DFS Mythbusters: You Can't Beat the Mega Multi-Entry Guys
I am not someone who enters 150 lineups in a mega multi-enter contest, but I am also the rare DFS player that does not care if others do. I understand the reason WHY they do it. I understand the methodology behind HOW they do it. I even study WHO does it, WHEN they do it, and WHERE they roll out the strategy. Knowing the who, when, why, what, and how is the reason I can say that it is wrong to think you can not compete with these guys. You will understand why once we break it all down.
Many people mistakenly believe that mega multi-entry is an easy to use strategy and automatically makes you profitable. While it does have its advantages, I have also seen people lose a ton of money by doing it wrong. When I hear people say that it is unfair because those guys can cover every possible combination, I realize right away that they fail to grasp the concept. On a full slate, we have at least 32 viable options at quarterback if every team has a game. We have at least one running back from each team, with some having two or three viable players at the position. Each team starts two wideouts and plays a few others, so we also have 70+ potential wide receiver targets, along with at least 32 tight ends, 32 defenses, and a flex that could come from the running back, wide receiver, or tight end pool. That means we have to multiply 32 by 40 by 39 by 70 by 69 by 68 by 32 by 128 by 32 to get the total number of combinations. My calculator could not handle the product, but it is well into the billions of possibilities. It’s not even the crazy $3 million maker to start the NFL season with 1.9 million total entries is large enough to cover every combination.
The smart multi-entry players build rosters around a core of players. Those are the sharp minds we want to try and understand. They may have a rotating group of three to five top plays at various positions and will use those guys heavily with random combinations of other plays they like to round out the rosters. Understanding how and why exactly they do this can help us understand how to beat them.
Many DFS writers have tried to tackle this subject before, but the explanations left more questions than answers for me. I think the problem is that they lacked the proper example to illustrate the line of thinking. I didn’t have the perfect example until I made a trip to Monmouth Park last weekend when it dawned on me. The best parallel to mega multi-entry in DFS is playing the pick 6 at your local racetrack.
Multi-race wagers at the horse track require you to hit the winner of six races in a row in order to cash a big score. To play every combination is too cost prohibitive. If you assume approximately 10 horses per race, it would equate to around a million combinations at $2 each. We would have to multiply the number of horses in each of the six races together in order to know the total number of combinations to cover. Most people do not have the money to cover every combination and realize doing so would be unprofitable anyway. How do they manage to lower the cost of the ticket and still give themselves the best chance to win? The answer lies in a concept that horse players refer to as singling.
Let’s say you were extremely confident that a horse was going to win one of those races. Rather than waste money on the other nine horses in that race, a horseplayer would single that one horse out and use him on every ticket. This lowers the possible combinations remaining and makes it cheaper for him to cover all the other options. Now instead of multiplying, we take the 10 horses in each race to the sixth power. By taking a single horse in any race, he effectively changed the equation to that one horse multiplied by 10 for each of the other five races in order to figure out the number of combinations he would have to cover. If he had a horse he loved in four of those six races to single, he would then whittle down the equation to 1 times 1 times 1 times 1 times 10 times 10…or only 100 total combinations to cover. Even if a horse player could not decide on one horse, if you choose two in each race, that would be a total of only 64 combinations, which is not too expensive for you to cover all the combinations of.
You might be asking what any of this had to do with DFS and so far the answer is nothing, but understanding why horse players do this can help you understand how people effectively use mega multi-entry. The good players will pick out a core of four or five guys, effectively using them on most or all of the rosters and making them the equivalent of a horse race they single in the pick 6. Maybe it is Clayton Kershaw at home against a bad offense, Nelson Cruz against a lefty in a good hitter’s park, or Arenado against a fly-ball pitcher in Coors Field. In all those cases a player may consider those guys as locks at the position and use them as the building blocks for all of his/her rosters. They may have three others guys who also make every roster or close to it in various combinations. They will do this analysis for each position and narrow the list down to a number of combinations they can manage to cover.
The key to success in horse racing is nailing the right singles. If you successfully pick the winner of those races you singled, you win no matter which of the other horses win the race since you had all ten of the options in. To translate this to DFS terms, if the guys you built all your rosters around do well, then at least one of the combinations of other players you choose is also bound to do well. That will be the roster that wins you a large chunk of money. If the five guys you used on every roster hit, you have 100 combinations of various other guys and one of them is bound to score a bunch of points. Much like the horseplayer, you really do not care which of the horses wins the race you had them all in, because you are going to win anyway. At that point it is not a matter of where you are going to win, but how much, depending on how many other people also had that same combination.
HOW DOES THIS HELP ME BEAT THEM?
Now that we understand how these players think, we can formulate a strategy to go up against them. If you were going to put a player on all or most of your 150 rosters, you would want that guy to be safe. He would be an obvious stand out and likely a very chalky play. Most of the core that mega multi-entry guys build is made up of highly owned obvious plays. A player with only one entry would not want to stack the obvious choice of the Rockies in Coors Field, because it would require the perfect combination of other guys in order to cash that entry and you would be very unlikely to have that perfect combination with only one chance to get it right. The Mega Multi-Entry guy has 150 chances to take that same stack and create the highest scoring group of other players around it, so it makes sense for them to play it a little safer with their core, because they get differentiation by being able to select 150 combinations of other players to try and find the perfect combination. This is why we tend to see Mega Multi-Entry guys stacking up the most likely outcome or taking a large ownership in the most likely chalk pitcher; they want the least risk in their core and have an advantage by being able to create more possible top combinations around it than a single entry player could.
That means it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to pick the perfect combination if you only have one chance against someone who has 150 of them. That is why game theory tells us we are better off going off the board with our single entry, since it is not likely to beat out all those other chalk filled rosters. In order for us to beat them, we need to play our optimal strategy with only a few entries, and that optimal strategy dictates we go away from what the Mega Multi-Entry guys are doing. In order to do a game theory analysis we need to hypothesize what others will do, so we can do something different that gives us a better chance of winning. If you know the mega multi-entry guys are going to be playing some combination of a heavy amount of chalk plays, than the optimal strategy for someone with only a few entries is to fade those chalk guys. If others are going to be stacking the Rockies in 150 different ways, the single or small entry player should avoid taking them too. Instead, they should be looking to stack up a team that is not the most obvious, because that is how they can best benefit. Once you understand why guys multi-enter and how they do it, you will begin to see the flaws in the system that can be exploited. When you do not have the strength in numbers to attack an army of 150 lineups head on, the optimal play is not to try. Your best chance of winning a huge pot in any DFS spot is zig when others zag. In our example here, that means the way to beat guys who multi-enter is by going away from the chalk plays.