.

Build your bankroll with free-to-play poker freeroll tournaments.

Most online poker sites including: PokerStars, partypoker, WPT Global, and 888poker offer special tournaments known as satellites.

These satellites play like any standard tournament but with one key difference: they do not boast a cash prize. Instead, they offer seats to Main Events and sometimes entire packages that include hotel accommodation and travel expenses.

Below are the most popular type of satellite competitions that are available on most online poker sites:

Full Package Satellites

A satellite that offers a full package to an event usually awards the winner with a seat to the Main Event, money towards travel and accommodation costs, and sometimes spending money. Full Package Satellites generally become available a month or two before the big events begin. It should come as no surprise to learn that the sponsors of the live tours run satellites on their respective online poke site.

For example, you can play EPT satellites at PokerStars, 888poker LIVE satellites at 888poker, PartyPoker LIVE satellites online at PartyPoker, and WPT satellites at WPT Global.

Sometimes, major festivals partner with online poker sites to run satellites. The Irish Open is the perfect example of this. The Irish Open recently joined forces with both Paddy Power Poker and PokerStars to run online satellites, while the WSOP often uses 888poker and GGPoker. WPT Global regularly runs satellites online that award packages to the WPT events. In December 2022, Stephen Kehoe won a satellite online at WPT Global that cost him $550 to enter. It awarded him a package to the WPT World Championship in Las Vegas, where he cashed for $269,900.

Seat-Only Satellites

These tournaments are similar to the full package tournaments except the winner(s) only receive a seat to the Main Event and nothing else. If you live near the tournament venue or know someone staying nearby, these types of satellites are perfect.

Steps or Phase Satellites

Steps satellites have grown significantly in popularity during recent years because they offer hopefuls the chance to win a comprehensive package for very little outlay. Steps usually take the form of several tournaments, where the winners progress to the next highest step and continue doing so until they win the main prize.

You can buy into any step or phase that your bankroll allows, making them a great satellite format regardless of your bankroll's size.

Flip or All-In Satellites

If you are short of time and want to leave qualifying for an event completely up to chance, then participating in Flip or All-in satellites is the best option. These tournaments see the blinds and antes placed so high that everyone is automatically all-in at the start of the tournament and will remain so until the winner is determined.

Generally speaking, this form of satellite commands low buy-ins, and they are great fun to watch!

Once you’ve decided what type of satellite is best for you, make sure you sign up to your preferred poker site via PokerNews for all the best, latest and biggest sign-up bonuses.

Satellite Tournament FAQs

How do I win an EPT Main Event seat or package?

PokerStars is the only online poker site that offers satellites to European Poker Tour (EPT) tournaments. PokerStars usually offers both full packages and seat-only satellites, which start with buy-ins of only a couple of dollars. It is common for there to be live Main Event satellites at the EPT venue, too.

Can I win a seat to the WSOP Main Event?

Yes! It is most poker players' dream to play in the WSOP Main Event, not least because reaching the final table usually means you will become a millionaire! Currently, the WSOP only allows 888poker and GGPoker to run online satellites to the WSOP Main Event. However, some other online poker sites offer similar packages by calling them names, such as "Las Vegas Experience" and similar.

Are the online satellites for the various 888poker LIVE tour?

888poker is the online poker site to head to if you want to win your way into the 888poker LIVE events. 888poker often runs freeroll satellites that award seats or packages, meaning you could be jetting off around Europe for free!

What options are there for winning a PartyPoker LIVE seat or package?

PartyPoker is the home of the "centrolls," budget satellites costing one cent. PartyPoker uses Phase (step) satellites that start at $0.01 and build in buy-in sizes until the weekly final, where the seats and packages are awarded.

I want to play in a WPT Main Event. Where can I win a package or seat?

WPT Global should be your first port of call because it regularly runs promotions and satellites that award seats and packages to WPT Main Events around the world.

Does satellite winners ever win major live poker events?

Yes they do! The most famous satellite success story is that of Chris Moneymaker, who won an online satellite to the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Moneymaker's satellite cost $86, which he turned into $2.5 million and the title of WSOP Main Event champion!

  • Discover how you can win your way into the biggest live poker tournaments cheaply online.

Name Surname
Senior Editor
Name Surname
Managing Editor

Based in the United Kingdom, Will started working for PokerNews as a freelance live reporter in 2015 and joined the full-time staff in 2019. He graduated from the University of Kent in 2017 with a B.A. in German. He also holds an NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism.

More Stories

Other Stories

Recommended for you

Unibet's Dara O'Kearney Explains How to Plug Your Biggest Satellite Leaks Unibet's Dara O'Kearney Explains How to Plug Your Biggest Satellite Leaks