clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tao of Bales: Be Extreme

I like to play this game with people where I ask them something ridiculous to see how much they’d do for money. Like “Would you eat a live worm for $50” or, even worse, “Would you vote for Trump this year for $1,000?” The answer is…

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

I like to play this game with people where I ask them something ridiculous to see how much they’d do for money. Like “Would you eat a live worm for $50” or, even worse, “Would you vote for Trump this year for $1,000?”

The answer is always “No way!”

Then I ask if they’d do the same thing for like a million bucks, and the answer always changes. “Oh, yeah, I mean sure I’d make out with a gerbil for $1 million.” Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Now we have a game. Now that I know you’re a worm-eater and a gerbil-maker-outer, we can start to discuss the price.

Extreme Thought Experiments

That’s probably the weirdest intro you’ve read on this site, which is a big compliment to me, so thanks for that! Making sure no one has any idea what I’m talking about by the third sentence is sort of my thing. But I do think there’s a lot of value in taking ideas to an extreme. It helps you quickly identify if your beliefs are truly absolute, and in almost all cases, that just isn’t the case. So I’m going to propose a couple not-as-odd DFS-specific examples of this.


Value in general is something that perhaps many players visualize in the wrong way. How many times have you heard “I’m never playing Player X again”? A lot, probably.

Here’s a crazy thought experiment for you. What if you could play me in your lineup this week? Obvious ‘no,’ right?

What if my salary was (-$5000)? So if you rostered me, you’d have $55,000 to spend elsewhere. Would you do it then? I’d technically be offering infinite $/point value with my zero points scored (although to be fair I’m not 100% convinced I don’t get signed before this weekend).

A similar concept proves why $/point value in general is super-flawed and heavily biased toward cheap players. What if an actual player cost just $100? He’d need to score like less than a point to “reach value,” but that wouldn’t be good for your team—certainly not in GPPs. And the idea of “infinite value” is even more absurd. When we think about value in an extreme way, it’s clear we need to alter the traditional view. Value should really be how much you lose by rostering a player and how he fits into the grand scheme of your overall lineup.


I came up with the idea for this article while talking to Bryan Mears about stacking in NBA. We were chatting about pairing teammates and if it makes sense and I pointed out that most teammates have a negative correlation in basketball, i.e. as one’s production increases, the other decreases.

Some players stack three guys on one offense, although I think as a general rule stacking is –EV. But then I thought about if there’s a scenario in which you might truly stack an entire offense—or even like four guys—and there is: if they’re way too cheap. So theoretically if pretty much any NBA offense’s starters were all min-priced, you’d be justified in stacking them. It follows that not every single instance of stacking is wrong. “Don’t stack too many players” is a good general heuristic, but there must be some sort of balance between positive correlations (or neutral ones) and value. If the value is great enough, you can deal with the negative correlation.

Be Extreme

These are just a few of the ways I think thought experiments can help as a daily fantasy player. The overarching idea is to act like Shaun White and BE EXTREME, BRUH! Taking concepts to a logical extreme helps to solidify your beliefs, quantify your thoughts, and ultimately make you a far superior daily fantasy sports mind.

Jonathan Bales is the author of the Fantasy Sports for Smart People book series, and most recently Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports.

Follow him @BalesFootball.