Anyway, I really do miss writing Cowboys content – it was always just something that was a lot of fun for me – so I thought it would be cool to post some of my old articles that I think still have value today. A lot of the research/content I did was at least semi-evergreen, so there’s a bunch of stuff below that still represents how I feel today about certain players and trends.
My 2015 Dallas Cowboys Preview (without a single word written after 2013)
Romo Isn’t Poor in 4th Quarter
Winning and the Illusion of Offensive Balance
Passing on 1st Down
More on Offensive Balance
Do Cowboys Really Need to Run More?
Why Dez Will Be Better Than Megatron
How Many Targets for Dez?
Forcing Offenses to Run
Why Measurables Matter
Why Best Player Available Sucks
How Important Is Rushing Success to Passing Game?
Hand Size and QB Success
Using More Shotgun
Why Romo Shouldn’t Minimize Interceptions
Dunbar > Randle
Not All Penalties the Same
Pressure and Takeaways
Dan Bailey’s Value
Joseph Randle Breakdown
Least Favorite Plays for Dallas
Romo and Randomness
Okay, that’s good enough. Bye.]]>
Here’s an excerpt:
Don’t Fear Randomness; Variance Can Be Profitable
This one is a Bales specialty. I have to admit, I am risk averse when putting my money down on something. I like statistical backing when setting my lineups and doling out daily fantasy advice.
Bales said there is value in randomness, even as I suggested to him in the interview that thought appeared to fly in the face of fantasy’s reality. His response:
“The more randomness there is, the more value there is in being contrarian. It is counterintuitive to find value in randomness. It is not how you predict things as much as how much you leverage predictability. The more randomness, the bigger the edge.”
OK, we can buy that, even if it is a bit abstract.
In order to win a huge payday in daily fantasy play, you have to have a unique lineup and catch a shred of well-educated luck. You can make your own luck with sound strategies and daily lineup choices.
Long time no see. I recently published Fantasy Baseball for Smart People, my first ever baseball-specific guide to profiting at daily fantasy sports. I highly recommend you buy it if you know what’s good for you.
If you purchase the book, you can also download A Guide to Winning at Daily Fantasy Sports for free. Actually, you can download it for free on Amazon even if you don’t buy anything from me, but come on, I need to pay for a fifth football-watching TV somehow.]]>
The book is called Fantasy Football for Smart People: The Ultimate In-Season Weekly Guide. You can purchase it for Kindle, as a paperback, or in PDF form.
Fantasy Football for Smart People: The Ultimate In-Season Weekly Guide is filled with data-driven fantasy football analysis designed to improve your in-season decision-making, from projecting players to trade strategies to daily-fantasy-specific advice. With The Ultimate In-Season Weekly Guide, you’ll learn:
Fantasy Football for Smart People: The Ultimate In-Season Weekly Guide is ideal for daily fantasy players who want to make better lineup decisions or season-long owners who struggle to get the most out of their teams. Using hard numbers to either confirm or debunk popular fantasy football narratives, the guide is a scientific, analytical look at which in-season moves are really the best.
Whether you play traditional season-long fantasy football or want to kick ass on daily fantasy sites like DraftKings, The Ultimate In-Season Weekly Guide contains the tips and advice to give you the edge you need to become a profitable player and long-term winner.
Sign up for DraftKings for Week 8 and become a millionaire on a $27 entry.]]>
There’s not too much discussion about the merits of multi-entry in DraftKings tournaments—most people agree that you can enter a GPP a bunch of times and still maintain a positive expected value—but there’s a fierce debate over how many lineups you should construct for cash games (head-to-heads, 50/50s, and three-man leagues).
Popular wisdom suggests that daily fantasy players should enter just a single lineup into cash games—their “optimal” lineup with all of their top values, or as many of the top values as they can fit under the salary cap. I disagree with the idea that there is one true “optimal” lineup, as well as the notion that playing just a single lineup in cash games is a smart strategy.
The Problem with Counting Lineups
I first want to address an important related idea, which is that what determines risk is the number of lineups you play on DraftKings. Instead, risk depends on the number of players you use, the way you combine those players, and the amount of money you have on each player/combination.
Player A might use two different lineups that have completely different players from each other—18 different players in an NFL contest—while Player B might have two lineups with every player the same except one (10 different players across the two lineups). Who is taking on the greater amount of risk? Clearly Player B.
