Wynn Las Vegas made headlines last year when they made their innovative Milestone Satellites part and parcel of the WPT World Championship. Milestone satellites have become a staple of tournament poker at Wynn in recent times, and they’ve been well received by the players at the end-of-year World Poker Tour events. The 2023 WPT World Championship series is underway, and players have numerous opportunities to take advantage of this exciting poker tournament format.
Robbie Strazynski spoke with Ryan Beauregard, Executive Director of Poker Operations for Wynn Las Vegas, all about the origin and implementation of this newer, upgraded take on the poker satellite concept. In particular, Beauregard spoke about the reasons behind Wynn making the switch over and how the new format in his view changes the landscape for satellite players.
Traditional Poker Satellite Was “Kind of Broken”
So why would anyone want to tinker with a system that has been working for decades? Traditional poker satellites are big business, and some players make a killing off satellites. Speaking on the traditional satellite system, Beauregard said, “It was just kind of broken, as people figured out where their advantages came and how to outlast instead of outplay. Our goal was to take some ideas that they had been kicking around in Europe and maybe make them a little better.”
Those ideas eventually evolved into Milestone Satellites. As Beauregard explains, “We have to give players a goal. We have to give them a goalpost to get to so that they can win their seat.” Furthermore, he explained how traditional satellites were taking longer to play. “We had satellites that were lasting 7, 8, 9 hours. We want to be fair to the players, but that gets a little too long in player’s minds for a satellite.”
Ultimately, the new satellite concept has dual benefits. Beauregard states that they “help roll back the time a little bit, and gave everybody that goalpost. It gives them something to achieve and, more importantly, induces action and keeps them actively playing.”
What Are Milestone Satellites?
Milestone Satellites are similar to traditional multi-table satellites where players compete for seats into larger poker tournaments. However, now players have two ways to win their seats into larger, marquee events. The first way is by reaching a “milestone” or set number of chips necessary to win a seat.
For example, in the $1,100 Milestone Satellite to the $10,400 WPT World Championship, a player must accumulate 230,000 chips to receive a seat. Once a player reaches that milestone, they must contact a floor supervisor who will verify the stack and award the seat.
Once a player wins their seat, their chips are removed from play, regardless of stack size. The remaining players continue to compete for remaining seats.
The other way to win a seat is the traditional way. If ten seats are available and only six players reach the milestone during play, the tournament concludes when four players remain. Those players will receive a seat.
Milestone Satellites Here to Stay at Wynn Las Vegas
When asked whether the Wynn had difficulty convincing the WPT to adopt their new Milestone Satellites, Beauregard explained, “We’d already made up our mind. We were never going back. WPT has given us the freedom to create the schedules and satellite schedules.”
WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage voiced his support, saying “I love the way Milestone satellites reward aggression and that players don’t need to play until the end of the satellite to win their seat.”
Perhaps most importantly, the players have embraced the changes to the satellite system. Beauregard explains, “Everything we hear feedback-wise has been very positive. A lot of players love it. To be sure, it definitely helps the better players, the more aggressive players. I think overall it will be good for poker in that it improves the satellite structure and helps people get out of their comfort zone and realize they have to continue to play poker. Poker has been evolving for so long, and this is just part of it.”
At least a dozen Milestone Satellites will be held throughout the WPT World Championship series, and the Wynn is slated to give away between 600-800 seats during that time. Beauregard concluded: “They’re not going away,” so if you prefer ‘old school’ satellites, you will need to upgrade your game if you plan to win a WPT seat at the Wynn.