I consider the time from when the final whistle blows at the Super
Bowl to the first pitch of opening day my blue period of the year
- a show hole of my sports viewing life, momentarily interrupted
by a few weeks of fun with NCAA brackets. Although it pales in comparison
to fantasy football or baseball, and honestly 99% of us rarely watch
college basketball prior to March, brackets do pique my interest
when it comes to trying to beat the field and earn some cash. But
that interest usually comes crashing down in the Sweet 16 when I
realize that although I may have a fared well in the opening two
rounds of the tournament, four or five other players ranked ahead
of me have the same teams as me remaining in the field, thus killing
my chance of walking away with the prize pool.
This is similar to the disappointment I feel when playing in
a large GPP tournament on Fanduel or Draftkings, once I realize
that my 100th place lineup has no chance of winning the top prize
due to the fact that numerous other players ranked ahead of me
have the same remaining two players in a Monday night contest.
We have all been there.
We check our phone after the Sunday night game is over. First
we look to see how we fared against our opponent in our season
long league of record. Then we close down the ESPN or Yahoo app
and open up DraftKings to see if we are placing in the money in
any of our GPP’s or head-to-head games. The excitement level
goes through the roof when we see that our GPP entry is currently
in the green, with a chance to make some real money with our final
running back playing on Monday Night Football.
But then, the dream of giving your boss the bird and quitting
your job on Tuesday comes crashing down when you realize that
most of the players ahead of you also have Le’Veon Bell.
It looks like it will be another week of pushing papers and TPS
Introduction to Game Theory
After a few years of going through this same scenario multiple
times a season, I finally realized that I needed to make a change
to my large tournament strategy.
I researched advance DFS strategies from many platforms. I read
a few books and articles on game theory, and played around with
a few theories of my own, including my
layering theory that I wrote about in this column last season.
The conclusion that I came to is simple in nature and makes sense
when you think about it: I have been spending too much time trying
to maximize points instead of maximizing the probability of winning
the contest, and I need to put far more value in ownership levels
in large tournaments to give me an advantage over the competition.
For those wondering about game theory, you can define it as a
type of mathematics concerned with the analysis of strategies
for dealing with competitive situations where the outcome of a
participant's choice of action depends critically on the actions
of other participants.
Simplified for DFS purposes, the players I chose to be in my
GPP lineup is critically dependent on the actions of my opponents
in the contest.
Why Ownership Percentages Matter
Yes, I want to score as many points and possible, but if I continually
put together a team of heavily owned players who score well, by
definition the probability of hundreds of other people having
those players on their team is high, and my advantage over the
masses is low.
Consider this basic example.
If wide receiver A is projected to score 15 points and wide receiver
B is projected to score only 10, on face value the former is certainly
more attractive, especially if they have similar salaries.
But when we add in ownership rates to the mix, say 30% for player
A and only 8% for player B, things become much more interesting.
A big game of 25 points from player A would give me an advantage
over 70% of the field who did not pick him, and I would be on
an even playing field with the 30% of owners when it comes to
my remaining players.
A similar big game of 20 points from player B would not give
me the same amount of total points as player A, but I would still
have excellent production from my player and I would have a advantage
over 92% of the remaining field and will compete on an even level
with only 8%, respectively.
I used similar salaries for each player in the scenario, but
the lack of usage and ownership of my player improved my probability
of winning over a larger part of the player pool. With a solid
roster of other top producing players for their respective positions,
I should fare well compared to those who did not choose player
Now before I get bombarded with comments poking holes in my basic
game theory argument, it should be said that for this scenario
to work your other picks need to excel and you cannot have a dud
game from any other players in order to win. That should go without
saying, and it applies to all lineups looking to place in the
top tier of large tournaments.
Figuring out usage rates prior to the contest starting is difficult
to do unless you work for Fanduel or Draftkings, which if that
is the case you are not allowed to participate in these games
in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t
use some of this logic to improve our chances in large tournaments
Continue using all of the numerous online tools available to
research matchup values, including prior history, weather, injuries,
and all of the other variables I have discussed in previous articles.
Study large-field tournament results and take note of player ownership
percentages – patterns will emerge. Most importantly, understand
how lower ownership rates and high production is the golden ticket
to tilting the playing field in your favor.