“The Expected Value of a bet shows us how much we can expect to win (on average) per bet, and as such is the most valuable calculation a bettor can make.”
— “How to Calculate Expected Value,” Pinnacle.com

I’m biased, but I think it’s a good idea to subscribe to FantasyLabs. Why? Because doing so is likely to make you better at daily fantasy sports over the long term. DFS is an investment vehicle. (Click on that link to appreciate the pun fully.) Like any investment, DFS offers volatility and risk, but with enhanced knowledge and wisdom (and facts and data) — which Labs provides — people can play DFS successfully.

Over the last year we’ve devoted a couple of DFS Roundtable episodes to exploring the applicability of poker and Vegas to DFS. I’ve also considered the DFS-poker analogy at length. Ultimately, I think most attempts to tie DFS to gambling are bullsh*t.

That said, professional bettors are often good DFS players — not necessarily because they know a lot about sports or because betting and playing DFS are similar but because bettors are smart. (They have to be to remain bettors.) Specifically, bettors are smart in how they evaluate risk and potential outcomes.

If an opportunity has positive expected value (+EV), they seek to exploit that opportunity as often as possible. If the opportunity has negative expected value (-EV), they avoid it.

This piece is about how to be a +EV FantasyLabs subscriber.

Expected Value

Expected value is the anticipated utility of a given opportunity, whatever it is. Usually it’s a wager, an investment, etc. EV is easy to calculate:

EV = (Outcome 1)(Odds of Outcome 1) + (Outcome 2)(Odds of Outcome 2) + etc.

Example: Let’s say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are flipping coins. If G flips a coin and it lands heads up then R will give him one coin. If the coin lands tails up then G will give R 100 coins. R’s EV would be calculated so:

EV = (-1)(.5) + (100)(.5)

It’s easy to see that R has a +EV in this scenario (assuming he’s not stuck in an absurdist play), since with each opportunity he on average is expected to receive 49.5 coins. Similarly, this is a horrible deal for G, who’s expected to lose 49.5 coins with each coin flip.

So that’s EV. The odds are you already knew what EV was, but if you didn’t know I might’ve just saved your life. You’re welcome.

Being a +EV FantasyLabs Subscriber

If you subscribe to Labs, you probably are doing so (or will do so) with EV in mind. Unlike R&G in the previous example you’re operating under circumstances with some unknown variables. Still, the concept of EV is applicable:

  • What are the odds you’ll have DFS success with a Labs subscription?
  • What is the upside of your potential DFS success?
  • What are the odds you’ll have DFS success without a Labs subscription?
  • What is the upside of your potential non-Labs DFS success?

All of these questions have to do with EV. Your personal EV is determined by your tendencies as a player and your approach to risk, but in general subscribing to Labs is (I believe) a +EV move.

Here are my thoughts on how to be a +EV Labs subscriber. There are many ways to have success with Labs. Again, these are just a few best practices that can help many people get the most out of a Labs subscription . . .

Get as Much Bales & CSURAM88 as Possible

Labs Co-Founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) are two of the sharpest players in the industry. Ideally, you would consult everything on their author pages before subscribing to Labs:

Bales highlights in tutorial videos a lot of the tools we offer, and CSURAM88 often previews our Player Models and reviews his lineups on our Premium Content Portal. If you want more of these guys, you might even be able to play against them in contests. That might seem extreme, but it’s a way of seeing them in action.

Why should you consult their content ideally before subscribing?

  1. If you don’t maximize your brain exposure to Bales and CSURAM88, you’ll miss some of the value of a Labs subscription.
  2. If you subscribe and then spend a lot of time reviewing content that you could’ve perused before subscribing, you’ll be wasting time that otherwise could’ve been spent on the Tools and content available only to subscribers.
  3. If you don’t consume a lot of Bales and CSURAM88 content before subscribing, you’ll likely have an inaccurate estimation of your Labs EV.

To maximize your Labs EV, get as much Bales and CSURAM88 as possible. (“I would also recommend that you visit JonathanBales.com, but I can’t guarantee that what you read there won’t shock you,” he said in a bad British accent.)

Treat the Subscription Like a Product, not a Service

No one wins — not our subscribers and not us — if people think they can randomly create rosters with our Lineup Builder and then take down guaranteed prize pools every slate.

It’s not a coincidence that we refer to our DFS Ownership Dashboard, Vegas Matrix, Player Ratings, etc., as tools. Internally, we talk about everything that we offer as the product.

A service is something through which you rely on other people. A product is something with which you become a self-reliant agent. What I’m talking about is basically the difference between buying a house and buying the tools to build a house.

Those who get the most out of Labs tend to think of their subscription as a product, not a service. They take a very hands-on approach with our Tools. They experiment with and customize Player Models, and — this part is important — they spend an inordinate amount of time conducting their own research with our Trends tool.

The subscribers who get the most out of Labs generally want to use the site to make themselves better at DFS. They don’t expect us to make them better.

The key distinction between a service and a product is perspiration. At Labs, the best users put in the work. They earn their sweat.

Learn New Sports & Diversify Your Action

Throughout the calendar year, we offer products for NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and golf. From not even an ‘EV perspective’ but just a ‘value perspective,’ the subscribers who get the most from Labs are those who use the tools for all our sports.

If you don’t know much about one of our sports, that’s fine. You can visit our Support Center, where we have links to explanatory videos for each sport. By first watching these videos and then our Inside the Lab slate breakdowns you’ll quickly learn a lot about the different sports.

There’s additional value to learning about and using the tools for all the sports we offer. Many great DFS players tend to learn about (and eventually play) as many sports as they can for a few main reasons:

  1. They learn more about DFS as a whole by understanding more about all the DFS sports. They refine their DFS tactics and apply their new knowledge to the sports they already play.
  2. They diversify their action across more investable opportunities and thereby make their portfolios more stable. If one sport has a run of uncharacteristic outcomes and player performances, they will be better positioned to withstand the volatility.
  3. They give themselves the opportunity to play more slates and therefore make more money. If someone plays only NFL, NBA, and NHL, then there will be a significant ‘furlough’ period during the summer. If someone is a +EV DFS player, then (s)he should look for opportunities to play as many sports, slates, months, and days as possible.

Evaluating Risk

Risk is a part of the EV equation:

  • What are the potential negative outcomes of this opportunity?
  • What are the odds that a negative outcome will be realized?

In my experience, too many people (in life, business, DFS, etc.) think of risk as something that flows in only one direction: “What’s the risk of this course of action?”

Too often people don’t realize that inaction isn’t the absence of action. It’s just another action that probably hasn’t been considered carefully. People don’t ask themselves, “What’s the risk of not taking this course of action?”

To be a +EV Labs subscriber, one must first have a sense of the risks involved. Given that people have the opportunity to consume much of our content as free users, to sign up for a low-cost five-day trial, and to continue their subscription one month at a time, the risks associated with being a Labs subscriber are low.

Honestly, not having a Labs subscription might be the greatest risk of all.

The Labyrinthian: 2017.24, 119

This is the 119th installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation. Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page.