NFL Weekly Fantasy Sports general discussion (draftkings, fanduel, yahoo)

The new big thing in not-sure-why-it’s-legal-if-poker-isn’t gaming for money is daily fantasy sports, sites like draftkings, fanduel, and I see yahoo started doing it too. For the NFL, daily becomes weekly - it’s structured as a tournament. Some entries might be you against 100,000 other people, with the top players getting some fraction of the prize pool, like a poker tournament, all the way down to 1 on 1 (not quite) double your money tournaments.

It’s structured as a salary cap league. You have so much in monopoly money salary, and you need to field a fantasy roster - yahoo’s is QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR/FLEX/TE/DEF for instance. Each player has a certain cost based on historical performance, recent performance, matchup, and perhaps some sort of dynamic pricing system based on demand - not sure if that’s implemented but it would be smart.

As an example, yahoo has a $10 tournament with a guaranteed prize pool of $1,000,000 they’re advertising pretty heavily on their fantasy page. If it doesn’t fill up, there will be an overlay - right now it’s about half full, I’m not sure if it’ll fill the rest of the way tonight. Their vig appears to be 11.36% out of the prize pool (113636 max entrants, $10, $1m). The top scoring team will get $100,000, 2nd 60,000 all the way through 9988th through 28495th getting $15. It’s basically like a poker tournament, except the rake/fee/vig comes from the prize pool rather than an addition to the entry.

A team I built for that contest, out of the $200 starting dollars of salary cap:

Aaron Rodgers $48
Lamar Miller $27
Chris Ivory $17
Julio Jones $39
Davante Adams $19
James Fucking Jones $10
Delanie Walker $16
Isaiah Crowell $14
Detroit DST $10

I might end up tweaking that around, particularly downgrading from Julio to upgrade James Jones, but in a big multi-entry contest like this it’s probably a good idea to have a boom or bust team. In this case, I can boom if Green Bay’s passing defense is utterly destroying Chicago, which seems likely. I have a synergistic effect between Rodgers, Adams, and Jones - if the latter two have a big day, so does the former. Since I’m trying to get the highest score out of 100,000+ people, these sorts of boom or bust days can be a viable strategy. On the other hand, if I played a 50/50 tournament (which I’m guessing means the top half of the field not-quite doubles their money), I could go for a more conservative, high-floor strategy.

Every week is an independent contest, the prices will change based on the previous weeks performance, and you go again. You can probably submit the same team to multiple contests I’d imagine - it would be stupid if they didn’t have the interface for that. With at least some tournaments you can submit multiple teams with multiple entries… I assume the money goes through paypal (it does with yahoo at least) since this is on the up-and-up.

I actually did play pretty much this very thing when it was pioneered by world sports exchange probably 10 years ago. Didn’t catch on then. Amazingly enough, neither did their rake-free poker.

Anyway, I’m going to give it a shot this year.

Is anyone familiar with the merits of fanduel vs draftkings vs yahoo? Does anyone have experience with the daily/weekly fantasy sports thing?

I thought we could use this thread as a general discussion - different strategies, particularly good values we notice on player costs, whatever. If you’re talking about anything site-specific like prices, be sure to mention which site you’re talking about.

Random complaint: Draftkings has a salary cap value of $50,000, and Fanduel $60,000, compared to yahoo’s $200. But the smallest difference between players on those sites is $100 (ie $3700 vs $3600), meaning those last two zeroes are utterly pointless. I hate when people jack up monopoly money for no reason - like how pokers do it just so we can have absurd chip-value amounts late in the tournament (“I have 1,500,000 million dollars in chips in my $1 tournament!”)

That actually makes those sites better than yahoo in terms of available granularity, since there’s essentially 500 and 600 units to price things with compared to yahoo’s 200, but yahoo’s scheme is less annoying.

I actually saw a comparison site say that one of the advantages of fanduel is that you get $60,000. And not in a “the pricing becomes slightly more granular” sort of way, but “omg you get $10,000 more!” as if that were somehow meaningful. I guess I can start a site where we get a billion dollars in monopoly money every week and earn the endorsement of that site.

Threw some money at yahoo. They have a bunch of guaranteed tournaments that are only 40-60% full, suggesting an overlay, but maybe everyone will sign up at the last minute.

Tyrod Taylor for $20 is basically paying backup QB money for a starter. He’s remarkably cheap, especially since he has a chance to put up some rushing yards. He’s easily the best salary cap dollar per point QB available this week.

