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Tips for 50-50 Daily Fantasy Hockey

nhl logoThe year was 1998. Killing time between my undergrad Abnormal Psychology and Professional Editing classes, I surfed Alta Vista for the best sport chat rooms to get my hockey buzz on. Little did I know my life would change forever. It was at that moment I stumbled upon one of the great gifts to mankind. Fantasy sports. Like the inventor of Reese peanut butter cups must have, I salivated at the combination of two wonderful things – the word wide web and hockey pools. My initial fantasy hockey education started with Small World, a site where you could build your roster using a salary cap and trade players like commodities to the increase your roster value. The Sporting News bought them out and improved the product. I played it for 6 or 7 years before it disappeared. I have no idea what happened. It didn’t matter, things had caught on and there were more sites than you could shake a Sherwood at.

Fast forward 10 years and the more things change the more they stay the same. Salary cap fantasy hockey is alive and well but from the “Why didn’t I think of that file???” comes daily fantasy sports. No need to wait half a year to see if you’re a winner or not. Now that can happen in a matter of hours. Brilliant. Daily fantasy sports are fun. If you can’t help but tinker with your line-up in the other traditional forms of fantasy sports, you are a match made in heaven for the daily version (and I still can’t help to fiddle around upon until that day’s deadline). Daily fantasy hockey, the focus of this post, is a different beast than the other formats. Like the lottery, you can win big by getting lucky in the large leagues or you can focus on slower success by choosing do to head-to-head match ups or the 50/50 leagues. This post is about the 50/50 leagues, one of the more unique leagues in FanDuel or Draft Kings.

50/50 League Strategy

50/50 is different than other formats because of the payout structure. You only have to be in the top 50% to cash and the top 50% receive the same payout. For instance, if you enter a $1 50/50 and finish 48th, you will win $1.80 (sites take 10%), the same if you finished 1st. This is important because you don’t have to come close to having the best team to win each day. That influences your strategy substantially. Here are a few tips:

Be conservative

The adage high risk, high reward does not apply to 50/50’s. There is no high reward and, in turn, there should be few risks. Let others take risks by guessing on a 3rd line winger. Use your payroll for players who are consistent and have little chance of putting of negatives (bye-bye Buffalo).

Get your goalie right

Okay, so this is a good strategy no matter the format. However, if you get your goalie incorrect, you will likely find yourself on the bubble unless a skater had a monster game to make up for it. This means don’t take risks with your goalie. Play the averages by taking the best goalies, particularly at home and even more so when playing a mediocre team or bad road team. Don’t get cute by saving $4000 of your payroll on the Carolina’s back-up so you can pick up Crosby AND Malkin (who are expensive). It’s an unnecessary risk for many reasons (see below).

Spread your wealth

About that risk thing again… filling your roster with the maximum players you can from Chicago because they are playing those terrible Buffalo Sabres may seem like a good idea but it isn’t. 1 or 2 is fine, especially if is a goalie. But remember, playing 50/50’s is like an long-term RRSP like game, not a boom or bust playing of the stock market. To build your bankroll over time, you must have the right strategy over time. So pick good players from several games that night. Diversify a bit. That way if one game is a low scoring dud, your team doesn’t fall to ashes. Remember, you’re not gunning for a top 5 finish, more like a top 40.

Know the hot hands

If there is a line that is on fire, pick the top two players on that line, especially if one isn’t that expensive. (But heed #3 above – taking 3 tandems is ill-advised as the chances are greater than one pair comes up empty and really hurts your team). There are a lot of ways to filter stats to get the data on who’s been killing it in the last week or two. Take advantage of that. Your competitors likely are.

Use a slot for value

In the normal salary cap daily leagues, the winning roster that takes home the big bucks usually has one or  two players that few people had (for good reason) who had a freakish night. Blake frickin’ Comeau had one this last week. Sometimes these picks boggle the mind. In 50/50 leagues, you don’t have to dumpster dive for a scratch ticket like this but finding a cheap player who is legitimately playing well is a good crutch. This opens cap space to set a higher quality, safe roster with the rest of your slots. Even so,  your cheap pick should be as low risk as possible.

Pick the popular

Claude Giroux has 8 points in his last 3 games? Pick him. Everyone else will and don’t be clever and become a contrarian. If you play 50/50’s a few times a week or even daily, you’ll see the % of players picking each player every single night. This is good intelligence into how people will tend to build their roster tomorrow. Don’t be afraid to follow a few trends. Don’t so is risky and risky is no good. If you play 50/50s you may already be conservative by nature. That’s great. Like poker, it is best to make strategic decisions with the long-term in mind. The most important thing is to have a strategy to begin. Winning is more fun. These tips will give you a better edge to bring home the bacon more often.

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