I am very far from the best fantasy sports player in the world. But when I first started playing DFS many years ago, I really sucked. Big time.
I had played season long fantasy since I was a child. I was an avid sports bettor. I played poker relatively seriously for a lot of my youth. I played sports growing up and played college football.
This collection of skills and experience surely made me perfectly suited to use my expertise to make money creating daily fantasy sports lineups. Surely I could pick the best players more often than most people. Surely I would be right more often than the average fan.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
It took a lot of losing before I finally started to figure out what the hell was going wrong. For the longest time, I didn’t realize that I didn’t even truly understand the game I was playing. But after hitting that deposit button many times, you start to take a step back and question things in an attempt to get better.
Like I said, I am nowhere near the truly elite DFS players in the world, but I’ve been able to have some success over the years with some big scores, live finals and solid profit over several years.
That only started once I realized what I was doing wrong. I had the wrong goals for the game I was playing.
I was trying to be right the most.
Instead of trying to win the game I was playing and win the most money, I was trying to be right more than my opponents.
You’re probably thinking, “What is this idiot talking about? If I’m right the most, I’ll win this game and win money.” And while that may seem true, and yes I am an idiot, I can assure you the part about winning is false.
The explosion of Best Ball, particularly for NFL, has caused a flood of content, in-depth analysis and tools that definitely make us more informed and intelligent fantasy players. This happens in basically every form of sports speculation. It happened in season long fantasy, daily fantasy, poker, sports betting… you name it.
What that means is that just about any Joe Schmoe sports fan can hop on the Google Machine and get access to projections, articles, or tools that make them good enough to compete at fantasy sports. Even the people with the best projections or the best and most accurate “takes” are only going to be “right” a very small percentage of the time more than their opponents.
Once I realized that in DFS, the lightbulb goes off. No matter how “right” I am with these “takes”, it’s at best a miniscule edge over my competition. And I am playing a peer-to-peer game.
Not only is it a peer-to-peer game, but the contests are so heavily skewed towards the top .01% finishes. Best Ball contests, just like DFS contests, have 10%+ rake. They’re typically anywhere from 20-40% of the total prize pool to just 1st place. And that’s just 1st place. You’ll get another large percentage of the prize pool allocated to the top 5 or top 10.
As my friend Jordan Cooper (@BlenderHD) loves to say, “1st place is $100,000 and 10th place is a set of steak knives.”
Once you truly start to think about all of these variables of this game we play, you realize that worrying about being “right” or spending time trying to improve your “take” accuracy is probably the last thing you should spend your time on.
And if we’re being honest, it’s not an easy habit to stop. It’s just human nature to want to be right. We all have opinions, we all have “takes”. The endorphin rush when you predict something correctly is just part of being a human.
So when you are super high on Cooper Kupp in the 2021 fantasy football draft season, and Cooper Kupp has one of the best fantasy seasons ever, you naturally want to experience that again. “Ok, who is my Cooper Kupp of 2022?”, you think. Or you were super high on Allen Robinson, and he ends up a colossal bust. “Ok, who is the Allen Robinson of 2022?”, you think.
“The Robust RB strategy won last year, so it is the right way to draft.”
And thus the cycle continues. You start your process each draft season with a focus on being right about players, teams, draft strategies, etc. instead of focusing on the game you are playing and how to win it (and thus win lots of money).
Real quick I just want to shoutout friend and influencer Peter Overzet for this phrasing. If you missed, he came on our Spike Week show “Best Ball Bros” a couple weeks ago, and his verbiage of this concept has stuck with me since. “As humans, we want to be right way more than we want to make money.”
It’s so true.
You want to be able to victory lap your opinions that you posted to twitter, discord, streams, articles, whatever. You didn’t think Trey Lance would play in 2021, so you want to be right about that and dunk on all the idiots that drafted Lance (me).
And because these best ball contests take SO long to play out, we gravitate even more to gaining validation based on right/wrong takes as opposed to money. If we don’t win a lot of money, we just chalk it up to bad luck.
“The best ball playoffs have so much variance. I just ran bad, but I NAILED my takes.”
It makes us feel good, and we can move onto the next year or next contest. And we start the process all over again trying to predict things more accurately or be right more than we were in the previous year.
And in that process, we lose sight of the goal of this silly little game of best ball. To make money.
I truly enjoy drafting best ball teams, talking about best ball/fantasy sports, and all of that, but if we couldn’t make money from it you bet your ass I wouldn’t be doing it. And neither would 99.99% of you.
“Ok, asshole. What should we focus on then?”
Well, that’s a complicated answer. One I’m going to dig into across several different articles over the next couple months. Plus, my fingers are already hurting from typing.
But at an incredibly high level, we simply need to remember that this is a peer-to-peer game. In DFS, we are determining the ownership a player is going to have (I.E. what our opponents are going to do), and then what their ownership SHOULD be (with lots and lots more nuance, but you get the point).
In Best Ball, it’s not exactly that same situation, but there are many parallels. Our opponents are going to value players in certain ways, construct teams in certain ways, and other unique aspects of creating best ball teams. What are our opponents doing too much? What things are our opponents not valuing highly enough? Valuing too much?
And to be clear, there are going to be players or player archetypes that you want to be overweight on, but it’s not because you are more likely to be right about that player. It’s because the payoff IF that player hits far exceeds their cost. And vice versa for players you want to fade or be underweight on.
This insane game of best ball has a near infinite amount of variance from injuries, to TD variance, to the crazy playoff format and more. So we’ll be far better off by looking to find the cleanest path to first place or the cleanest path to making money.
Because that’s the goal. Making money. Not being right.