One thing about me is that I am constantly reading poker books. I read a ton of books in general, but over the past few years there has literally not been a single time when I was not reading at least one poker book. Frankly, I attribute much of my online poker success to my voracious appetite for poker books, as I definitely read more of these things than anybody I know, and I have no doubt seen a marked improvement in my onine poker results since I began reading them so often. Anyways, one book I am reading right now (and really enjoying, btw) is Lou Krieger's and Sheree Bykofsky's Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You About Winning Holdem Poker, and I was a bit surprised to see in there this morning the same advice I saw in Phil Gordon's Little Green Book, that both authors advise cultivating a tight image very early in no-limit holdem tournaments. They advise that by playing tight early, #1 you avoid getting involved in pots with less than stellar holdings early on in the tournament, and thus being at risk for early elimination with other than top cards, and #2 that you will be able to run bluffs later in the tournament, when the chips are really important, because you played tight so early on in the event. Invariably, this advice comes in the context of blind stealing, which both authors advocate avoiding in the early rounds of nlh tournaments, even if the action is folded around to you in the cutoff or even on the button.
Although I acknowledge that this advice may work well for many holdem players out there, there are a few reasons why I actually choose not to follow this strategy for my own tournament play. First and foremost, I am confident in my ability to make reads of my opponents' holdings, and to lay down my own hand if it is not strong enough to continue in any pot. This is actually a very difficult skill to master, and a substantial majority of the eliminations I see from the big online tournaments seem to be players who can't lay down pocket Kings when an Ace flops, can't lay down a medium pair when two overcards hit the board, or can't lay down big cards like AK or AQ when rags flop and someone bets at them. This is something which is not a problem for me anymore as a rule. That's not to say that I never bet my AK on a raggy flop, but rather that as a rule, at this point in my poker career I am more than happy to lay down whatever hand I'm holding if it appears from the betting that I am beat. Since I am confident that I will not take poor hands too far for the most part, I am not nearly as afraid of putting in a steal-raise in the opening rounds of a tournament, even with no regard whatsoever to the actual cards I have in my hand.
There's another, more important reason why I like to try to steal pots with open-raises right from the getgo in tournaments. In stark contrast to the books' advice, I actually like to have other players think of me as a blind stealer, someone who will open-raise almost automatically from late position no matter what two cards I've got in my hand. In fact, if I am holding crap and I get reraised after a preflop steal-raise, I won't typically delay before folding, as if I have a decent hand. Rather, I will instafold to those reraises, because I don't care if my opponents know I was trying a steal. I want them to know I'm a stealer. Even though playing this way does land me in pots where I'm holding bad cards more often than many players, it also establishes a very easy way for me to get paid off big when I do hold a big hand in the blinds. I cannot count how many big pots I've won early on in large multi-table tournaments because I got dealt a big hand in late position. Think about it -- if I steal-raise the first three or four times the action is passed around to me in late position at my first table in a large mtt, then the fourth time I do it, somebody is likely to play back at me, in particular if they're holding a semi-strong hand themselves in one of the blinds, say something like QTo or K9s, etc. However, I find that I can make my own action by actively and openly blind-stealing, because that fourth time around, I may be sitting on pocket Kings. And when I get a big hand in late position, and I put in that same stealy-looking preflop raise, I am highly likely to get action. Many a tournament run of mine has begun in just this fashion, in particular in blogger tournaments but in the large multi-table jobs as well, with me getting a huge stack early by very virtue of the fact that I will steal blinds and play a little bit loose in late position.
So for me, I choose to go against many poker authors' common wisdom of avoiding blind stealing very early in tournaments. I'm not going to call a reraise if I have crappy cards, but I will go for the steal-raise early and often if presented with the opportunity, and I like to do so blatantly, making it as obvious as possible that I'm stealing with nothing. Even though this does tend to lead to me taking some flops with very subpar cards, I'm confident enough in my ability to get away from all but the best of those situations, and the upside is that I can make my own action early on in tournaments, in a way that the guy who always folds in unopened pots even in late position unless he's holding a very strong hand never has the opportunity to. As anyone who plays the regular blogger events with me will know, creating my own action in this way is something that has served me very well over time in my online poker tournament career, and it makes it very difficult for others to effectively play against me whenever I'm in a pot from late position.