Because you are reading this, I think it is safe to assume that you are a DFS content consumer. I’m with you there – and if you’ve been doing your DFS research, then surely you have heard someone make mention of “The Edge.” Well, what does that even mean?
Seriously though, what is the edge? Can anyone find it? Does it change? Is it in specific statistics or is it in game theory and strategy? Is it in both, and if so, what’s the perfect mix of data and strategy?
I threw the question “What is the edge in DFS” out to a few different members of the FantasyLabs team. I have my own theories, but I thought it would be interesting to see what some other guys thought independent of each other’s responses to the question. For this article, I reached out to the three members of Fantasy Labs whom I have the most contact: Bryan Mears, who deals with my second grade level grammar, Bill Monighetti, whom I pester with questions on a daily basis, and Jonathan Bales, who listens to all my of earth-shattering, awesome ideas that he has already thought of months ago.
Bryan got back to me with this:
In DFS, I don’t think the edge is in better information necessarily. Or put simply, I disagree with the notion that the best DFS players are superior solely because they have access to data that other players don’t. Rather, I think there are a lot of things that go into DFS – game theory, understanding predictability, cognitive biases – that really push the edge towards a smaller number of players. I’ve said this in several places and I really believe it: the best players aren’t the best because they’re better at being right, they’re the best because they’re better at being wrong.
DFS is a zero-sum game and just by the nature of sports, there will be variance. Understanding that variance and knowing not only how to deal with it, but how to leverage it, is the edge in DFS. There are a variety of ways you can do this, from evaluating your lineup construction process often, to learning more about bankroll and what works best for your style of play, to even reading philosophical books and learning how to either embrace or shed your own biases.
The data is important, obviously. But anyone can sign up for a subscription to FantasyLabs and have enough data and the tools to be profitable. What truly makes the edge is what you do with that data, the time you put in to the tools, and how you manage the other variables mentioned above.
Bryan takes care of several questions that I asked in the beginning of this article. Does the edge lie in certain statistics or does it lie in game theory? It seems to lie in a combination of things and the better players are the ones who are able to put those things together. Can you gain an edge in your ability to understanding statistics? – Yes. Can you gain an edge in understanding game theory? – Yes. With that said, the bigger of those two edges would be found in being able to understand of both of them, together. Bryan paints an interesting picture where there is no single edge, but rather an abundance of areas where there is an edge to be gained – the biggest edge of them all seems to be in how we navigate through those areas.
Moving on, let’s see what Bill had to say about the topic.
DFS tout services and lineup providers are literally everywhere these days. We obviously feel that our projections here at FantasyLabs are the best in the industry, but anyone could do a simple Google search and find a lineup for that night’s DFS games within minutes, and that lineup would probably at least be competitive.
With so many resources out there, I don’t think that the biggest edge can be found in finding the best plays – I think to gain an edge today, you really have to master the game within the game. You have to know what to do with the information at hand – having a feel for ownership levels, which players are better GPP versus cash plays, know which trends are the most volatile, which projection models provide the highest level of consistency, etc. Most importantly though, you need to know yourself as a player – when do you have an advantage over the field and when don’t you? After tracking my results for quite a while, I know that I personally have the highest ROI on Fridays during NBA season and the lowest ROI on Sundays.
My daughter goes to sleep at 7:30 ET each night, which means I am almost always home for lineup lock on Friday nights, while I assume the majority of people who have entered lineups are away from their computer at that time. While others are out to dinner, grabbing a drink, or whatever, I have FantasyLabs open on one screen, @FantasyLabsNBA open on the other, and I’m ready to go. In NBA especially, that can be a pretty big advantage. On Sundays, however, I work in the morning and then I’m usually busy doing family stuff, while most people have the day off and can dedicate more time to DFS than I can. By knowing myself as a DFS player and when I have an advantage in an extremely time sensitive sport like NBA, I can play a higher volume on Fridays and a lower volume on Sundays to maximize my profits.
Anyone can find a projections site or a lineup provider, but it takes time and dedication to learn the game within a game, to learn when you have an advantage, and when you don’t. I think this is what will always separate the top players from the rest of the field and where the biggest edge is today.
Before commenting on Bill’s response, I want to first introduce what Bales had to say:
I would say an edge is an inefficiency in the way others approach the game that you can exploit on a consistent basis.
Before diving full into what the boss man said here, I think it ties well into Bill’s response. Bill touched on several different things, with what I consider being the most interesting is his self-evaluation. Bill not only recognized an inefficacy in the level of play by the field on Fridays, but he has the ability to recognize an inefficiency in his ability to have an optimal lineup on Sundays. By simply recognizing both of those two things, he is able to maximize profits. I think that was an excellent example of how evaluating your process and past results can help lead to a more profitable season.
Back to Bales’ thoughts – I think it ties everything together nicely. Taking advantage of an inefficiency in how others play the game. First, what are some inefficiencies that we see? In NBA, it could be as simple as not being around through lineup lock. It’s simple, yet a perfect example. Just by being active through lineup lock and allowing ourselves the ability to react to late news, we potentially gain an edge on some of our opponents. If you are able to couple that with an understanding of game theory and maybe utilizing a unique statistic like True DVP, we are starting to get back to what Bryan was suggesting and taking advantage of several different small edges to increase our total edge on the field.
As we all get better at DFS, we begin to feel more confident, and we fall into a repeatable and (hopefully) profitable process. But wait, could this become an inefficiency? When I first started playing DFS, I read everything that I could find. I did research, studied lineups, listened to podcasts, spent hours upon hours figuring out how other people approach the game, and finally, I began figuring some things out. Some may say, I developed an edge. Well, the DFS landscape is changing and the average consumer is getting smarter.
This NFL season, the tight end position was priced way down. Still, most people wouldn’t roster a tight end in the flex spot. There was an inefficiency in the public’s roster construction by not considering that method, and some weeks it was advantageous for us to soak up as much tight end value as possible into our lineups. Well, let’s say that everyone is doing that now and it is the most popular form of lineup construction. Is there still an edge there? There could be, if you were simply better at identifying tight end value than the field, but the strategy alone of rostering two of them loses it edge. There is no inefficiency by the public in that regard. At that point, I think we should take what Bill says and evaluate our process. We should ask ourselves, are people blindly following the two-TE rule? Am I blindly following the two-TE rule? Has my edge become my inefficiency? And are my opponents beginning to take advantage of it?
As far as my thoughts on the topic, I think an edge lies in those questions. Are we evaluating our opponents and are we evaluating ourselves? I am not the smartest person in the room (right now it’s just me typing this on my phone into an email to myself and no one else is in the room, so yes I am, but you get what I mean). Just knowing that I’m not the smartest person is my edge. I can learn from other people but more importantly, I can be wrong. Also, living the life of a contrarian, the methods to my madness can very well become the methods of the masses, and if I’m not willing to adapt, I may end up with some inefficiencies that could be exploited. I think a certain edge lies there, in having an ability to adapt to a changing DFS landscape.