Research is everything in DFS. A strong motto to play by and it provides a solid start in building a solid bankroll. Really though research is only the first step in constructing a solid process that will set you apart from what I fondly call “the DFS herd.” These days the herd is actually a shrewd group of characters who are going to put up solid scores night in and night out. The herd hasn’t always been quite so smart but with all of the lineup tools and other information available in the market today you can rest assured the herd will be right there in every DFS race. The whole herd of course is not created equal but we can safely assume a significant number of its members will be on a relatively equal research footing to those of us who take this seriously. So how can we separate ourselves in GPP play? We have no choice but to move past that first step and take a look at the game theory aspect of DFS.
Now I could go on and on about complex chaos theories and such but the purpose here is to keep things simple and give you some input on how to go about thinking through your GPP strategies as you construct lineups each day. In my process I do my research for the day and construct my cash lineups for the day to get started. There are certainly many theories on cash lineup construction, which I’m not going into detail on here, but for the most part cash lineups are going to give you a sense of who the chalky solid plays are for the day. Your research will show you who the players are with high expectations and those who are expected to underperform. This forms the basis of what the herd mentality is likely to be for the day and is where I always start as I shift my thought process to game theory.
Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of game theorists out there but for the most part the herd is playing the chalk in GPP. If we want to hit the top of the GPP board we absolutely cannot fight our way through the herd. The herd is just too big. We need to find a route around the herd to get to the top. The path of least resistance if you will. So how do we find our way around the herd? I’m going to offer a few examples of how I try to differentiate in large field GPP play.
This is the guy I search for every day and this guy is the holy grail of DFS if you can find him.
Once I’ve made my cash game lineups I’ve more or less identified the chalk from research. If you aren’t sure who the chalk will be you can search any number of sites and simply look at who is being recommended the most that day. At this point you have to realize you are playing the herd and not the actual players in your sport of choice. Guys like Kevin Durant, Adrian Peterson, and Ryan Braun are really nothing more than chess pieces in your game against the herd. If you aren’t 100% aware the actions of your DFS competitors are more important than what happens on the field or the the court, you are not going to have much success at DFS.
Here is a good website for player’s ownership to look at daily, in order to figure our WHY a player is high or low owned. http://www.fdownership.appspot.com/?sport=MLB
Let’s say my NBA research reveals Bismack Biyombo is going to be the overwhelming chalk on a particular slate. He’s drawing the start and he’s grossly underpriced and looks like he’s a “must play.” I can join the herd by playing Biyombo and as I like to put it try to win by climbing Mt. Biyombo or I can look for a less traveled route around the mountain. I generally look to go around the mountain by fading the must play on the basis of the basic concept that if the must own chalk falters my competition is significantly diminished. Most of the time the must own chalk ends up performing well but on the nights he doesn’t you have a great advantage on the field that is not always easy to come by in DFS. If the chalk is 75% owned you’ve eliminated 75% of the competition for the chance at a huge payday.
A far more powerful route and the one I use the most though is identifying the sleeper. And by sleeper I don’t mean the flavor of the day who is being touted by every internet guru and lineup service. I mean the sleeper nobody else is on. This is the guy I search for every day and this guy is the holy grail of DFS if you can find him. These guys are difficult to find and they don’t come around every day but if you can find them you are on your way to the top. You can’t just randomly pick a low salary guy off the list for no reason or you’ll go broke quickly. You have to dig deeply, read local articles from cities of teams, look at game histories, do whatever you can to find anything that may be a clue that someone may see an increased role or opportunity in a particular game. If this information is easily found and you see it in several places your guy probably belongs with the herd and not in your lineup.
I’ll give one example of my thought process on this… In October 2015 the Lakers were playing the Warriors, and the Warriors were prohibitive favorites. I noticed D’Angelo Russell wasn’t going to play that night. Seemingly insignificant news and most of the national DFS agencies simply said expect Clarkson and Williams to get a few extra minutes and so forth. To me the Russell injury combined with the likely blowout spelled a great chance Marcelo Huertas was going to get some run and quite possibly enough to make a DFS impact. I knew nobody would be on him and I mean nobody. I looked at other minimum priced point guards that night and there wasn’t anyone in that price range who was likely going to be deployed in DFS that night so Huertas looked like an incredible play. Not only was I going to have a guy who ended up registering as 0% owned on Fan Duel and .1% owned on DraftKings , but I was going to have a completely unique roster construction to boot as nobody in the entire herd would be rostering a minimum priced point guard that night. This is the dream scenario in DFS and one you should be looking for every day. You have the dual advantage of your guy possibly performing well and the power of a roster that is totally different from almost everyone else who is playing that night.
On this particular night Huertas did end up returning approximately 9x that night as I recall and I had some amazing finishes in large field GPPs but when I looked back even if he had only gone for 3-4x I would have still made a considerable amount of cash. It’s important to always be conscious of how your roster construction is going to look compared to the rest of the field. If there’s a “must play” guy sitting at say $5000 salary at a postion on a particular night I go out of my way to dig and find a guy at a completely different salary who may outperform his own salary. The completely different salary is of utmost importance as it lets me focus on building a lineup that is going to be totally different in construction from the herd. Lots of guys are going to try and find a pivot off the must play at a similar salary as they try to go contrarian but to truly set yourself apart it is far more favorable to find a guy in a different salary range.
