So if you have not read this excellent post on poker strategy (from a blogger who just won a seat into the main event) then go there now
ok, now let's start from this standpoint. This is an optimal strategy to get to the money, but often often leaves you at average or LESS chips.
A quick recap: (with apologies to Ryan, my notes in parens)
1. Sets are good, but sets on a ragged board are GOLD. (you need to see flops with pocket pairs when at all possible. Call up to a 5xBB raise).
2. Big pairs (AA/KK) well hold up 80% of the time against QQ and JJ. Yet, many players will NOT lay down QQ or JJ pre-flop. TAKE THEIR MONEY. (Just because you have not had a hand in an HOUR, does NOT mean that JJ is better than, well, JJ. TT is RIGHT OUT!)
3. A cheap flop with a suited connector may result in a huge flop for you. Especially if your opponent does not know what a re-draw is. This is pure dumb luck. (Often you will fold in EP and would have hit. C'est la vie. Pick your spots and expect dissapointment. But if you can get in for 1-2x, play a Suited connector from EP and dump it if you need to. Note: if you flop a DRAW, see #6 and #7.)
4. Kickers count more than donkeys will admit. Never play a weak kicker (TJ style). (make notes about players who play A-rag and poor kickers like KT or QT.)
5. If you are a decent player, dont be afraid of seeing cheap flops. Remember the GAP concept (and if someone raises, dont re-raise with middling cards just because Phil Gordon says so on TV. You need to outflop your opponent, you are not looing to make expensive draws!)
6. Don't play pressure poker in early levels. Playing people off of hands is HARD. Doing it early is IMPOSSIBLE. This is a great skill to have that pays off surprising little in online NLHE tournaments.
7. Races should be saved for when you have a below average stack. Say a Q of .5 or less. Take what you get. Feast of Famine. Since its ALL LUCK, save it for last. (But get those chips in PRE-FLOP with AK. Consider a stop-N-Go with a pair. Remember that heads up, he will miss the flop 60% of the time. And he may fold bottom pair to boot.)
So, what if anything, can I contribute to this. Precious little. Expect that I like to see flops from the cutoff with almost any playable hand if I can get in. I am in position to flat call a single better on the flop and then decide what to do on the turn based on my position and how tentaive he has. BUT, before you do this, see #6.
If there are alot of limpers and NO raisers, and you're in the CUTOFF, you can make a big RAISE ((3+N)xBB when N is the additional limpers) and get heads up not only with a player out of position (I assume the button folds here), but with alot of DEAD MONEY from the limpers to boot. This move, stealing from Scott Fishman here, may be the most positive EV move in poker in early levels. You are playing heads up with for a pot that is the size of 3 players.
Oh, and remember this is a tournament. Play a hit flop strong if you are willing to see a river. Unlike a cash game, getting outdrawn can be the end of the world.
And be prepared to fold the best hand.