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5 Ways to Become a Better DFS Player

A little while back, I published an article called “11 Rules for Winning at Daily Fantasy Sports.” The post contained rules that I stole from an article from one of my favorite writers—James Altucher. I love taking ideas from one field and applying them to another,…

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A little while back, I published an article called “11 Rules for Winning at Daily Fantasy Sports.” The post contained rules that I stole from an article from one of my favorite writers—James Altucher.

I love taking ideas from one field and applying them to another, which is why I often talk about philosophy or physics in my daily fantasy writing. Altucher is one of the writers who propelled me to take this approach, and he calls the concept “idea sex.” Take two separate ideas, combine them, and make a better idea. Idea sex. Remember it.

I think this is why poker players are naturally good at daily fantasy sports. They’re able to bring new ideas to the game and approach it in a unique way that has resulted in a lot of success. An example is combining elements of poker game theory with increasing win probability in big DFS tournaments.

The primary reason I love taking ideas from a completely separate field and combining them with daily fantasy sports is because it forces us to step back and really question what we’re doing. We sometimes get so caught up in value, matchups, and so on that we go down very narrow paths and forget to take a look at the big picture. Maybe we’re spending countless hours figuring out how to not fall off of a flat Earth, failing to realize that our entire worldview is out of whack and our time could be better spent elsewhere.

For this article on 5 Ways to Become a Better Daily Fantasy Sports Player, I’m again going to steal ideas from James Altucher—this time from his article “10 Things I Learned While Interviewing Tony Robbins.” I highly suggest you read the article; it’s always advantageous to pick the brains of intelligent people.

The first five ideas, all listed below with my commentary, are the most applicable to daily fantasy sports.

1) Ask lousy questions, get lousy answers

I get a lot of questions about the average score needed to win on DraftKings or what “target score” users should shoot for in cash games. I think that stuff can be interesting, but it’s basically useless, in my view.

The question we should be asking, at least in cash games, isn’t “How many points do I need to win?” but rather “What’s the most effective way to score as many points as I can?” or “How can I consistently finish in the top half of 50/50s?”

In trying to determine the average winning 50/50 score, for example, we’re spending a whole lot of time on something that isn’t going to help us win. Does a player need to return 3x value or 5x value to be worth consideration in cash games? Answer: I have no idea, and I don’t care; I just want to know which players and player types are going to help me score the most points.

This idea is another reason it makes sense to analyze big-picture items; if we aren’t asking the right questions, the answers we uncover might end up holding little value.

2) To master anything, talk to the experts.

My book Fantasy Football for Smart People: Daily Fantasy Pros Reveal Their Money-Making Secrets was basically just my attempt to get inside the heads of the game’s top players—CSURAM88, Al_Smizzle, dinkpiece, and others—to figure out how they’re so successful and profitable.

As I interviewed them, I realized there are a lot of similarities in the way they approach daily fantasy sports that make them so good. They don’t all play in the exact same way, but their “core values,” so to speak, are very similar.

3) Bring the target closer. From Altucher:

Tony told us about a time when he was 24 years old and he wanted to train members of the military to shoot better.

“I had never shot a gun in my life,” he said and laughed in his raspy voice. He was scared he wouldn’t do a good job.

So how did he solve this problem? He spoke to five excellent sharpshooters, figured out what they all had in common, and then used that to increase the results of the students in the school by 50%.

Specifically, for every student he had them bring the target only a few feet away. Everyone shot bullseyes. Then he moved the target back a foot. Bullseyes. Then another foot. And so on.

This is true for everything in life. I look at the example Mark Cuban told me. He didn’t just start and make a billion. First he started a bar. Then he started a computer business. Then a hedge fund. In the daily fantasy sports world, this translates to improving just a little bit at a time in very specific areas. You aren’t going to just sign up and win 80 percent of your cash games and have all kinds of tournament success. Well, maybe you will, but I didn’t.

The easiest way to improve isn’t try to scale the entire mountain in one day, but to figure out areas in which you can get better and concentrate on conquering those small hurdles. So instead of asking “How can I win 50/50s?”—a pretty vague question—try to determine how you can improve your quarterback selection. Figure out which types of quarterbacks do the best in specific situations, how much you should spend on quarterbacks in cash games, and so on. If you can win the quarterback position on a consistent basis, you’re already going to find a lot of success.

By testing and adapting your strategy in a specific area, you can make small strides in the quickest and most effective manner. A beautiful painting begins with a single brushstroke. Is that a saying? I don’t think it is.

4) Look at goals differently.

What are your goals in daily fantasy sports? Do you want to become a profitable player? Do you want to win a big tournament?

I think one of the mistakes some players make is not knowing what they want to get out of daily fantasy, or else knowing and then taking the wrong path to get there. If your goal is long-term profitability, you’ll probably have a different approach than if you’re playing just for fun.

The other thing to keep in mind is that just because everyone has done something a certain way in the past to reach a goal doesn’t mean you need to follow in their steps. I personally think there’s an inefficiency in the way many users—even really good players—approach tournaments. My personal goal is to see sustainable bankroll growth through cash games so that I can take shots in GPPs and try to exploit this weakness.

Ask yourself what you want and then determine the most effective way to reach that goal.

5) Experts know they know nothing.

No. 5 is the most important sentence in this article.

Okay, the experts don’t really know nothing—they know a lot—so I’m going to amend it to “Experts know there’s a lot they don’t know.” Predicting sports outcomes is difficult, and sometimes you can do everything right and things just don’t go your way. Experts understand this variance and adequately prepare for it.

There are all sorts of ramifications of injecting uncertainty into your approach to daily fantasy sports, including placing less value on projections/values, casting a wider net in terms of player usage, playing more lineups, and employing a more contrarian strategy in tournament play.

Confucius said, “True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know,” and I think that’s very applicable to daily fantasy sports.