With only $3,000 starting chips for a $1,500 event, you have to really pull things out of the hat early on. Now a lot of good players have tried to get busy very early on, with some mixed success, but the problem lies in the fact that sooner or later their superaggression will run them into a calling station who will pick up a vast chunk of their chips.
There's a certain tendency, even amongst really good players, to try and bluff people. Even when they know the calling station won't fold, their ego gets involved and they decide in their heads, "I am the one: I will be the man to bluff the unbluffable!"
Of course this never works, and the patient tortoise-like player eventually gets all their chips by solidly betting the near-nuts or something and being called down by third pair.
Other people have an equally finite modus operandi based on "If you don't get the cards, you won't get the chips!" To a certain degree, it's true, but the fact of the matter is that in these smaller-buy-in, low starting-stack tournaments, you need to value bet your hands incredibly thin.
Simply put, it's not enough to be value betting one pair, medium kicker on the river with position. You need to bet second and maybe third pair comfortably, sometimes out of position. This maximization of pots is most likely the only way you'll be able accumulate a stack without too many cards early on.
This situation becomes, to a certain degree, as easy against good players as it is against bad ones. Players will happily throw in a stack of their chips, thinking that this "top online pro" is simply trying to bluff them.
At the same time, even top pros will struggle against an unknown quantity's thin river value bets.
With some players, the "hero call" is incredibly popular, as they see the rest of the table practically swooning at their "incredible" call that no one else could make since they assign you a narrow range and the hands they don't think you'll bet suddenly become incredibly profitable.
In Event 2, with around three tables left, there was a hand with a board showing something along the lines of J-9-7-J-x. James Akenhead, who finished second, bet the turn and the river against the aggressive Theo Tran.
Tran himself said "You have a jack or nothing" before making the call. Akenhead showed him 9-5 offsuit and Tran mucked.
This is a good example of two good players playing a hand, and one player betting his hand thinly enough that the other can only expect to see a monster hand or a bluff, when in fact the other player has simply value bet second pair incredibly thinly.
Due to all these factors, I think the people who really will have an edge early on in these tournaments are not the generalized group of pros in particular, but the heads-up cash-game specialists. These are the players who make a living from value betting third pair, or even king-high, if they think it's a profitable move. Therefore, they're the people most likely to get the maximum value from their hands when they bet.
For this reason, it's no surprise that many of the pros in these tournaments who end up winning events or making the final are well-known for their cash-game prowess.
The people who will fire every street with K-Q on a K-Q-2-T-9 board after their opponent has check-called all the way, still trying to extract value from a weaker two pair or even just a king, are the people who will make it deep in these competitions in the long run.
With the bigger fields, you're more likely to get loose-passive play than tight-passive play, and you should adjust accordingly. Just don't be afraid to lose a pot once in a while when it doesn't go your way. In the long term, these "risky bets" should turn out to be among your most profitable.
So, if you're going to be here playing the smaller events, especially the Hold'em, then you need to maximize any holdings you have. Bet really thin, second pair, third pair even if you think you can, because unless you get a real rush of cards, you're going to need more than the average amount of luck.