There are no strict rules for playing in the early stages of poker tournaments.
In general, the best guidelines are that you should formulate your overall strategy after you have signed up for the tournament and begin playing. This is so because the two main factors that you should consider are poker tournament structure, and your starting table draw.
Freezeout Poker Tourneys
This is the classic tournament poker format. Eliminating yourself early in the tournament is a big disaster as you now cannot re - enter and miss out on a lot of value if the tournament is soft. Identifying your opposition is very important as you need to know who the tight and loose aggressive players are since making one big mistake will cost you your tournament life or a very easy double up. In general play tight and solid until the ante period comes or there is a really good reason to do otherwise.
Rebuy / Add-on Poker Tourneys
Rebuy/ Add-on & Unlimited rebuys and one add on is a popular format of tournaments that get huge prize pools and have notoriously soft fields. You will need to gamble a lot more in the rebuy period of these in general, quickly identify the players at your table who are looking to rebuy many times. These will be some of the best opportunities for you during the whole tournament to build a formidable stack and this will help you make a run to the final table. Unless you are playing the very high stakes, the post add-on period of these is known for its softness as a lot of gamblers will now have a ton of chips but not know how to play their big stacks correctly.
Re-entry Poker Tourneys
A new and popular format that focuses on chip accumulation early. You will need to quickly identify the players at your table who are willing/ looking to re - enter as it will be favorable for you to take close gambles with them. These instances will present some of the best in the tournament for you to quickly build a big stack that could help you make a run to the final table. Unless you are playing the very high stakes, the post add-on period of these is known for its softness as a lot of gamblers will now have a ton of chips but not know how to play their big stacks correctly.
General Early Stage Strategy
In terms of your table draw, your best strategy could also heavily depend on what kind of table draw you get. You could get a hard table draw full of seasoned tournament veterans or you could get a soft table draw full of players who are beginners, you never really know what you will get nowadays.
At low stakes, the general maxim is, “tight is right” in the early stages of a tournament.
Another general advice and saying that we will tackle is, “You cannot win a tournament in the early stages, you can only lose it.” Survival is quite important in freezeout tournaments and during the post rebuy/add on part of tournaments. Mainly because at some table draws you can essentially outlast a lot of players just waiting for big hands and have the loose aggressive players double you up over and over. At some other tables everyone will be playing tight so you will need to steal chips yourself. Chip accumulation is also quite important to the point where the two things really negate each other and you will need to decide for yourself after taking in consideration the poker tournament structure and your table draw.