When you frame the issue in this way, it becomes clear that what matters shouldn’t be the total number of lineups, but the total player exposure. How much exposure do I have to this player and how much money do I have on him? In the case of Player B, the total risk and player exposure would be almost exactly the same as with someone who used just a single lineup, while Player A’s diversification would make his risk/reward much different.
The key word there is ‘diversification’: the risk you assume has little to do with how many lineups you play and more to do with how much you diversify those lineups, i.e. how many players you use and what type of exposure you have to them. In a world with perfect knowledge, we should indeed use a single cash lineup optimized around our values. There’s indeed only one true set of players that will optimize a lineup’s projected points.
The problem is that we don’t have perfect knowledge of outcomes. We’re fallible, our projections are fallible, and our player values are fallible. One of the biggest mistakes a daily fantasy owner can make is not being aware of their own fallibility.
We see this all the time in the NFL when teams give up a king’s ransom to trade up in the draft to snag “their guy.” Many times, the only way those moves work out for the team trading up is if they get exactly what they think they’re getting. They fail to realize that the draft is a game of probabilities, and no one has perfect knowledge of how future events will unfold. They don’t say to themselves, “This is what we think and we’re pretty confident we’re right, but what happens if we aren’t?”
When we assume that our projections and values are flawless, we create an extremely fragile system for creating lineups. Every week, there are numerous players all ranked near one another in terms of value. To use one player because he’s projected to score 0.1 points more than another requires a level of confidence in your predictions that is simply unattainable.
Once we start to account for our own fallibility—once we acknowledge the fact that, hey, we could just be wrong—it opens up the door for greater diversification.
Here’s the full article.]]>
Week 6 was the epitome of why an antifragile, contrarian approach to daily fantasy can be so valuable. I personally believe that the value in going against the grain is apparent when we stop analyzing fantasy football results in a binary way.
Even if we think about a decision probabilistically, it’s very tempting to just say “Hey, what are the chances that this decision works out?” I think that can be problematic thinking, however, if we don’t consider the degree to which we can benefit if things do indeed go our way. The thinking behind a contrarian strategy is that, by rostering low-usage players, we can acquire the most “usable value” if they produce as expected.
There’s a similar phenomenon in season-long leagues. Sometimes we get sucked into this trap of “Does this player offer value?” in a very binary manner. Well, yeah, maybe a certain player offers slightly more value than another, but what we should really be concerned about are the odds of a player helping us win our league.
Those are two separate things. Imagine that you roster a player on DraftKings who is really, really popular; we’ll say 80 percent usage. That player could score 50 points and the usable value would be limited because you’d still be competing with four-fifths of users.
Keep this idea in mind as you field your Millionare Maker lineups this weekend and enter in other large field events. We shouldn’t be concerned solely with whether or not a player offers value, but also 1) how much you can potentially benefit if that player scores X points and 2) how his anticipated usage will help you win your leagues, i.e. how much pragmatic value does he offer?
Read them now.
That is all.
Interesting Stats from Week 6 at RotoWorld
Brian Hoyer is Good (video) at NBC Sports
Picking the Right RB at RotoWorld
Is GPP Play All About Upside? at RotoGrinders
DraftKings Rewind: Week 6
11 Rules to Win on DraftKings (Rules 1 through 6 are below)
Whenever someone asks me for tips on how to win playing daily fantasy sports, I refer them to…my own books.
But even before that, I always suggest reading a few books that have nothing at all to do with fantasy sports. One of them is The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow. Another is Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I do this because I think the biggest weaknesses of most daily fantasy owners aren’t in their sports knowledge—most people who play daily fantasy seem to know sports fairly well—but rather in risk management and understanding volatility.
One of my favorite writers to read is author/entrepreneur/hedge fund manager James Altucher. If you aren’t familiar with his work, I highly recommend checking it out. So much of daily fantasy success comes via the ability to think critically about complex problems. I believe the largest strides one can make come outside the field of sports by studying the work of people like Altucher because it aids us in problem-solving and thinking analytically.
At his blog, Altucher recently published a piece titled “Life is Like a Game. Here’s How You Master ANY Game.” It’s one of my favorite blog posts in recent memory and, as I read it, I couldn’t help but consider how the advice could be applied to DFS. Come to think of it, I pretty much do this all day long; hey, our waitress wasn’t very consistent in bringing out our food…she’s probably pretty high-variance and not a great play for my daily fantasy server leagues.
