Article – Suntszu’s “My ‘Gotham’ Entry & New Commandments for Playing DFS MMA on Draft Kings”


by Suntszu
@SuntszuUFC 205:If you are expecting a commentary on the Card itself, there are a number of others (Nick Baldwin, Daniel Levy, Robin Black et al) who, with a far greater level of eloquence than I, provide that service. My hope here is to offer a quasi-ledger entry of my ramblings in concert with some new self- imposed rules for playing DFSMMA.

It’s the day after (technically, the day of) the conclusion of UFC 205. I’m coming down off a post card “high” with a fair amount of mental exhaustion mixed in (note to self, Monster Energy Peach Iced Tea has more of a kick than the multiple cans of Pepsi Max, which is typically part of my fight night ritual). Sleep didn’t come easy, as another ritual involves my recapping the event’s outcome from a DFSperspective. What I did right, what I did wrong and what lessons I learned that should be carried forward.

My “Gotham” Entry:

For those that may be uninformed, a quick recap. “The Gotham” ($100,000 in total prizes with a $25,000 first prize) was the first qualification only contest (a contest where an entry to the ultimate contest cannot be purchased, but rather must be won by virtue of buying into to satellite contests of varying dollar amounts to be held over a period of time) offered by Draft Kings (DK) for DFS MMA. For those of us that are hard core DFS MMA players, this was the moment we have been waiting for. All other sports with the possible exception of Canadian Football & eSports have had qualification only contests offered by DK. Therefore, MMA is no longer the proverbial “red headed stepchild” of the DFS community. “The Gotham” was limited to 25 entries and was set to run consistent with the UFC 205 Card, with the satellites contests offered at various dollar prices on UFC Events leading up to UFC 205. Winners of each individual satellite contest had their DK handle engraved digitally on a championship belt, which was housed on “The Gotham” Promotional Page. It is also worth adding that an individual player was limited to a maximum of 3-entries to the contest. However, there was a loophole that where multiple satellites were running on a given UFC Event (typically, PPV cards), a player entered in all of the satellites, should they be fortunate enough to win, could exceed the 3-entry limitation. The aforementioned allowed one player to hold 5-entries into “The Gotham”. It is not “sour grapes” speaking (as the entries were won “fair & square”), though having 5-entries in a contest limited to 25-entries, should provide for a huge tactical advantage (which would be magnified in the 11-fight card that was UFC 205). It seems like this form of loophole was closed commensurate with “The MSG Live Final”, in that if the entry limitation was reached, a cash value was given in lieu.

I posted above a link to the results of “The Gotham”. My lineup finished in 15th ($1,500 won). My approach was to set a lineup that was closer to that of a “cash game”. It started off well enough with Luque @ a salary of $7,900 getting a quick finish and 104.5 points. Unfortunately, 15 of the entries had the same idea (AKALuque was 60% owned). My lineup started to unravel with the Weidman/Romero fight. This is a situation that I will be covering generally and in greater detail in the “New Commandments” section. Plain and simple, despite liking Romero and using him in a number of “GPP” contests, I bought in to the Weidman hype (local boy who helped lobby to bring MMA to NY and fighting in front of his home crowd) and his past record, while ignoring his time off, recent surgery and Romero’s one punch (or knee) knock out power. Weidman was 36% owned (AKA in 9-lineups), thus the 11-points earned, made first place untenable. Next up was the first of 3-5 round title fights, Joanna Jedrejczyk (JJ) and Karolina Kowallkiewicz (KK). Here is where I employed what is typically recognized as a “cash game” strategy, and is commonly referred to as “stacking the main”. The basic premise of the strategy is the thought that outcome will result in a decision and that the fighters will score sufficiently enough, so that the average score (or weighted average re: salaries) will yield a better result than pairing the higher priced fighter with another lower priced fighter on the card. The greater the spread between the salaries, the greater the potential value proposition. JJ had a salary of $9,300 and KK $6,900, which were the highest & lowest on the card. I was looking for a combined total of 160-170 points (120 from JJ & 40-50 from KK). While JJ did her part scoring 120-5 points, KK only scored 25 points for a total of 145.5 or an average score of 72.75 points. On a relative value basis, this was not an absolute lineup killer for the contest. If my entire lineup generated the same value, I would have taken 8th place (see the math below). However, in concert with the 11-points generated by Weidman, it drove the nail a little deeper.

(145.5/16,200 [combined salaries] = .00898148 [points per $] x 50,000 [total lineup value] = a projected score of 449 points)

Next up, Thompson/Woodley. Based on how I scored the fight, the only 2-possible outcomes were Thompson wins (no 10-8 rounds scored) or a draw, so I suppose that I can’t find fault with the result. Had Thompson won, the extra 30-points would have moved me up to 11th place. Wrapping it up with the Connor win. Due to a 76% ownership, the win only moved me up 2-spots to my finishing position of 15th.

