How to turn an unhealthy obsession with football into your first borns college fund!

This week was a great week for me. My girlfriend gave birth to our first born child, and it happened to be a boy. I got to witness the look of confusion on his face as dumped in his diaper.

Is this good?

Is this bad?

Should I be crying now?

Are the thoughts that I imagine were going through his head during the dump. Parenting is cool, mainly because my girlfriend was the one who took care of the aforementioned dump.

But I digress, back to the football. This week I also turned about $200 to just over $100,000 on the back of winning The Draftkings $1.5M Gridiron Tournament. It cost $27 to enter and I was able to take first with only 5 separate lineups.


Am I just some lucky schlub though? Why bother taking my advice?

Well, yes, I am a lucky schlub, but yes, you should also take my advice. I used to be a #1 ranked Magic the Gathering player in the world. Now that doesn’t have much to do with Football, but there are a ton of parallels in dissecting the game and daily fantasy strategy. Magic is a very complex, very in depth, strategy card game. It requires you to use limited information, parse tons of different data points, and figure out a solution to a problem. Daily Fantasy Sports requires you to use limited information, parse tons of different data points and figure out a solution to a problem.

That’s still all just background, where I really sharpened my teeth was working for Pinnacle Sports for 3 years, creating sports betting lines for in game betting. Pinnacle Sports is one of the biggest offshore sports books in the world. They have a well earned reputation as having the best (sharpest) lines in the world for NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. On top of that they do it all by having half of the vig that vegas uses. For anyone unfamiliar, “vig” is essentially the cut that the sportsbook takes from your bet. A vegas standard is to take 10%, so if you bet $110, you win $100. Pinnacle halves that by letting you only have to bet $105 to win $100.

So Pinnacle has essentially half the profit margin of Vegas, how do they stay in business?

Well they invest in their talent. Pinnacle pays a lot of money to people like me to manage sports betting lines. I was hired because of my strong problem solving background from Magic, but I was only successful because I was able to learn from the best in the world. I was always a football fan, but learning how to quantify the value of 3rd and long, or Tom Brady running a 2 minute drill, or a team up 2 touchdowns trying to run out the clock.

So I’d post lines for people to bet on during each commercial break, and in the beginning the smart bettors cleaned up and I lost, but I learned from my mistakes. My last year at Pinnacle I made the company a $1,000,000 profit on the NFL and NCAA football games that I posted lines for. Not bad for a nerd who likes to watch sports.

Meanwhile, Daily Fantasy Sports was starting to grow. After I had left Pinnacle I started hearing about DFS and figured, this is a great opportunity for me to make some money off of my unhealthy obsession with football. Maybe, just maybe, if I popped off a big win my baby mama would be ok with me pouring over injury news and taking over the TV every Sunday.

Fast forward to a week ago, and there I was, baby about to get here any minute and me barely having time to look into anything sports. Our baby was born late Wednesday night, and had to stay a little longer in the hospital to get rid of Jaundice. Thankfully it’s actually very simple to cure, they just put the baby under a UV tanning bed and he was perfectly healthy in a day or so. We checked out Saturday morning but this left me running on little sleep and with almost no time to work on my lineups.

So I just used a basic strategy. I had been following the winning lineups this season and noticed a lot are loading up with players on one team. At first this didn’t make sense to me. To win a large tournament you need the stars to align, and I figured if a team scores a few touchdowns in a game you’d rather bet on those all going to one guy than getting split up. So you’d want 1 guy from each team, with the exception of a QB/WR stack.

But the more I looked into it and the more I thought about it I realized that you REALLY need the stars to align to win a tournament. So you pretty much need your QB to throw for 4-5 TDs and 300+ Yards. Now let’s assume that is a given, your QB goes off for 5 TDs and 300 Yards. In that scenario would you rather have the second WR on his team or a WR on another team. Once I started thinking about it that way it became obvious, you want the second WR on his team.

So that is where I started with all of my lineups, I assumed the teams would score 5 Touchdowns and just picked a QB and paired him with 2 of his pass catchers (WR, TE, or a good receiving RB).

Many people will try to go “contrarian” and shoot for low owned guys but I find that you only need 1-2 of those guys on your team to set yourself apart. The more you look for that the more you stray from good value guys who have premier matchups. You can see from my lineup that I had 5 guys over 20% owned and only 1 under 5% owned. Locket and Lacy’s low owned percentage were enough to set me apart. You don’t need a lot of low owned guys to put you over the hump, one or two is enough.

Using that strategy is how I got to the winning lineup. I had a bunch of QB’s this week, making 1-2 lineups for each because I was so limited on time, but Russell Wilson was one of my favorites.

He had an amazing matchup vs. the Ravens who simply can’t pressure opposing QB’s. That translates into plenty of time for guys to get open. It helped that his two best options were dirt cheap.

Doug Baldwin – $4,500

Tyler Lockett – $3,500

With the reasoning that the Seahawks would go up big and Jimmy Clausen at the helm of the Ravens, the Seahawks D was an obvious pick.

This let me have a ton of possibilities to fill out the rest. At RB I originally had TJ Yeldon and Doug Martin, but after seeing reports that Eddie Lacy was getting the starting job back and was out of the doghouse he got a last minute add for Yeldon. That turned out to be a 100k switch. With Dallas being so outmatched it was likely that Green Bay went up and just ran out the clock, that’s exactly what happened with Lacy getting a garbage time TD when the game was well in hand. Doug Martin also had a great matchup against the Saints horrendous defense and I am a little surprised that he didn’t put up a larger number.

With Allen Hurns being a little banged up I thought Julius Thomas would naturally eat up some of his targets. That didn’t happen as I thought but the Jags put up a number on the Colts and thankfully 7 of those points were courtesy of a Julius Thomas TD.

At WR my top plays were Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green this week due to them all having top matchups. The way the salary worked out with this lineup I ended up rounding it out with Green and Beckham Jr., both of whom put up monster games. Green survived the loss of Andy Dalton and proved that talent and a great matchup can outweigh a bad QB (unless your Dex Bryant). Odell took Brent Grimes out back behind the tool shed on MNF. Despite playing with the beginnings of the Flu, Beckham Jr. blew by Grimes on deep routes and constantly got separation on precision routes. Simply put, he put on a clinic for all of the world to see on Monday Night.

The rest, as they say, is history. It’s not easy to win a 63,378 person tournament, you certainly need to get lucky, but if you make good decisions when building your lineup eventually those lucky breaks will fall your way. The biggest takeaways I can give you is:

  1. Don’t be afraid to stack more than one pass catcher with your QB
  2. Don’t go too far with “contrarian” plays, 1-2 low owned guys is enough.
  3. Don’t outthink yourself on guys to pay for, studs with great matchups, it’s that simple.

Catch ya later, I got some diapers to buy.

Follow Mark on Twitter at @herberheezy 

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