How to Apply Your Poker Skills to Fantasy Sports
Although federal law would disagree, anyone who has ever tried to make a living playing cards knows that professional poker is not a game of luck but a game of skill. Reliable success at the card table takes hard work, intelligence, and a firm understand of the mathematical odds.
In recent years, fantasy sports has blossomed into a world of high stakes skill and gambling with a rapidly growing player base. Because it dodges the legal restrictions placed on online poker, many people are turning to this new game as a means of both money and entertainment. Luckily for us, some of the skills we have honed over years of flipping cards can be applied to this new medium.
A Brief Introduction
DFS, short for daily fantasy sports, is a game where you choose a sport and then draft a lineup of players to fill the positions of your ideal team. Each draft will have a limiting capacity such as a budget so that drafters cannot simply choose the best players in the league, but must find a balance with limited resources.
While each website offers a slightly different point system for determining the effectiveness of your team, the general idea is that each positive action (scoring a goal, catching an interception, retrieving a rebound) scores a set number of points for your team, while each negative action (fumbling, penalties, allowing points) results in a deduction. The total points scored by each player in your roster are added up, and the drafter(s) with the highest point total at the end of the day takes the prize.
Starting Off Strong
As with playing online poker, there are a few ways one can prepare for fantasy drafting in order to improve play and financial return.
Perhaps the simplest is finding the right website through which to launch your first foray into the game. iPoker players will be very familiar with sign up bonuses as they are an industry standard by this point. Many players do not even refill spent investments but prefer to move to other sites to redeem more initial bonuses. You will find something very similar with sports drafting websites, although the bonuses are not quite as large. Many also include a number free draft plays in small time money competitions. These are a wonderful way to learn the game and are highly recommended, particularly for new players.
After finding your site, you will have to do some research. Sports drafting without research is like playing poker without knowing the basic hand odds. Sure, you can do it, but you can’t do it well, and you can hardly apply any skill. A crucial difference new fantasy player will note is that learning the equivalent of the odds changes for each fantasy sport. While basic knowledge is applicable across all sports, (as knowing how to calculate your outs is to all poker games), each sport requires its own knowledge of the players and the scoring system. Also note that different websites will often use similar but non-identical methods for calculating points earned.
For example, while both DraftKings and FanDuel award points for successful field goals in football, FanDuel awards additional points based on the distance of the field goal. Knowing this, a FanDuel player might look for players with a history of long distance field goals instead of just taking any good kicker. This season Josh Brown has successfully made the most field goals, but 8th place Brandon McManus has earned almost the same score by successfully kicking his field goals from a greater distance. A skilled drafter would recognize McManus as a much cheaper alternative for his/her team.
Now that you have learned a bit about your sport and spotted a few good players, you are ready to enter the competition; almost. Unlike poker, whose rules and math don’t ever really change, fantasy sports are a dynamic landscape. Players get injured, team managers sub in rookies, and streaks of wins or losses affect the play of entire team. In order to draft with the best odds of success, there are two sources you ought to check for up to date information.
- First, tune in to some sports news. It should be quick stuff, but phrases like, “player ____ hits another ____” and “____ continues his streak of ____” are important trends to keep note of. Similar to poker tournaments, momentum is a real force to be reckoned with. Moreover, fantasy draft websites do not update their player values as fast as live events. This means that the day of your draft, breaking news can change the real value of a player long before a site changes the numerical value assigned to them. A clever player will be sure to capitalize on news of injuries and second string players being subbed in.
- Your second source of information is fantasy draft forums. Understanding the opinion of the masses and how to use that information to your advantage can give you a big leg up in competition, but following too closely can be a dangerous practice. The masses tend have a pretty good opinion in regard to good advice and good trends to follow. However, if a few people latch onto an inherently flawed idea, it can catch on quickly as less knowledgeable players add their voice without seeing the fatal flaw. If you have developed any skill at reading and understanding other players at the poker table, it will be crucial here. Determining who is actually knowledgeable and who is just spouting someone else’s ideas will help you steer well clear of poorly thought out strategies and advice.
You know your game, you know your players, it is finally time to take your knowledge to the field of play. If you have just signed up with a DFS website you probably have a few free plays in a variety of small time tournaments. This is definitely the place to start. You didn’t jump into the $1,000 buy-in No Limit High Roller tournament the first time you played cards, and now isn’t a good time to jump the gun either. Using your free plays to test and tinker with the information you have gathered will significantly tighten your strategy when you start playing the big GPP events. By playing these smaller events, you can also win free entry to the larger tournaments making them even more worthwhile.
After you get into a comfortable stride, it will be time to try the large field events. These events put thousands of players together and payout to a large portion of the top players. Buy-ins tend to be cheap (as low as $1) so there is little risk, and if you do well they can pay out a significant percent of increase. The Double/Triple/Quadruple Up games will start to take the place of Large Field Tournaments after you develop your skills. Whatever you do, do not start out in the Head2Head games. These tend to be the area where the best drafters play and you can very quickly lose a lot of money if you do not know what you are doing.
This wraps up our introduction to the hottest new game of skill to grace the internet. Whether daily fantasy sports will fill your gaming fix remains to be seen, But I do encourage interested players to go out and give it a try. Being that is both gaining in popularity and legal to play online, one can only expect growth for the foreseeable future. Best of luck.