Isaiah Crowell at $14 is a good value. I like Doug Martin at $18. Chris Ivory at $17.

I think Benny Cunningham is starting at St Louis for lack of anyone healthy, right? In which case $12 is a steal, even against Seattle’s defense. Not that he’s going to do great, but if you’re down to a few bucks for your flex spot it’s viable. I’d probably shell out the extra $2 for Crowell. Or Sankey at $11, more risk to workload sharing though.

Stevie Johnson at $13 is a good deal at receiver. Also like Hopkins a lot at $23.

I watched a couple hours of TV last night and about every third commercial was for one these things. WTF? Is this something that has actually been declared legal by a court or is it just some guys going to make a ton of money before it is banned like online poker?

I know almost nothing about sports but if there is an overlay it may be a good bet even without knowledge of the actual games … like horse handicapping tournaments – they are won by people who know how to play tournaments, not by people who know horses or handicapping … might have to look into this.

Explain what you mean about the overlay. If they don’t hit those caps, you think they just pay out to effectively the top 75% or something instead of the top half or top whatever kind of group it is?

As far as I can tell, the entry number is fixed and the payout table is fixed and guaranteed. So if they pay out 25000 places and 24000 people show up they all get paid. It’s effectively extra money added to the tournament by the house. But it may fill up at the last minute as people get the latest injury news and wait to build a team. I don’t know if overlays or last minute sign ups are typical.

Huh. Yeah, “guaranteed to run” seems pretty unambiguous. This… sounds extremely relevant to my interests.

Off the top of my head it seems like whatever skill there is at selecting a weekly lineup would be far outweighed by simply playing contests with 10-20% fewer participants, assuming it’s not the case that they all fill to 90+ % in the last few minutes.

A little bit of both, probably. In the law that effectively wound up killing online poker in the US, an exception was carved out for fantasy sports. I’m sure the thinking at the time was just that they didn’t want to make it a crime for a group of friends to have a fantasy football league where everyone puts in $50 at the start of the season, but the language of the bill (coupled with the fact that they killed off poker and other established forms of gambling at the same time) makes it, in retrospect, unsurprising that this sort of thing has sprung up.

(Ah, yes, one second on Google confirms that these sites were not what the bill’s crafters had in mind: link.)

Anyway, I have little doubt that Congress will close this loophole within the next few years. So, for anyone who really goes in for this sort of thing (and can afford to lose money), get in now while the getting is good. (Uh, and then don’t wait until the last second to get your money out – some online poker players had a hell of a time cashing out when the hammer fell.)

The 113k entry 10 dollar million guaranteed only hit 77k. Some of the smaller ones less than that. I got 3 entries in the 10 and a bunch in the others but with an overlay like that I wish I had done more. I’m surprised yahoo couldnt fill it. It has been prominent on their pages for a while.

Well, they finally got me: I gave in and threw $250 into DraftKings. Looking at the vig I really don’t think this is beatable long-term outside the very best players, if that, and even then not for a large margin. But, I should be able to clear the 100% deposit bonus and cash out for some kind of profit, and anyway I’m just looking at it with the mindset I always advised new poker players to take: it’s not an investment, it’s entertainment. I’m buying $250 worth of fantasy football competitions.
About the only thing that gives me hope that I might be able to turn an expected value profit is the commercials. For one thing they’re totally ubiquitous, so it’s inevitable that there will be plenty of unsophisticated players. For another, every time they show their real, actual players winning huge sums of money, they look like semi-mongoloid bro-dudes. (On the other hand, I was never particularly good at the salary cap football leagues we used to do here, and at least for now there’s little doubt that I’m an unsophisticated player.)

There is some margin for error if the competition doesn’t know what they’re doing. Don’t know how it is on the other sites, but on DK when you’re picking players the injured/suspended guys are right there next to the active ones, with nothing to stop you from picking them except a little “Q” or something next to their names. Likewise, at least for Week 1, players who should be getting a boost because of an injury to a teammate don’t seem to see a significant enough price bump. So, it may be that doing a little homework will put you ahead of enough of the field to make a difference.
Anyway, I’m signed up for two contests. One is a $3, 38K-person tournament that they gave me a free entry to as a new sign-up (first place is $10K, etc.). The other is $25, 20-person event where the top six triple their money (so they skim 10% out of the prize pool, which is kind of obscene when you think about it for a second, but I guess I’m used to it from poker). Probably the $25 one is too rich, since I have no intention of reloading if I go bust. Eh.