So anyway, Altucher’s post on mastering games suggests that those who are good at pretty much any game—poker, board games, whatever—usually have the ability to master all games (through a combination of critical and contrarian thinking). Altucher—at one time a poker player and one of the world’s best backgammon players—lists 11 rules you need to know to master any game…in our case, daily fantasy sports.
1) Look at all the ‘candidate moves.’
“List all the options that can happen. Don’t go deeply down ANY OF THEM. Then start to look slightly deeper down each one and see which options you can quickly eliminate. This saves you mental energy and time.”
One of the reasons that I write my daily fantasy books is to help users streamline the process of daily fantasy research and lineup creation. I think it’s really important to figure out which aspects of daily fantasy research are the most important, then dedicate your time to those so that you can see the greatest return on your time.
I personally like to aggregate projections, which gives me a really accurate foundation for identifying value in a short amount of time. Leveraging the Vegas lines is another example of obtaining high-quality, actionable information “for nothing.”
2) Don’t take too many risks.
“Games are all about taking risks. But if you take too many risks, you always lose.”
Daily fantasy football is indeed all about risk management. Taking risks isn’t inherently bad, but the key is to maintain a positive expected value.
If I were to give you 3-to-1 odds on the roll of a die, for example, that would be a risk that you wouldn’t want to take; with just a 1-in-6 chance of rolling a specific number, you’d have a negative expected value. If I were to give you 10-to-1 on your money, though, you should take that bet, even though the risk is exactly the same.
Don’t take too many risks, but don’t be afraid to embrace volatility when it’s appropriate.
3) Look for the shortcuts.
“Every game, and almost every life situation, has short cuts: ways you can get better without learning the entire literature of the game from beginning to end.”
My book “Daily Fantasy Football Pros Reveal Their Money-Making Secrets” was filled with interviews of daily fantasy’s best players, many of whom are DK Pros. One of the coolest parts of talking with those guys was learning different heuristics they employ to make sound decisions when creating their lineups.
I actually think there are a lot of reasons for players of all skill levels to use heuristics like “Always stack a quarterback and receiver in a GPP” or “Never start a running back and wide receiver on the same team,” but that’s especially true for new players; such heuristics are shortcuts that can be used to improve your odds of winning when you’re not yet sure when to side with the exception to the rule.
4) Play people better than you.
“You learn more from losing than winning. Losing is not failure. Losing gives you a treasure trove of insights into how you, personally, can get better.”
Play people better than you…but play them cheaply. Enter $1 and $2 50/50 games because they expose you to a whole bunch of lineups for a low cost. Study the lineups of the best players, but also analyze the losing lineups, too.
There’s not much to be gleaned from an individual lineup, but continue to assess different lineup types to see what they consistently have in common; how much more often do winning lineups place a certain position in the flex as compared to poor lineups, for example?
5) Luck favors the prepared.
“Whenever you feel like saying, ‘I was just unlucky,’ trust me when I say, ‘you’re probably an idiot.’ Analyze the reality. Don’t just try to make yourself feel better.
In chess there’s a saying, ‘Only the good players get lucky.’ This applies to every area of life. As Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) said to me, ‘if you know you’re only going to succeed at 10% of the things you try, make sure you try 100 things.’
Daily fantasy sports is awesome because anything can happen in a single night (and truly anyone can win). Over the long run, though, there’s not really such a thing as luck; the prepared users win, and the unprepared lose. You can put yourself in a poor situation and win in the short-term, but that won’t continue to happen.
I think the Scott Adams quote “If you know you’re only going to succeed at 10% of the things you try, make sure you try 100 things” has a direct impact on tournament strategy. If you’re trying to build a bankroll and want quick growth with a big tournament cash, it makes sense to fire as many bullets as possible, i.e. play multiple lineups instead of using a single lineup and placing more of your cash on that one lineup. Five entries at $10 is superior to one at $50.
6) Study the history.
“Every game, every industry, has its history. A history of successful business models, of successful people, of styles in which the game was played. If you don’t love the history of what want to master, then you will never master it.
Poker players have read Doyle Brunson’s classic a dozen times. And entrepreneurs have all now read Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs and dozens of other biographies of successful businessmen.”
The “history” of daily fantasy is the data. My book Fantasy Football (and Baseball) for Smart People is filled with data on the best daily fantasy strategies—those that are actually winning leagues on DraftKings.