Early MTT Play
Your play in the early stages of a tournament should be extremely tight. Most players think that since the blinds are cheap in the early stages, that this is the time to go in with marginal hands. NOT SO! In fact, the opposite is true. Since the cards are coming so cheap, now is the time to be picky about what your play with. One particular author I read went as far as to say that he only plays 2 hands in early tournament play, AA and KK. With both of these hands, he bets hard and does not try to trap. He would consider playing QQ in certain positions. While I consider that a bit too tight, it does make my point that early stages you play tight hands. You want to gain the reputation of a stone cold rock.
Hands that I will play in the early stages: JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AK suited. I will occasionally deviate from that list, but only in good position. I never bluff in the early stages of a tournament. Why so tight? This style of play will let the fish bust out, without taking you with them. How many times have we seen some schmuck stay in with 4 2 offsuit and flop two pair to beat a good players solid starting pair? It happens all too frequently in the early stages of the tournament. Even playing those top 5 hands, it can still happen to you, but hopefully alot less.
Play ultra-tight early and do not bluff. Let the fish die off, without burning away your chips. Remember, only the top positions pay, and thats your goal.
An alternative strategy of playing more flops is advocated by the new breed of poker players such as Phil Ivey. They play alot of flops early on, and when the flop hits them hard, they seek to clean up alot of extra chips and build a stack that they can bully with. This style works well if the tournament starts you out with plenty of chips (100 big blinds or more).
At sites like Full Tilt Poker, one can actually watch pros such as Phil Ivey and Chris Ferguson play many tournaments, from World Poker Tour satelliites to freerolls. Plenty of knowledge can be gleaned from simply watching a pro player work his magic.