One of the biggest conundrums with tournament online poker with regards to strategy is in how aggressively you should play and what sort of risks you should take and how often. There are no set answers here and much depends on certain key factors that will differ from individual to individual. Like for example the amount that you bought in for. Some players may have bought directly into the event with a full buy in while others may have won their seat inside a satellite event.
Also the attitude to risk will differ which means that players with a safer risk profile may be less likely to take the necessary risks to go for the win. These areas knock on to how you will play and what a correct strategy may be for you personally. Let us take an online no limit hold’em poker tournament as an example. If you are down to say 10bb and you are on the bubble then how you play at this particular point in time will differ based on your risk profile and how happy you will be with a minimum cash. Top online tournament professionals would be more inclined to go for a cash here and then see where they go from there.
Clearly when things haven’t gone too well for you early in the tournament then your game plan has to change. A top online tournament player would start the event not being content with a minimum cash. In a 1000 player tournament then any serious online poker player will want to go very deep in the event because they know all too well that their long term profits stem from the times when they go very deep and make the final table or even win the event.
However when things have started badly for you and continued into the middle stages then you have to accept that the goalposts have changed so to speak. If you have say 10bb and the top 200 players get paid and there are 210 players left then your primary objective is to cash. You have to accept that you are simply not in contention to win the tournament at this stage. In this instance then you could take a lot of risks to get back into big stack contention but securing the cash should be your primary objective because winning the event or even reaching the final table from this position will be very difficult.
One of the most common scenarios in online tournament poker is to get close to the money with a short stack. This will happen to you a significant percentage of the time and when his happens then you will need to watch the other tables very closely. You will need to know who has how many chips, what blind pressure they are under and how much longer they are likely to survive. If say a dozen players are critically short with say around 2bb-3bb then you could try and fold your way into the money. This may work and it may not work but your primary objective now at this stage will be to cash. No matter what you do then some tournaments will simply not go your way and cashing can either get you a small win or a small loss but either result is far superior than busting out.