There is one point in every tournament when every player should adjust their play. It is when the money is almost within grasp and the bubble boy (or girl) is about to be crowned. Most tighten up, some bet more freely, all have a number on their mind. The number of how many players are left.
On a micro-scale, we can deal with the easy numbers. My favorite games are single-table tournaments with the top three places paying out. (These are also known by the somewhat counter-intuitive name sit-n-goes. Once you “sit” you can’t “go” until the game is over.) The bubble here is fourth place. Out of the last ten games I’ve played I’ve been first, second, third or fourth--so the end-game strategy has been fresh on my mind. Be aware, this is on-line advice and my not apply in person.
Every time I reach the top four, everyone tightens up except for players with a significant chip lead. These players steal blinds with bets four or five times the big blind. I’ve found that when the blinds are high enough to significantly impact the smaller or mid stacks, that is overkill. The minimum raise is often enough to get the player to fold pre-flop. According to traditional advice, this is a weak play. I agree, it is weak, but if it works it works. I have been using this strategy over the last ten games and have been first or second most of them. In addition, when you do get a call, you are still seen as on the offensive for the hand. Most people will respect your post-flop bet assuming your table reputation is solid.
Disclaimer: The minimum raise has worked for me consistently, but only under specific circumstances. I've been min. raising (1) online, (2) with four or less players at the table, and (3) not in the big blind. I use the min. bet to steal the big blind, it is less likely to get anyone who has already called the big blind to fold. Also I've only tested this tactic with buy-ins between $10 and $30. Your mileage may very.