The final table is where the big money in tournaments are made. At this point of the tournament, since you got this far, you’ve either played well or been quite lucky – usually it’s both even if some players like to think it’s just them having played well.
Final table is the ultimate test of your tournament poker skills, as due to ICM you have to make some tough folds that you wouldn’t do if the payout ladder wasn’t affecting your decision. But, you also have to stay aggressive to accumulate chips. By purely waiting for premium hands, you might get a payjump or two, but you will not have enough chips to fight with to get the heads-up and play for the trophy. In most table conditions, the right approach is to play tight and use timely aggression to accumulate chips from weaker players at the table. What you want to avoid in pretty much all circumstances, is playing overly tight and passive.
If the lineup is really tough, you have to take more risks not to get run over – still, whereas you might have called 4bet-shoves previously with hands like in the top 10%, due to ICM the right play is to usually fold unless we have a monster. The better players at the table understand they cannot fight back too much preflop with steep payjumps, and hence you’re likely to be against a stronger range when facing preflop aggression. However, if there are players who are 3bet/4bet-shoving light, they will get picked up at some point and you get a payjump – this is another reason to avoid a big preflop confrontation unless you have a monster. You should however put pressure on shorter stacks than yourself (unless they are really short, under 10BB) as their best option is to usually fold since risking their tournament lives is not profitable even as a slight favourite. If there is only one big stack and a lot of short stacks at the final table, it’s disastrous to lose your stack – you should avoid confrontation at all costs in that case.
Like always in poker tournaments, you should adapt your play to the current table conditions – final tables are no different. If there are tight fit-or-fold players, you should steal from them relentlessly and 3bet them light. If there are multiple maniacs who are fighting for every pot they enter, you might have to take a stand against them at some point. Still, it’s usually better to be patient and wait for a spot where you have a card advantage against their range before fighting back.