I spend most of my time studying stats and researching for daily fantasy contests. I love it. I do it 10-plus hours every day and I never really get sick of it.
Am I obsessed? I don’t know. Maybe. But I do have another hobby: playing other games. I love to play pretty much any type of game of strategy: poker, Stratego, Monopoly, backgammon, chess…anything really. For the past few years, I’ve been playing a game on my phone called FunRun. It’s a pretty simple racing game with a whole bunch of strategy involved—sort of similar to MarioKart in that you race people and strategically use different items to slow them down. Once I got into it a bit, I started tracking my times in Excel and what happened if I employed different strategies.
Anyway, I’ve become one of the best FunRun players in the world. It’s pretty sad but I’m honestly addicted to the idea of improving, even just the slightest bit. If my long-term win percentage increases by even one percent, I get really excited and that keeps me coming back for more. It’s so ridiculous.
Even though a game that requires the incredibly athletic activity of lightly tapping my phone might seem like it has nothing to do with DFS (actually, that has everything to do with DFS), I think the same basic strategies used to win in FunRun—or any game—are what leads to daily fantasy success. If you can win one game, you can learn to win any game. And I’m defining ‘game’ very loosely here; if you’ve had success in just about any area of life—making money, finding a wife/husband, whatever—you can employ a lot of the same tactics that led to success in those areas (which are really forms of games) to make money in DFS.
This isn’t really a new thought and honestly I’ve pretty much just stolen it from James Altucher, one of my favorite writers. He has a pretty cool graphic called “How to Master Any Game (Including the Game of Life)” that you should check out. I actually wrote about the points he makes in a previous article on DraftKings called 11 Rules for Winning at Daily Fantasy, but I want to dive deeper into this topic because I think it’s really interesting and I also think very small changes in perspective or approach can dramatically change your daily fantasy results; think about the general principles that have led to success for you in other areas and how you might be able to apply those to your DFS teams.
With that said, I’m going to take a look at a few of Altucher’s tips and how they can be applied to daily fantasy sports.
A bad plan is better than no plan. Having a bad plan gives you the ability to analyze what is working and change what isn’t. Having no plan gives you none of these opportunities to get better.
I think this is the most important part of Altucher’s master-any-game theory, and it isn’t close. Almost no one can come into daily fantasy sports and win immediately. That’s why those who are equipped with skill sets that allow for improvement are the ones who come out on top. Poker pros understand how to employ a strategy, gather data, and change what isn’t working, for example.
The fundamental idea here is that we need to take a scientific approach to DFS if we truly want to improve. Science works because it is evolutionary and self-correcting. We want our mistakes to become strengths; we want to have the ability to use past failures to our advantage to become better players.
Everything you do in DFS—every player you choose and every lineup you create—should have a reasoning behind it; you need to know why you’re picking the players you are, and more important, you need to be able to falsify that reasoning if needed. If you don’t have that justification—if you have no plan—you can’t test or falsify anything, you’re not utilizing a self-correcting process, and you can’t improve.
That’s why I’m so pumped about the products we offer at FantasyLabs; they speed up that evolutionary process, allowing you to 1) develop a plan of attack and 2) immediately test to see if that plan works.
It really doesn’t matter where you are now in your DFS career. It matters which direction you’re headed and how you plan to get where you want to go.
Look for the shortcuts. Every game, and almost every life situation, has shortcuts: ways you can get better without learning the entire literature of the game from beginning to end. Look for the small inputs with huge rewards
I’ll preface this with saying I’m very strategically lazy, but I think shortcuts are an amazing thing and I think they help you maximize the return on your time. There’s absolutely no reason for you to go deep down every rabbit hole you encounter; that comes with an opportunity cost—namely, the opportunity to find a true edge instead of learning every little thing about the game.
Another thing we need to keep in mind is that daily fantasy sports is zero-sum. If I win, you lose. If you try to “learn the entire literature of the game,” you’re going to probably end up developing bad habits that will end up hurting your profitability. If “everyone else is doing it” in a zero-sum game, no one is going to make money. You can’t do what others are doing. You need to be better, smarter, and more prepared than your opponents.
Luck favors the prepared. In chess, there’s a saying, “Only the good players get lucky.” This applies to every area of life. As Scott Adams said, “If you know you are only going to succeed at 10% of the things you try, make sure you try 100 things.”
I can’t think of a game in which “luck favors the prepared” applies more than daily fantasy. There’s certainly an element of luck involved in this game; you can do all the right things and have a lineup that stinks it up or make a lot of errors and win a GPP.
We’re not here to help you get lucky in a single tournament. We’re here to help you achieve sustainable success.
I have a ping-pong table in my basement and I try to play quite a bit—another one of the games I love. I haven’t lost in like 15 years (nbd). No one really wants to play me anymore, but when I find a challenger, they inevitably bitch about my lucky shots that either hit the side of the table or the top of the net, bouncing onto their side.
And I do get more of those lucky bounces than them. But I get them because I’m a better player. I hit more shots near the edges and the top of the net, so I’m in a position to benefit from randomness—to get lucky more than they do.
Daily fantasy is exactly the same. There’s always an element of luck involved in the short-term, but luck is not a strong decider of your success over the long run. Yeah, the guy who took you down in the tournament probably had a handful of really lucky things go his way, but he was also in a position to benefit from them. I think this is an important point to remember; yes, there’s variance in DFS that can be ignored over the short run, but if you aren’t winning after months and months of playing, you aren’t getting unlucky.
You just need to learn how to be a better five-year old: how to efficiently play and win at games.