Some things are so bloody obvious that many people fail to notice them at all. This is one of those things. It’s probably not possible to boil a player’s skill level down to a single number, but if it was, those numbers could be averaged and graphed as a tournament progresses, and it would look something like this…
Obviously, the average skill level will be at it’s lowest when a tournament starts, and gradually rises as the tournament moves towards its conclusion. Yes, sometimes strong players bust out early, and yes, sometimes weaker players will make a deep run, but, in general, average skill goes from low to high. Well, duh!
But what does this mean?
If you develop a strategy that lets you do well in the early stages, don’t expect that same strategy to be effective in the later stages. It won’t be.
For example, one frequently used early strategy is to play super tight and just wait it out. This might let you survive the early game, but you will find that you will often get to the mid and late stages well behind the average chip count. This will force you to play catch-up against progressively tougher opponents… never an easy task, and you will be a short stack facing higher and higher blinds and antes. You simply won’t have enough gas in your tank to finish the race.
The conclusion is simple… you can’t have a tournament strategy. You need several strategies, each specifically tailored to the different stages of a tournament. I know, this is as basic as it is obvious, but I have seen so many people try to play one way from start to finish that I thought I would throw it out there.