A day in the life of a fantasy sports player
But first, let’s dive into the pros and cons of Fantasy sports betting. Unlike placing a regular bet, fixing your team for a weekly fantasy challenge requires at least a minimum amount of research about the expected lineups of all the playing teams, the expected points each player would provide to your team as well as how those points measure up against the player’s price. Building the optimal fantasy team is a challenging task in optimization, best suited to the analytically minded player who is ready to put in the necessary research work.
Of course, it is all a means to an end: the ones who built the best team can realize a healthy profit on their investment stake. Isn’t it what we are all looking for, regardless of whether we enter a weekly fantasy challenge or place a regular sports bet? But what does it take for you, a fantasy football player, to get to the place where your efforts in building up the perfect team are actually worth it?
Evaluating players: best value for the money
To build the perfect team, first of all, you clearly need to know which players are offering the best value for the money. Only selecting those players will allow you to gain the maximum amount of points within your restraint budget.
To do that, you would need to carefully evaluate every single player and his relevant features such as his price, the expected points he will grant you for scoring goals, providing assists or keeping a clean sheet. Of course, it doesn’t stop there – the chances for your player to get booked must also be accounted for, as well as, according to the platform you are playing in, the amount of fouls, passes, critical chances created and more. Estimating all those numbers for all the players in a league is a gargantuan task in data mining and analytics, but it is what you need to do to be up there with the best. Speaking of the best…
The competition: no first among equals
In order to top a fantasy challenge, your team doesn’t only need to be good – it also needs to be better than the competition. Let’s look at a fantasy challenge as an exam – on game day all players need to take the test. The well prepared ones have done their homework, have run the numbers and found out and submitted the optimal team. After the deadline has passed everyone reveals their answers and as it all too often happens in a fantasy league, the best students all have the same answers!
However, here is the point where a fantasy challenge differs in the test. If all (or the majority) of the students in a test submit perfect answers, they will all get an A and celebrate their perfect score together. Not so in a fantasy league – if everyone submits the perfect lineup, as a result everyone shares the prize pool minus the entry fees equally – resulting in everyone losing their entry fee! It is clearly disappointing to do a good job and receive no payoff for it, but it is something an experienced fantasy player knows all too well.
If your competitors have done their homework as well as you, there is still a way to gain an edge in front of them – by being up to date on the lineups! If you are aware of all the information about who will be making the starting eleven and who has the highest chances of being substituted, maybe you can optimize your team even further and finally get slightly ahead of the competition.
This requires you to invest even more time in research, but here you are even more restricted than when researching expected goals, assists and the like.
The reason: with lineups new information can come at any time and you need to be up to date. Therefore, you should always be available shortly before the submission deadline, in order to be able to incorporate all the latest lineup information into your team. Now you not only have this huge amount of work awaiting you in order to build the perfect team, you also need to be available at the given time the challenge starts.
Finally, let us assume you made the perfect preparation – you have calculated the expected points of all the players perfectly, you have been online shortly before the submission deadline and incorporated all the lineup news into your team.
And yet, as it is in sports, unexpected things do happen. The most unlikely player might score a goal and in that way rank other players with worse teams than yours ahead of you. In the short term, this can ruin your financial results. Fantasy football is a winner-takes-it-all environment and for this reason, the investment return from it is often way more volatile than we would like it to be. And, sadly, there is no hedge for this risk.