Ask The Shark: Positions, Formations & Systems

Old-time Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez often remarked about his prowess, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” It’s a quote that sticks with me very much when playing DFS, as sometimes your success comes purely from an opportune turn of events. The most prevalent situation for this in soccer is when your punt play scores an unexpected goal.

Punt plays, at their core, are selections made for salary relief in order to pay up at other positions. You’re hoping that the combination ends up with a higher point total than selecting two mid-priced players in a more balanced lineup construction. While you’re still looking at cheap defenders or holding midfielders (positions typically having little upside on DraftKings) with the highest potential in their specific matchup, the expectation is always simply just a small handful of peripheral points. Anything more is a luxury. Anything more is fortuity. Even though you’re obviously looking to put yourself in the best opportunity for that luck to hit when punting (ie. the cheap DM on a heavy favorite with a high goal total), fluke goals by these players are nearly impossible to predict or hinge on for consistent profit – unless you’re clairvoyant.

This is important because being aware when your success or failure is due to luck versus skill is key when analyzing your DFS results. While it’s quite likely a big GPP win can be chalked up to having one of these low-owned punts coming through for you in an already solid lineup, it shouldn’t be the predominant way you’re showing a profit. If you take out these types of results, are you still seeing a positive return on investment? Skilled players should, and if you’re not, then maybe you need to reassess your play and process for long-term sustainability.

We’d all rather be lucky than good, but the former we can’t control, while the latter we most definitely can. Focus on that. Onto this week’s questions!

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Ask The Shark: Dealing With Downswings

I find it quite ironic that since starting this column, the first few slates of the new year have not been kind to me (other than somehow doing well in DraftKings’ PGA golf VIP freeroll). Some of the poor results can be chalked up purely to bad luck, but others were definitely due to mistakes of overthinking the situation at hand. Both are susceptible to any player, even a “shark,” but it’s the reaction to a downswing that separates those hobbyists who treat DFS as gambling versus those who approach it as a job.

Succumbing to what’s referred to as “gambler’s ruin” has been the root cause of many (even the best of them) going broke, and therefore keeping one out of DFS action for good. While most are well adept on the upswing dynamics of their bankroll – by playing a certain percentage per slate and having that raw dollar figure increase over time as you add winnings – not nearly enough focus on having a proportional dynamic when losing. Many continue to play similar stakes and volume regardless of the downswing, and despite it now resulting in utilizing a much higher percentage of their bankroll per slate that is safe from a ruinous shift in variance.

While it may be a hit to one’s ego, don’t be ashamed in stepping down in stakes or volume – and definitely don’t try to “chase” losses by upping them, either. If you’re playing in +EV conditions and have shown to get consistent +ROI results, stick to the plan. Your whole long-term goal is to balance the maximization of profits with the minimization of risk. Altering your already sound approach to bankroll management will just accelerate things in either direction, and that’s an unsustainable recipe for success playing DFS profitably in the long run.

My suggestion for dealing with downswings? Consider tackling the next few slates even more conservatively than you otherwise would. Poor results inevitably instill a lack of confidence in one’s ability, so there are even psychological factors at hand to dialing it back. Play much lower stakes/volume, play fewer lineups versus multi-entering, roster more chalk versus being contrarian, etc. Get back to the basics and use this as an opportunity to make sure your DFS fundamentals are well calibrated. Your bankroll will thank you.

Speaking of bankroll management, onto this week’s most relevant question:

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Ask The Shark: Small Slates Vs. Large Slates

As a former professional poker player, gin rummy hustler, backgammon aficionado and now daily fantasy sports shark, I’ve always found enjoyment in solving intellectual puzzles and exploring the “game” behind the game. The search and implementation of the most optimally advantageous decisions is my definition of fun, much to the dismay of friends who attempt to engage me in them purely as social activities. (Either I play for blood or not at all!)

DFS, at least to me, is not as much a short-term game of picking players day after day, but a long-term game of developing the optimal playing philosophy. While anyone with a halfway decent knowledge of a sport and an hour of research can construct a winning lineup on a given day, it’s those who combine that with a solid grasp of the fundamental theory behind the game that profit consistently over time.

For this reason, I believe relying too heavily on “player pick” articles hinders your progress of getting better at DFS. They’re great for a start, to get your feet wet for a slate, but they ultimately become a crutch that prevents you from walking on your own, profitably. And once you are able to assess the dynamics of a slate – from a “game behind the game” perspective – you’re more likely to find yourself successfully landing on an optimal lineup construction and winning consistently.

While it’s quite arrogant of me to proclaim I am somehow an “expert” for this weekly Q&A column, I would at least consider myself a “student of the game” – always learning, experimenting, analyzing – and appreciate sharing the intellectual exercises with you. Hopefully, we both gain some insight in the process. Onto this week’s question!

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