While sleeper approaches are relatively common ways to negotiate the herd and certainly my favorite when done correctly, there are many other ways to set yourself apart from the masses. It’s important to know the herd in general is a relatively fearful group. Anytime you sense fear is floating around in DFS circles this should immediately signal opportunity. Fear comes in many forms but my 3 favorites come from injury concerns, matchup issues, and blowout risk. These are all legitimate concerns of course when it comes to constructing cash lines but for large field GPP construction attacking these fears is a powerful weapon. The biggest fears often breed the biggest opportunities.
I could name off hundreds of examples of how you can capitalize on injury risk but the main idea is if you can ever identify a spot where a high ceiling player is going to go unreasonably low owned you need to carefully consider using the guy. Just a short while ago Stephen Curry was considered questionable going into Game 4 of the playoffs vs. the Trailblazers and the GPP winners were laughing all the way to the bank I’m sure after deploying the super talented point guard at 2-4% own depending on the site. Curry at low single digit ownership? Yes please I’ll take that any day. It’s rare that you’ll find a big name at this low of an ownership but there are opportunities that arise frequently where you can find a high upside guy who is being ignored for one reason or another. This past college season there was all kinds of uncertainty as to who was going to be the running back one night for the Texas Longhorns because of some injury concerns. I did a little research and found out Chris Warren, who had really been used much, was super talented and likely to get the bulk of the carries. I took a shot with this guy at minimum price on DraftKings and even on a short slate he was single digit owned and went for something like 276 and 4 TDs. An unbelievable return on a minimum salary player. The point is the herd is going to avoid situations where things look uncertain and the savvy DFS player will pounce on these situations.
You can frequently capitalize in similar ways on guys in perceived poor matchups and players in games with huge spreads or what is commonly seen as blowout risk. A lot of people will research numbers and automatically exclude a large number of players based on matchups alone. You have to be a little careful attacking these scenarios as a good number of guys are generally considered “matchup proof” by the industry particularly in basketball. Russell Westbrook for example is never likely to go low owned based on matchup alone. My favorite way to exploit matchup situations is to travel around from site to site and see if anyone seems to be being touted as a fade that day whether it be because of defense or blowout risk. Anytime there seems to be way too much chatter toward fading a high upside guy I automatically move him up on my consideration list. This can get a bit tricky as generally these guys are being faded for good reason but if you can come up with any reason you think warrants getting this guy in I advise doing it. One example is I noticed one night everyone was advocating fading Paul George vs. Golden State. The Warriors had a great DVP against small forwards and nobody seemed to want to be on him. Well it didn’t take any high tech computer analysis for me to sit back for a second and think to myself who on the Warriors can actually guard Paul George. I instantly slotted George in most of my lineups and the results were remarkable.
Another approach I’ve been using lately, and it’s becoming more common as DFS strategies evolve, is using unconventional stacking in my lines to help differentiate. I haven’t tried this yet with baseball as I don’t think it’s necessary with the depth of the player pool but it’s been a very sound strategy in football and basketball. There are countless ways you can go about making your stacks less than cookie cutter and making your lineup different. I’ll go into a couple of my ideas that have worked well but my advice is when you make your GPP lineups make sure you analyze what you’ve constructed and ask yourself if this is a unique way to go about this or is this something the herd would be likely to do.
Again, there are countless ways to make unconventional stacks but my favorite so far from NBA has been to stack unusual teammate pairings. In NBA people of course love to stack complete games, stack point guards and centers from the same team, or stack 3-4 guys from the same team. These are all great strategies and I employ them myself but taking an unconventional stack approach is also a powerful and far less popular strategy. Specifically not too many guys are going to take 2 point guards or 2 centers from the same team in most instances. The concept seems counterintuitive at first glance but often situations open up where both guys are in a great spot to make value and nobody is stacking them together. Around mid season Gorgui Dieng for the Timberwolves actually moved to starting power forward but was still listed at center for some time on Draftkings and I was able to stack him for several games with Karl Anthony Towns for several games before the herd eventually caught on. I did the same thing with Alex Len and Tyson Chandler for Phoenix and I’m not sure the herd ever did catch on. Once you’ve identified such low owned stacks and plug them into your lineups you basically can play all the chalk you want in the rest of your lineup and not have to worry at all about having a unique construction. You can do all sorts of things in football to this effect. Pairing a QB and WR from the same team is of course the most common stacking strategy in DFS football. Like many other strategies this of course has been proven to work and I do it as well. But how about stacking 2 tight ends from the same team? Just make sure it’s a situation where they both are expected to get reps. You can also try stacking a popular QB WR combo and adding the RB from the same team. These stacks certainly cap your upside a bit which is why they aren’t popular but they can also differentiate you enough to make a huge difference particularly when you use chalky players who are heavily owned.
I could go on for days with examples of ways you can go about constructing unique GPP lines as the possibilities for doing so are endless. The point is you need to come up with your own process for how you are personally going to differentiate your own lineups. Always be cognizant that the herd has all the numbers you have. The herd knows every day who is expected to perform well just like you do. Always be conscious of why you are using each person in your lineup and know what you have done to differentiate your lineup enough that it can stand out against tens of thousands of other entries. This doesn’t require picking out 3 1% owned guys who go nuts out of the blue but it does require a thorough thought process regarding where the herd is going on a particular night. If you aren’t aware of the herd you’ll be playing to cash and never to win. That’s not what large field GPPs are about. Hopefully one day soon you can outmaneuver the herd and hear what I consider one of the best compliments a DFS player can receive: “What the hell were you thinking playing that guy?”
All you need is our Cheat Sheets and you’ll be winning $$ in no time!!