The annoying but true answer to your question is that there is no one right way to play 77,88,99
early in the tournament I think it's best to try to minimize your investment with mid pocket pairs. I pretty much never, ever open limp any time during the tourney. So, if I'm first in I'll open for about 2.5x or 3x the BB. If there are limpers ahead of me, I'll probably just limp along and try to flop a set. If there is a raise ahead of me and it's early on, I'll usually just flat the raise with up to TT and sometimes even JJ depending on the player and my position (I'm fully capable of laying down JJ on the flop without batting an eyelash)
Now....later in the tourney you can sometimes play 99 like it's the nuts. it just depends so much on the table dynamics and effective stack sizes.
This weekend I got 6th in a large tourney for $2,000 and I had a very key hand late in the night with 99.
There are 18 players left. I have about 260k. New player sits down, he hasn't even unpacked all his chips yet, he looks to have about 85k. Average stack is 135k.
Blinds are 2000/4000 with a 500 ante so starting pot contains 10,500
My M = about 25 average M = about 12 This guy's M= about 8
I am in the SB for 2000. I am 2nd in chips at the table and maybe 5th in chips for the tourney.
UTG min raises to 8,000 off a stack off about 100k. This new player flats the raise without too much thought....he didn't seem to consider any other options. pretty much screams to me "medium to strong hand, but not a monster".
I look down at 99. I already know I'm gonna reraise...folding is too tight and I don't want to play a 3 way pot with 99 out of position with blinds being what they are. I've acquired all these chips, time to put them to work for me!
well, the UTG opener is the only one I really have to worry about. He has been min raising quite a few hands, but so far has folded whenever somebody 3bets him. Since I have him way covered and he'll be "squeezed" I feel pretty confident he will fold...but even if he doesn't the most I can lose this hand is 100k which would suck...but I'd still be above average.
So the question becomes, how much to raise? I want to bet enough so that I can't be raised out preflop...send him a message that he has no fold equity. I also want to raise enough that, should either player flat me and the flop comes safe, I can lead out for a bet that pot commits them without looking too weird.
I decide to reraise to 30,000.
UTG folds and this guy flats...he doesn't look to happy about it.
I'm putting him on AQ. possibly AJ or 88 but I think he might fold those hands, and I think he would have 3bet the UTG raiser if he had AK or TT+ and I think he would have 4bet me all in if he was slowplaying AA or KK.
anyways, flop comes 9TA rainbow.
woot! set of 9s. My plan of jamming the flop is gone....and since I put him on AQ and I don't think he'll ever be able to fold AQ on this board with his stack size but I decide to go for the check/raise just in case he didn't like the flop he can bluff at it, or I can give him a chance to improve.
it works and he bets 12,000 into the almost 80k pot...OK....weird bet size. I can't figure that bet out, maybe it's just a probe but I jam anyways. he snap calls and tables TT for a set of tens!
OMG! No! oh well, at least he is the shortest stack at the table....
but wait...the case 9 on the turn gives me quads and I take him out.
Now, I realize I was behind the whole way and got my money in bad on each street and got totally lucky. I get that. My point is that I took advantage of the situation, didn't play scared and played pocket 9s WAAAAAAY different than I would play them in the early or middle stages of the tourney.
did that seem like a long story? well, that's because there are a lot of different factors that have to go into how you play a certain hand. it is about so much more than your 2 particular cards.