One very successful tournament poker player once told me that you should never stop thinking about how you can get your hands on your opponent’s chips in a poker tournament. There is a difference between successful tournament professionals and novice tournament players and the top pros are always trying to figure out how to get their opponents chips and making moves designed to get them.
In online tournament poker then weak players will make mistakes. But you need to know what sorts of mistakes they make. For example you need to know if your opponents play too loosely and if so in what way. For instance some players may limp and then call raises who then release on the flop if they fail to connect. This is a terrible leak of chips and you can easily identify this without even being involved in a hand.
For example let us say that you see a player limp in middle position for T50 and the cut-off raises to T200 with you being on the button. Everyone folds but the limper who calls. If they action goes check-bet-fold on the flop then this is a good indication of a weak player. Donating T200 in chips in that way is not strong poker. This is why many of the best tournament players get busy early in the event. If your opponents are making mistakes through weak play and you get a chance to exploit that then you must go for it.
Some players however are weak but in a completely different way. Sometimes players enter tournaments but are not committed to play then entire tournament in a professional way. This is why many players prefer the smaller buy in events in online tournament poker because there are more players who simply spew their chips away. For example let us say that someone limps with A-Q and they have say 45bb.
You also limp on the button with 4d-4c and the small blind completes. We have a four way pot and the flop comes A-4-2 and the big blind bets 3bb and now the player with A-Q raises to 10bb. You shove all in with your set and the big blind folds. The player with A-Q should fold but a combination of their hand and the fact that they may actually want to be elsewhere makes them call. In larger events and with a stronger opponent then the A-Q folds but this is how you can sometimes find weaker opponents blowing their chips away during the early stages of online poker tournaments.
Some weak players on the other hand can be terribly easy to bluff from hands. These are the types whose entire poker strategy during the early to middle stages is to sit tight and not risk anything without a very strong hand. Wild and wacky players may pay you off when you make big hands and tight rocks will allow you to get away from marginal holdings while being able to bluff them. The bottom line is though that valuable tournament chips are there waiting to be picked up by players who are observant enough to spot and then exploit their opponents errors.