Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rule the Second: Know Your Odds

Since I started on a poker theme, I might as well continue here.

In poker, you need to know your pot odds; you need to know what chances you have of succeeding with the hand you have. You need to know all the facts and figures to make the best decisions. Rule #1 was about knowing your market; rule #2 is about knowing the product and PROPERLY evaluating risk.

I know this isn’t revolutionary stuff. So let’s get down to some specifics in how to play this out. To start off, ask yourself this question. If "future you" were to appear before you today and say, you have four leagues that you’re about to draft, and I’ll give you two options. Option one, you come in 2nd through 6th in all your leagues. Or, in option two, you come in 1st in one league and dead last in all your other leagues. These are extremes, but knowing the answer to this or at least which side of the spectrum you lean to, is how you should start to evaluate risk.

I’m the second guy in this scenario. And luckily for you, a-mak’s more along the lines of the first, so if you lean that way, you have a solid option for advice right here on this blog. I like a little more risk in my risk analysis. Why? Because I want to win. There is a difference between 2nd and 12th, but it’s not as big a difference as between 1st and 2nd for me (when there’s no money involved). And when it comes to how I evaluate the market, that’s the key for me. When there’s not a significant cost of entry into any of your leagues (either monetarily or otherwise), and there’s not much difference between 2nd and last, high risk strategy is some of the best to take.

Put it this way. In the NCAA tournament, most years, you pick someone like Cornell or Northern Iowa to do how they’ve done, and you’ll lose. But if you’re entering a huge contest like ESPN or Y!, selecting something crazy like that gives you a huge advantage if it turns out right. It’s a way of separating yourself from the crowd. The one in every seven years that it does happen, you don’t have to get as many of the first day games because you’re one of the few people who don’t have Villanova and Kansas in your final four.

In your office pool, you never pick those types of games because the odds don’t make any sense. Everyone’s got Kansas in the final four, so just putting Ohio State in there (a more likely conclusion) would already give you that leg up. There would be no need to take a bigger risk.

I tend to act the same way when it comes to drafting. A lot of people will advise their readers to lower their risk; take the numbers that you know (as much as one can) will pan out. Get value here by taking someone at an unnecessarily discounted price. Never reach. Don’t pay for career years, don’t pay for saves, etc. All these strategies are about reducing risk, and if you have heartburn, it’s probably the way to go. But smartly attacking risk can pay off as well.

Just a few quick specifics that I like to do. I like to draft players on their “last chance.” Basically the fantasy community is about to give up on them despite their talent and despite their positioning due to 2 or 3 years of not living up to expectations. Sometimes they get discounted below what they’re actually providing because everyone has been expecting them to provide so much more that they’re frustrated. Two guys I like this year in that vein are Stephen Drew and Alex Gordon. Drew is fairly cheap, and Gordon’s injury has made him waiver worthy in a lot of leagues, but I’d keep my eye on him.

Another type is people coming off injury or otherwise shortened seasons. I love Carlos Gonzalez here. It’s a small sample size, but he has pedigree, he has results, and he has peripherals. He’s one of the main guys where I’ve gone against my “diversify your portfolio” decree for 2010.

I tend to fill up my squads with about a third of these guys. These guys who don’t have a track record of success, or they do, but they’ve stumbled for a year. In the same way that I don’t have zero #1 seeds making the final four, I don’t take all of these guys in a draft. It is still a bit about balance. Even if you lean one way or another on the risk spectrum scale.

-Trigga Play

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