This is the 139th 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.

I’ve written a couple of pieces built upon iconic ideas popularized by Malcolm Gladwell:

Per Gladwell, the tipping point is “that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once.” And the 10,000-hour rule is the idea that in order to become an expert at something one must practice it at least 10,000 hours.

Eventually Anders Ericsson, one of the researchers whose work forms the foundation of Gladwell’s 10,000-hour thesis, suggested (in his book Peak, co-written with Robert Pool) that Gladwell oversimplified, misinterpreted, and misapplied his findings, stating that the 10,000-hour mark isn’t a hard-and-fast mandatory threshold and that the number and type of practice hours needed to become an expert varies across fields.

Nevertheless, Ericsson does affirm a basic point that underlies Gladwell’s 10,000-hour argument: The people who excel in their fields tend to devote a high percentage of their time on a regular basis to practicing and learning.

Often this process continues even after someone has become an expert.

One writer, Michael Simmons, has noted that many leaders in various industries use what he calls the five-hour rule: Over the course of their careers, they set aside an average of one hour per business day in order to deepen their skills and knowledge through “deliberate practice.”

In this piece I want to think about the five-hour rule and how it can be applied to and through DFS.

Deliberate Practice

Ericsson has this to say about deliberate practice — the type of practice necessary for someone to become a master:

This distinction between deliberate practice aimed at a particular goal and generic practice is crucial because not every type of practice leads to the improved ability that we saw in the music students or the ballet dancers. Generally speaking, deliberate practice and related types of practice that are designed to achieve a certain goal consist of individualized training activities — usually done alone — that are devised specifically to improve particular aspects of performance.

In other words, deliberate practice isn’t the same as purposeless practice. People improve more through intense and focused work than lackadaisical exertion. Deliberate practice is done with a particular outcome in mind. Someone wants to improve at XX, and by practicing at XX intently for a sustained period of time that person eventually masters XX and moves on to mastering YY and then eventually ZZ.

Deliberate practice is a program of discipline.

The Five-Hour Rule

As it pertains to DFS, deliberate practice would be the non-slate time you devote to the game. While it’s important to do slate-specific research, it’s also important to devote time to improving in ways that are less obvious but perhaps more crucial and more likely to provide positive expected value over the long term.

Per Simmons, the industry leaders he’s studied tend to implement the five-hour rule in three main ways:

  1. Reading
  2. Reflecting
  3. Experimenting

To be clear: When these people read, reflect, and experiment, they don’t do so haphazardly. They do so to accomplish specific goals. For instance, Warren Buffett reportedly reads for five to six hours per day. What does he read? It’s not War and Peace. He reads newspapers and corporate reports so that he can have an idea of market sentiment and company prospects. He reads the way a doctor studies diseases and examines patients.

Let’s consider DFS reading, reflecting, and experimenting one topic at a time.


I’ve talked before about how reading is winning in DFS. In fact, reading more books was one of my New Year’s resolutions. While I typically like to read books and articles that have nothing to do with DFS because I’m a staunch believer in the pornographic beauty of IDEA SEX (via James Altucher), I still think it’s a good idea to carve out time each week to read or watch evergreen-ish DFS content.

FantasyLabs Co-Founder Jonathan Bales is the best (non-Freedman?) evergreen writer in the industry. His perspectives are actionably contrarian, and his research is meticulous. He has a new MLB book that’s pseudo-mandatory reading for most people alive and some people dead. Honestly, you should probably carve out time each day — even if it’s just 15 minutes — to read Bales’ books. Eventually you’d finish the entire Fantasy Sports for Smart People series, and then all of a sudden you’d have 15 free minutes per day to masturbate improve your game in other ways. Although reading Bales daily would require you to devote time to doing something other than building lineups, it would be DFS time invested well.

Also, Bales and fellow Labs Co-Founder Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) regularly do video lineup reviews on our Premium Content Portal. By hearing what Bales and Pete have to say about strategy and lineup construction, Pro subscribers have the opportunity to improve their decision-making processes over a sustained period of time.


In DFS, reflecting is not the same as looking at how much money you won last night, celebrating that you cashed in 90 percent of your head-to-head contests, and tweeting out the lineup that took down a guaranteed prize pool. It’s looking at particular datasets to understand better the ways in which one could’ve acted in a more optimal manner. It’s carefully considering past failures in order to improve at DFS.

One of the best ways to reflect is to take a page from the Bales and CSURAM88 playbooks and do your own lineups reviews. Look at the micro decisions you made: Were your individual lineups correlated? Did your cash lineups have consistency? How did upside factor into your GPP lineup construction process? And be sure to examine your macro decisions: When you constructed many DFS rosters with the Lineup Builder, did you have optimal ownership exposure across your portfolio? Were you using strategies with Black Swan upside? How did the unique dynamics of the slate shape ownership in ways you didn’t anticipate? In thinking about these macro issues, Pro subscribers can get a lot out of studying ownership patterns across tournaments of various stakes via our DFS Ownership Dashboard. It’s especially useful to see what the sharp high-stakes players are doing.


The word “Labs” is in the name of our company. Experimentation is compulsory. Of course, “experimentation” doesn’t mean “the random adjustment of sliders in the Trends tool and Player Models.” It implies a science of systematization, the putting of chaos into a hierarchical order. When most people fool around with the Labs Tools for an hour or so, they think they’re experimenting. What they’re really doing is exploring. It’s the difference between being a butcher and a postmortem medical examiner. (Sort of. That comparison isn’t great, but it’s good enough.)

Ideally our Trends tool and Player Models can be used in a sustained program of strong inference. One can progress through a series of focused research questions and studies to eliminate suboptimal scenarios and discover an increasing number of edges with which players and lineups yield high Plus/Minus values. Through the methodological combination and weighting of various filters and factors, one can eventually build a database of productive trends and personalized models for various types of slates and contests.

DFS and Real Life

The five-hour rule (I believe) has non-DFS functionality. Just as non-DFS knowledge can help you become a better DFS player, so too can DFS expertise improve your non-DFS life. If you deliberately study DFS for five hours per week, the odds are that you’ll become better at DFS and a lot of other activities — like the Broathalon, for instance:

Remember, Nate Silver didn’t start out by modeling elections. He started out by studying baseball and poker.

When you consistently devote time to growing the long tail of DFS improvement, you become more than just a beast. You become a beast with wings.

Man, that was awful. Maybe I should set aside time each week to practice DFS. It will make me a better writer. Or a dragon.


The Labyrinthian: 2017.44, 139

Previous installments can be accessed via my author page or the series archive.