Staking Bales: Recapping My 2013 Daily Fantasy Football Season

Staking Bales: Recapping My 2013 Daily Fantasy Football Season

By Jonathan Bales (Daily Fantasy Expert), last update Dec 31, 2013

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Jonathan Bales is a DraftKings Pro and the author of the Fantasy Football for Smart People book series. His latest book, How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports, is a data-driven guide to winning on DraftKings. He is also (unofficially) sponsored by GrubHub.

Follow Jonathan Bales on Twitter: @BalesFootball.

I don’t practice what I preach. In my daily fantasy books and in numerous 4for4 articles, I emphasize a pretty conservative bankroll strategy that involves using head-to-heads and 50/50s to steadily grow your bankroll.

But personally, I take a lot more risks. I still put the majority of my money wagered into small leagues and I don’t place more than about 10 to 15 percent of my bankroll into play in a given week, but I play way, way more aggressively than I suggest for you.

The main reason for that is because, in my personal accounts, I put money that I’m not afraid to lose. This year, I started with just into the five figures as an initial bankroll, but I considered that money to be used solely for entertainment (and hopefully profit, too, but no harm if it didn’t work out).

But I’m not all that eager to tell you to play super aggressively in an effort to grow your bankroll very quickly. If you aren’t a long-term winner (or perhaps even if you are), you could go bankrupt pretty quickly by putting too much money into tournaments. That’s a risk I was willing to take because, ironically (maybe), I don’t lose sleep at night if I lose my own money, but I’d lose lots of sleep thinking I led strangers to lose a lot of their hard-earned cash.

Below, you can see that I was extremely aggressive with my league selection on a personal level, placing 38.6 percent of all money wagered into GPPs. The numbers below represent all of my daily fantasy activity, both personally and for the 4for4 staking. I’m combining them simply for purposes of a bigger sample. If I’m concerned with areas for improvement, I don’t really care if I was good in one aspect of the staking if I’m actually poor there overall.


Money Wagered

Money Returned






























I listed the ROI as a function of total money wagered. My “real” ROI (profit divided by initial investment) was closer to 75 percent, which is awesome over a 17-week period. Like I mentioned, I had a good season in heads-up leagues for this staking series, but I didn’t hit on many tournaments.

I was awesome in GPPs personally, though, scoring eight cashes of over $1,000, which is decent considering my relatively low bankroll (compared to the big boys). I played tournaments particularly aggressively because 1) I cared more about rapid bankroll growth than minimizing risk and 2) I liked the relatively flat GPP payout structures on sites like DraftKings and DraftDay.

With that in mind, I’ve identified a few aspects of my play that I need to examine for potential improvements.


Where can I improve in 2014?


I still profited on 50/50s, but the return was nowhere near that in head-to-head leagues. I’m not sure why that’s the case since I take the same approach to these leagues. It could be due to a smaller sample or because 50/50s generally have more difficult competition.

The latter point is particularly possible since I generally hand-picked my head-to-head competition on FanDuel, meaning there’s little question that was the weakest group of players I faced in any league type.


Tournaments in Staking

Like I said, I’m pretty confident that I just experienced a run of bad luck for the 4for4 staking series. I profited more in tournaments than anywhere else overall. GPPs are volatile, even when they have a flat payout structure, and I didn’t approach any GPPs differently than others. I always looked for as much upside as possible.

The difference in staking and personal tournament success highlights how difficult it can be to judge your actual skill level in tournaments. It takes a huge sample to determine for sure if you’re a long-term winner since a single big GPP cash can completely skew the results. Even though I saw big returns in GPPs this year, I don’t think that’s nearly enough evidence to conclude that I’m really a long-term winner there.

The fact that I didn’t profit in staking tournaments despite using the same groups of players shows how much variance there is; just by mixing and matching players in the wrong way, I was unable to profit on 4for4 despite good overall tournament profits.

If you haven’t experienced much tournament success, know that profits come in big jumps; even the best players typically slowly lose money before large cashes. More important, know that past tournament success isn’t necessarily indicative of future success, particularly if you’ve had a single massive cash. If you win $25k on a single lineup and then slowly lose $24k, you might be a horrific tournament player who is still profitable in the short-term.


Three-Man Leagues

The majority of the “other” category is comprised of three-man leagues. This is the only category of games in which I didn’t profit. One aspect of my play that I’ll need to examine is if I should be seeking more upside in three and five-man leagues. I generally didn’t stack teammates in those leagues, for example, and perhaps that should be a consideration, particularly in the latter league type.


A Change in Approach

I came out of the gate strong in 2013 with a really big Week 1 performance (around $2500 of my total profit came in Week 1 alone). Interestingly, I basically used my season-long projections to identify value early in the year.

In the middle of the season, I strayed from that approach of having a lot of exposure to guys I like over the long run, and it backfired on me. I struggled during the middle of the year when I began to emphasize matchups too much.

In my view, daily fantasy players as a whole aren’t nearly as good at assessing matchups as they think. It’s the players who have exposure to the right sorts of players over the course of the season—big, red zone-relevant receivers, pass-catching running backs, and so on—who find the most success.

I altered my strategy near the end of the season to target the types of players I like over the long run, deemphasizing matchup strength, and I started to profit in a big way.

Maybe I’m just a cynical asshole, but I really believe the majority of fantasy football owners (me included) just aren’t nearly as good at making predictions as we think. We remember the good and forget the bad.

Everyone in the world of daily fantasy has successes and failures. The difference between a pro and amateur is small enough that it’s probably incapable of being deciphered in the short-term, making it really easy to attribute successes to whatever strategy we’re employing.

That could very well be the case for me in not weighing week-to-week factors as much as long-term predictors, but I’m still of the opinion that our inability to make accurate predictions when it comes to complex individual events (football games) and the variance of football on a week-to-week basis makes it smart to analyze and emphasize long-term trends more in our projections and lineup selection.

As a final note, I want to say thanks for following this series. It’s been fun and hopefully you profited along the way.

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