Playing single table poker tournaments requires tight play in the early going. Stay out of the action for the most part unless you’ve been dealt premium hands like Q-Q, K-K, A-A, and A-K. Look to maximize what you make off those hands and wait for blinds to elevate before getting heavily involved in the play. This allows you to study the other players at the table so you have an idea of what they’re capable of doing. Watch for habits that they repeat over and over, and then capitalize on their predictability.
As the action continues you’ll want to watch blind sizes as well as the stack size of your opponents. You don’t want the blind levels to get too high before you start getting into hands to earn back some chips for tournament survival.
If one or two players have built really big stacks you’ll want to get into the action so you have a fighting chance to come back against them. When the numbers do start to get ahead you have to force the action to stay afloat. The idea is to stay ahead of the average stack size in the tournament.
Poker room software will tell you where your stack ranks in the tournament at any time, and you can adjust your aggression if it dips down below the table average.
As the number of players at the table gets shorter, you can increase your aggression and widen the variance of the hands that you play. Position becomes very important because blinds are worth more in the later stages of a tournament. You should be raising the blinds from the button in a steal attempt, and playing hands like suited connectors can make for a big profit for you. If you manage to hit them on the flop these hands can pay off in a big way, easily doubling you through another opponent who may have a hand like top pair/good kicker.
Heads-up play should be even more aggressive than the earlier play. You must take the action to your opponent and try to win it. You have already won second-place money, so why not go out with guns blazing and try to take the top spot? Hand values go way up, and often a queen with a good kicker will be considered a strong hand.