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A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece detailing one of the hidden aspects of playing DFS on a regular basis: picking your opponents. There are a few pros who dominate the list of competitions, with certain players who seem ready to log into every league or tournament that they see. This is not a problem in the big tournaments, where individuals get lost in a sea of scoring and the object is to beat the collective rather than vanquish an individual, but it is a major issue when it comes to the smaller contests such as head-to-head, three-team, and five-team tournaments. The 10-team leagues are right on the edge, where I keep a look out for certain names but will not be deterred if I recognize one or two players in the contest.

In that article I offered a couple of ways to get around these grinding pros who play in such a wide swath of competitions. Avoiding them in head-to-head is pretty easy, particularly if one enters a game that has already been established rather than set-up a contest themselves, though one look at the number of players who set-up 10 or more games of head-to-head reveals more sharks who begin to emerge in the pool of DFS managers. Some of the top pros have even caught on to the trick of not starting too many head-to-head tournies for fear of scaring the fish, so they prepare five or so at a time in order to mask their skills, only to come back when the waters have cleared.

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This week we take the strategy of opponent selection a step further. Inspired once again by poker, I have started a note sheet to keep track of my opponents. I used to play a lot of online poker, and most sites provided the opportunity to type notes on a player to help guide future decisions, as those notes (which were tied to my computer) would follow the player through various tournaments so that I had a read on a player even when facing him for the first time that day. I now do the same thing for DFS, and though the sheet isn't overly detailed (I'm not about to spend the time and energy required to track the success rates of my opponents), I do keep notes based on the rosters that I see in order to get an idea of how they construct a lineup, which reveals certain tendencies to how they play the game.

Maybe a player indiscriminately goes with the two most expensive pitchers on the slate, filling in the roster with bargain bats; maybe they ignore the top of the pitcher lists, stack the lineup with All Stars and let the chips fall where they may with the SP's; or perhaps (more likely) they have an evolving strategy based on that day's player pool, and yet where they chose to spend money can be very revealing. Just because a manager plays constantly doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is a good player (though it's a decent assumption that they're better than average), and some of these players might provide an opportunity if you spot a strategy that meshes well with your own. I also might avoid a player that has similar tendencies to my own when constructing a lineup, not just because I see value in the opponents' strategy, but because there is a stronger likelihood that we will have overlap players who essentially limit the competition to a handful of athletes.

I've made no bones about my strategy: I secure two of the top arms, typically using a $20k threshold to reign in the spending on pitchers, then search the hitter pool for bats that I consider to be a great value (these can lie anywhere on the salary scale). Once these anchors have been established, I fill in the rest of the roster, and I'm willing to punt a position or two with cheap options (especially those hitting high in the batting order that day) in order to secure the best value bats. I use many of the dimensions outlined in Fantasy Rounders in order to inform my decisions, leaning on aspects such as platoon splits, opponents, recency bias, head-to-head matchups, and price (how I integrate that information into roster construction is part of the fun). Perhaps this strategy jives with your approach, and perhaps it doesn't, but the identification that I am a certain type of manager might aid the decision of whether to play me in the event that I have registered for a tournament that isn't already full (a rare occasion for non-GPP's).

Part of my personal adjustment is that I select my opponents in most contests, rather than the other way around, and scouting out the games has become a major part of my approach to DFS. I don't set-up games, I join them, and the decision of whether or not to join is predicated on my opponents and the notes that I have for them. Just yesterday I played an opponent who I was unfamiliar with in a head's up tourney, and I was shocked when I saw what I thought was a very weak roster on his/her part. I made a note and will seek out this player in future head's-up games, in order to see whether this was a one-time occurrence (certainly possible), a fluke lineup (we all go Leroy Jenkins from time to time), or more indicative of the way that he/she constructs a roster for DFS. If it's the latter, then I will actively seek out this player for future games given that I see the strategy as inefficient and one that I can beat over the long haul. I could be wrong, and perhaps this player is about to teach me something about DFS roster construction, but I will enter the contest with an idea already in mind about the type of roster that I'll be up against.

My personal player list looks similar to the everyday articles here at Fantasy Rounders, with a Target/Avoid setup that helps to guide my decision-making when entering contests. The regular pros that seem to overpopulate the landscape dominate the top of my “Avoid” list, though I have learned that some pros are less intimidating than others. The target list is full of players that I have played against in the past, typically in a head's up or three-team format, and the strategy becomes increasingly crucial as the Avoid list grows and there is a lower percentage of the population to target. I have taken my lumps at times as well, as I discover the names that are a threat to my profitability due to strong roster construction, regardless of whether that screen name is recognizable.

In the past couple of weeks, I have scouted out three-team tournies against names that I did not recognize, had strong performances (as gauged by my placement in the large double-up and GPP tournaments), only to lose to monster scores from opponents who clearly did their homework. The list helps to ensure that this is merely an occasional occurrence rather than a regular one, as I won't necessarily avoid a game when I see one of these new names but I will be on guard, and a couple more strong lineups will land them permanently on the Avoid list. It's an extension of the philosophy that I learned in Vegas years ago, that there is money to be made if you have the patience and know-how to find it. The Target/Avoid list is part of my know-how, though the patience required to execute that strategy grows by the day.

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