If you’re serious about making some sweet coin playing Daily Fantasy Sports, you have to know how to construct a winning tournament lineup. The potential to win big on Moneyball has continually increased and you can now find tournaments with thousands of dollars to be won – it’s never been this valuable to get your team right!

To win a tournament on Moneyball you’ll probably need to score at least 360+ points. Therefore, your approach to a Moneyball tournament should be different to your double-up or head-to-head contest entries. Of course, the winning score will vary between days, but you will need to hit close to 6x value from your starting salary ($60,000 (60) salary x 6 = 360). Getting this type of score from your Moneyball lineup isn’t easy, and it is definitely not something you can do consistently. Naturally, the overall objective when building your tournament lineup should be to maximise your scoring potential.

Variance

A manageable strategy you can use to achieve this is by understanding variance. No player in Moneyball’s NBA Fantasy is going to score the same fantasy score every game and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be enjoyable if they did. A player’s fantasy score will vary from game-to-game, and you’ll soon notice that some player’s variance is much higher than others.

In my Basic NBA Double-Up Strategy piece from 2016, I compared two players, Brandon Knight and Kawhi Leonard, to identify their variance, or deviation, and understand how each of these players could be used in different contests. We found that Brandon Knight, although averaging 35.8 Moneyball points for the season at the time, was an extremely volatile fantasy scorer. Knight had produced high scores of 70.5, 61.2, and 55.8 for the season, but had also managed low scores of 10.2, 14.3, and 22.7 as well. Brandon Knight has high scoring potential, and although his floor is very low, a successful tournament player will look past these low scores in a tournament because, remember, we should always be trying to find ways to maximise our scoring potential.

Kawhi Leonard, on the other hand, had been enjoying a consistent fantasy season, averaging 39.6 Moneyball points per game. Although averaging four more Moneyball points per game than Brandon Knight his highest scores of the season were much lower – 58.4, 52.6 and 48.6. Kawhi Leonard, at the time, was an example of a player with low overall variance, and while the risk may be relatively small, the reward is not as high as other potential selections. That’s not to say that Kawhi isn’t a valuable selection in a tournament, there is definitely room for him in any winning team, but you may be able to find similar upside from players with a lower salary.

If you’re choosing a high-risk player, the reward should be high enough to justify their selection. Look for players who are expected to take plenty of shot attempts, because, on the occasional day that they shoot 55-60%+ from the field, you’re going to hit value easily.

While you can maximise your upside by selecting an entire roster of high-risk, high-reward players, a successful player will balance their team in a way that can maximise their scoring potential while enjoying high-scoring games from the more consistent selections as well. If two or three of your high-risk players return excellent value (think 7x+ value), you want to be comfortable that your remaining players can secure you the glorious tournament victory you’ve been waiting for.

There are two main types of risk associated with selecting a player in a tournament lineup: variance and ownership. Although we have discussed variance briefly, the concept of some player’s having higher scoring potential than others should be quite clear. Ownership, however, is the next part of the tournament puzzle, and it can be a difficult concept to master.

Ownership

To get the decisive edge that you need in a tournament, you need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the rest of the competition. You may have seen the term ‘contrarian’ thrown around in Daily Fantasy Sports discussion before, and all that means, simply, is a selection that is against popular opinion. Think about a time you’ve reviewed a contest at the end of the day and you see a player who went for 60 fantasy points from just $6,000 salary, but no one played him because they thought he was ‘nursing an injury’!

Let’s break ownership down to understand how this can give you an advantage in a tournament.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation in which Klay Thompson costs $6,600 and he is in a difficult matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. Again, let’s imagine Klay Thompson had been incredibly underwhelming this season through the first 15 games, but you believe that this is the game in which he finds his form. You select Klay at the shooting guard position and once the contest starts you notice that he is owned by only 3% of players (makes sense, he’s in bad form and has a tough opponent!).

Instantly, Klay has become a contrarian pick for your team, and his individual performance will have a significant impact on your overall result. If Klay goes bananas and brings home 50 or more Moneyball points, you’re immediately in a great position in the tournament when you consider that 97% of teams have missed out on his excellent score from a player costing just $6,600. If he scores 20 or less, however, you’ve most likely ruined your chances at winning the tournament because you will likely be behind 97% of the competition. As you can see, players with low ownership levels are the ones that can make or break your lineup!

It is crucial to remember, however, that popular picks are often popular for a reason, and there’s a significant distinction between being contrarian or outright foolish.

Three Strategies to Succeed in Tournaments:

  • Focus on increasing your scoring ceiling, not the floor
  • Never fear a player’s worst performances
  • Don’t shy away from a high-upside contrarian play
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