Blech, never mind about clearing the deposit bonus so easily. I’ll probably have to wager $6,250 to earn the entire $250 bonus – basically they release $1 of it for every $25 risked, up to the $50 level (above which the rate gets worse). Were I to do so, I’d wind up paying around $650 in effective vig (they seem to take between 10-11% of the prize pool per contest). And apparently any unearned bonus expires after four months. So, not great.

On the plus side I’m currently in 1st in my $25 contest, so a pretty good favorite to finish in the money and triple up.

It’s more realistic/healthier to think of the deposit bonus as a vig rebate. You pay 10-11.3% and get back 4%, lowering the vig (temporarily) to 6-7.3%.

Of course. In retrospect I’m sure the poker sites’ deposit bonuses probably had demanding requirements from the perspective of a new player, but in that case there was never any question of my going bust or not having enough volume to clear them, so I could just think of them as free money.

Hm. I tossed $25 into FanDuel, and am currently up over $700. I have no illusions that it’ll stay that way, since I can’t get any more points while others still have up to eight quarters in which to crank things out, but so far, I’m feeling good about this. I’ll be back.

I put a lineup together in about 30 seconds on Draftkings. I’ve got Murray and Rudolph going tonight, but unless they combine for about 60 points I’ll probably win no money. Just didn’t have time to put any though into my lineup.

DK has a free contest with $100k prize pool. $10k to the winner. That’s incredible. Looks like it’s back for week 2.

Figures. I created 10 teams on yahoo. About half of them were in the big regular tournaments and half were $10 double-or-nothings (finish in the top 46% or so and double your money)

I drafted for high-floor teams in the double ups and went for higher variance boom or bust teams in the regular ones. My double up teams are absolutely killing it. I’m 25th out of 2700 people in one of them. But of course it doesn’t matter if I was 25th or 1250th - the prize is the same.

Meanwhile, in my regular ones, I’m min-cashing or a little better in most of them.

If only I could’ve flipped those teams/strategies to the opposite tournament types I’d be killing right now.

Trying out a cheap MLB contest for tomorrow’s games just to get a feel for it: Holy shit. If you’re not a walking encyclopedia and you don’t want to half-ass it, that is a huge amount of work. Even taking shortcuts – barely looked at park effects and didn’t even consider bullpen strength, for instance – it still took me about 2 hours to pick 10 players. And I guess I have to be available for 3 hours tomorrow evening to check right before the first pitches and make sure none of my guys are getting a random day off from the manager.

I can more easily envision someone having a reproducible edge in baseball than in football, but you have to be willing & able to take in huge amounts of information. Who’s got nagging injuries, which bullpens have 2 of their top 3 relievers unavailable because of recent workload, unusually pronounced L/R handedness splits, etc. Yikes.

I think baseball is the toughest sport for DFS. Baseball varies more greatly game to game than other sports. You can pretty much bank on a less than terrible worst case performance from a star QB or a star NBA player from one game to the next. But a star baseball player can easily go 0 for 5 with 3 K’s on a given day. Unless you’re really interested in deep diving into matchup stats every day, which I’m not, then I’d just avoid DFS baseball.

Football seems like a much more natural match for this sort of thing. It has similar mechanics to what we already played in terms of salary cap leagues. And it feels more complete, since a week in football involves pretty much everyone, it’s not the weird sort of random slice of a single day of baseball. Building a football team and watching the resolution is very intuitive.

Well I netted 20% ROI on my bets over the weekend. But I’m not feeling great about that. The first week is going to give you some unexpected steals like Tyrod Taylor (only 15% of teams involved him apparently even though he was like half the average cost of a QB) or Stevie Johnson, but once the season starts players are going to be priced more reasonably. There are going to be fewer surprises. I suspect making more than a few percent ROI on this, if that, will be tough without some sort of novel and generally unavailable to the public analytics.

On the other hand, it’s fun, so I’d probably keep playing with a minor ROI deficit.

My instinct is that the double-or-nothing tournaments are the ones I’ll be happier with. The prize structure is just too steep to be consistent at all. You’ve got to hit one of the very top prizes to make any money, whereas I think I could probably maintain a 55-60% win rate in the double or nothings. Hard to say yet, especially as week 2 values will be more realistic/informed.