Editor’s note: This piece was written by friend of the program, Joe Nelligan. He will be contributing from time to time, mainly talking GPP (Grand Prize Pools) strategy and advice. Joe always thinks outside the box and certainly has more of an appetite for risk. He was, of course, a professional poker player for a few years. Follow him on Twitter @JoeNelligan.
The first rule of GPP Club is: you don’t talk about GPP club.
Actually, I take that back talk about it with your friends, girlfriends, coworkers and anybody on bettorthanhalf.com; it’s going to be a great time. So, just as a bit of a disclaimer, I will be periodically contributing to the site with some strategy articles, but I cannot stress enough that I do not consider myself an expert. I am a recreational DFS fan who aspires to be just on the cusp of ‘aight someday. But I figure as long as we are dedicating time to DFS to try to improve, why not throw our ideas out there on the interweb and let people follow along? That way I can see if they agree, disagree or think I’m a complete moron. So, feel free to respond to anything I write here on this website or on twitter where I can be found @JoeNelligan .
The second rule of GPP Club is: there are no rules. (Man how good is Fight Club?)
This one actually holds up and I think it is important for people who are just getting into DFS GPPs to keep in mind. While in this article, as well as others that will come in the future, I will be outlining strategies to implement while creating your GPP lineups, there is not one perfect formula for winning GPPs. Also if there were and I knew what it was I’d be a millionaire who definitely wouldn’t be writing the formula down for free on the internet. We as GPP players don’t want to lock ourselves into one way of thinking to make a good GPP lineup. In some lineups we will be working off of some of the most popular plays in the field, can you say Lev Bell? Some weeks we will be searching for that needle in a haystack, that one player that no one has ever heard of that is played in .03% of lineups but is somehow on the winning Millionaire Maker lineup on DraftKings. Sometimes almost all of the players in our lineup will be on the same team; sometimes we will be playing all our favorite plays from all different teams. The idea is to have logical reasons for all the decisions you make when building your lineups, then on Monday morning you can review your lineups and evaluate whether the logic you used in building your lineups actually held up, and that is how we improve. Honest evaluation of where you made mistakes and where you hit a homerun is crucial, but it’s not always easy to do.
So without further adieu, I will get into the concepts that I am going to be writing about today and they both relate to one another to a certain extent.
The odds are very good that if you are reading this article, you either know what a stack is because you play DFS or you are my mom – Hi mom! But we are all DFS babies now so let’s start with baby steps. Stacking simply refers to playing multiple players from the same team. When talking about NFL DFS, the most common type of stack that you talk about is a quarterback to wide receiver stack. It makes sense right? There is going to be a quarterback on Sunday who throws a couple of touchdowns, those touchdowns have to caught by someone, if we can identify who we think has the best chance of catching these touchdowns, we can score a lot of points for our fantasy lineup in one play. With Draftking’s scoring, if you roster Tom Brady and Julian Edelman (I wouldn’t recommend that stack this season), then Brady hits Jules for a 25 yard TD, our team scores 14.5 points in one play. (6 for a TD catch, 2.5 for receiving yards, 1 for a reception, 4 for a TD pass and 1 for 25 passing yards). One play can shoot you way up the leaderboard and could mean the difference between breaking even or turning a large ROI.
That being said, when looking at stacks for our GPP lineups, we sometimes have to get a little more creative with our stacks. For a given Sunday that might be stacking a QB with his 3rd down running back or stacking him with both his deep threat wide receiver and his tight end. One thing that I like to do with my GPP stacks is to make a highly owned stack more contrarian with a third (or even a forth) player from the same team. Let’s look at a team like the Dallas Cowboys. They have one of the best young quarterbacks Dak Prescott, one of the best running backs Zeke Elliot and an arguably top 5 (maybe more like top 10) wide receiver in Dez Bryant. All three of these guys can garner significant ownership in GPPs on any given week but even if Dak is 15% owned, Zeke is 35% owned and Dez is 25% owned what percentage of teams do you think are going to have all three in one lineup, 5%, 3% maybe 1%? That will of course be decided by factors such as pricing, opponent and whether they are at home or on the road. But hopefully you can see how this type of tactic will allow you to take what are essentially three chalky (popular) plays and make them more contrarian. That way if all three plays go off for a bunch of fantasy points, you still gain a big edge on most of the field in a GPP, even though each individual player was popular in their own right.
You might be reading that last tactic and be thinking that the reason that playing all three players in the same lineup is going to be low owned is because it is hard for all three players to have a big game, and that most of the time at least one of those three guys are going to be a disappointment. You’re absolutely right. That is the beauty of GPPs, you don’t need to be as focused on plays that are going to work out every week or even most weeks for that matter. Since such a high percentage of the money in GPPs is concentrated in the top few spots (in the Millionaire Maker on DraftKings this week 176,470 lineups will be played and 33% of the entire prize pool will go to one person). It’s not easy to do but if you come up with ways to play strong individual plays, at low ownership, you might find yourself with the sweat of a lifetime come Sunday evening.
Related to team stacking is game stacking, where you play a couple of different players on opposing teams. A lot of what makes a game stack a good option is factors that a lot of DFS players are correctly looking at in their research. Things such as the Vegas over/under for a game, implied team total (which can be explained by listening to the Bettor than Half podcast), and the respective rankings of the opposing defenses are all factors that need to be evaluated when debating using a game stack. It is very easy to completely sink a lineup by setting a game stack for a game that ends up being a 6-3 final decided by the pseudo-NFL players, that are field goal kickers.
Theoretically, game stacks make a lot of sense for GPP purposes. The games that score the most points, score the most fantasy points. NFL DFS is largely a game of offensive opportunity, the more opportunity that your players get, the higher the chance that they will propel your lineup to the top of the GPP leader board. Once your offense players do their job and score a touchdown (hopefully for a team stack that you chose) the other team’s offense now has the opportunity to score fantasy points of their own.
If you think back to the old Peyton Manning lead Indianapolis Colts, they always were known as a high flying, point scoring offense whose defense had a knack for keeping the other team in the game going into the 4th quarter. That would be a perfect example of a team that I might set a game stack around. One thing that I typically try to avoid when looking for potential game stacks is games that feature one or two teams that focus on the running game. Running plays mostly let the clock run on both successful and unsuccessful plays, while passing plays mostly stop the clock after unsuccessful plays. The clock being stopped after most unsuccessful plays allows more plays to be run, which leads to more offensive opportunity. With game stacks you actually have all your eggs (players) in one basket (game) and the number of plays that are going to be run by your eggs in your basket can directly correlate to whether you are eating chocolate bunnies in the winner’s circle or sucking rotten eggs wondering what happened to all your money. I agree I went too far with that metaphor.
Some of you might have noticed that through roughly 1,500 words on DFS GPP strategy I have not brought up one actionable play for this weekend’s GPPs. I’m sure that some of you think that is because I haven’t done enough research for this week and I’m sure some of you think that I am trying to outline intelligent paths to find your own plays as opposed to simply telling you the plays I have found. You’re both right! While in future articles I plan on providing actual, current week examples of the concepts I am discussing, I find it immensely more valuable to focus on the decision processes that we are going though to make our lineups as opposed to just giving the players that those decisions lead me to click on. Catch a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll never be hungry. Interesting note, I don’t know how to fish.
Cheers and good luck on the virtual battlefield this weekend!