Early StageDuring the early stage of the tournament, you should be more cautious, but also look to build up a nice pot for yourself. During the early portion of the tournament many players overplay big hands like AA, and lose big pots because of it. Ideally, you always want to play small ball poker with AA early on unless your table dictates a different speed. It really depends on if you are seated at a fast paced table or a slow table.
If you are seated at a fast paced table where action is wild early on, you should look to play bigger pots pre-flop and try to get all the money in by the turn. If you are seated at a weaker table with a lot of tight players, it is difficult to extract value with AA early on, and you may have to limp into pots just to build up a worthwhile pot for yourself. Also, when you limp AA you are greatly disguising the strength of your hand, and it could cause even a tight player to bluff more than once at you. If that occurs then you are doing a good job playing AA at a tight table.
Middle StageWhen the middle stage of a poker tournament approaches, you will always want to raise pre-flop with aces, and hopefully get three bet. Almost never is it correct to limp in before the flop with a hand that big. The reason that it is not correct to limp is because the blinds are now worth stealing, and a miss step by your opponent can result in a massive chip gain for you. When the pots start to inflate before the flop, you can take down big pots with AA. The best way to achieve this success is by playing a wider selection of other hands before the flop. If you are an aggressive player and get categorized that way by your table, you will be able to win bigger pots with AA when you get them simply because of your table image. Your table image during the middle stage of a tournament may be the difference between you doubling up with AA or just winning the blinds.
Final StageThe last and final stage of a poker tournament is after the money bubble and when you grind down to the final table. This stage of a poker tournament is the most important time to play AA correctly. When you get dealt AA after the money bubble, you should know your table very well by this point in time or at least have a good idea who is capable of making moves. If you are seated at an aggressive table or passive table should cross your mind, and what position at the table as well as chip stack should also be in your mind. If you have a massive stack later in the tournament you should always open the pot for a small raise before the flop. Most times you will get short stacks to shove at you and you can pad your chip lead.
If you have a short stack, your decision is difficult because most times you should just shove AA, but other times you can limp or min raise. It really depends on your image and position at the table with what the best play is with AA. If you are in early position, it may be best to limp and see what develops. If you are in middle position, the best play can be to min raise or shove, and in late position you should trend more towards a shove. Position and table image are everything late in tournaments with a short stack. If you can manage to have a loose reputation a good majority of the time, you will get called by weaker hands and double up.
Frank Deesing is a 23 year old poker player who has battled through numerous online and live poker tournaments. His main successes have been whilst playing online poker tournaments under the name frankiebabs on Absolute Poker back in 2010. As well as pre-black friday on Full Tilt Poker under the name HIPPPPPHOOOOO.