New Commandments for Playing DFS MMA:

Note that these are not meant to be all inclusive, but rather to supplement what I feel is already working for me.

1.) I will play an aggregate dollar amount of cash games (including “H2H”) to cover all my GPP plays and generate a “hypothetical’ ROI of 20%

What I am trying to solve for here is less about hitting an actual return target and more about walking away with a profit on cards where my GPP plays lose and my cash game plays win. In the past it was typically feast or famine. Even where I had a strong cash lineup and a weak GPP lineup, I would still lose considerably due to not playing the proper ratio wagers.

So the obvious question here is how can I forecast any return prior to the start of a card? The answer is I cannot. The goal that I am looking to accomplish is to hypothetically make a profit of 20%, if I win 100% of my cash games and lose 100% of my GPP’s. The follow up question is how can I be assured that if I lose 100% of my GPP’s, I will win 100% of my cash games? Again, the answer is that I cannot. In reality, given lineup diversity and game theory, I am more likely to lose 100% of my cash games than I am to lose 100% of the GPP’s that I play. To further explain, my GPP lineups have nearly an exponentially greater level of diversity than my cash lineups. This is particularly true when I play a large number of smaller dollar multi-entry GPP’s. Inversely and for the same reasons, it is much more likely that I will win 100% of my cash games than it would be to win 100% of my GPP’s. Therefore, an optimal outcome would be: $1,000 played in GPP’s would result in playing $1,400 in cash games (winning all cash games and losing all GPP’s would result in a return of 20% on my total investment of $2,000). To be clear, I understand that it is unlikely that I will lose all of my GPP’s on a given card and while there will be much less of a random factor with my cash games (AKA when I win, I will win a higher percentage of contests and when I lose, I will lose a higher percentage of contests), on those cards where I do have bad day for GPP’s and a good day for cash games, I will win more in cash games then I will lose in GPP’s. I am OK with putting additional capital in play, knowing that past precedent has dictated that I will never lose 100% of my GPP plays and that the downside will be compensated for on cards where I win my cash games.

*A future endeavor will be deciding on which cash games to play.

2.) Don’t buy into the hype, but do pay attention to variances in routine & weigh the value of rumors by the source

Using the Weidman/Romero fight (UFC 205) as an example: My focus was on the Chris Weidman, public champion for bringing MMA to NYC, former Middle Weight Champion and local boy fighting in front of family and friends at the inaugural UFC MSG Card. Where my focus should have been was on the Chris Weidman, who hasn’t fought in nearly a year, lost his title in his last fight, had a major surgical procedure and is fighting an opponent in Romero, who while older and perhaps less accomplished in MMA, is a destroyer of nearly everyone he faced in concert with his brutal one punch knock out power. What this should have said to me is not “put Weidman in my Gotham Lineup”, but rather “dog or pass”.

Another example is the Tate/Pennington fight (UFC 205). Daniel Levi (Best Fight Picks), asked rather innocently on Twitter, who would be in Miesha Tate’s corner for her fight against Rocky Pennington? It got me thinking, why is the questioned being posed and what has he heard? Wouldn’t her long-term companion, coach and current UFC bantam weight Bryan Caraway, be part of her corner crew? So I did some research and found out that Tate did part of her camp for the fight in Thailand and that there were rumors she was having “difficulty with her longtime boyfriend”. Then I watched the weigh-ins and noticed how when she stood on the scale, she held out her shirt for Bryan to take with her right hand while not even looking at him. Perhaps any one of these things on a stand-alone basis wouldn’t mean much, though in aggregate and considering that Daniel Levi is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on the inner workings of MMA, it did give me some pause for thought. Furthermore, Pennington was not going to be an easy out in any case and with Tate being the 3rd most expensive fighter on DK $9,100 and Pennington the 3rd least expensive $7,100 on the card, I made Pennington the low cost anchor of my cash lineup (over Jeremy Stephens).

3.) Under the new scoring rules, spend more time looking for relative value

The math is not overly complicated and calculating relative value can be a valuable tool when used in concert with stylistic factors. For UFC bouts, DK has done a good job converting points to the new scoring system on a fighter’s timeline. A perfect example would be to look at Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fight against Abel Trujillo where he had 21-takedowns. Under the present scoring rules, Khabib would have scored 156-points for that fight. I had Khabib & JJ as the high cost anchors for my cash lineup, though I should have used him in a higher percentage of my GPPlineups. Another aspect is that there are a number of good MMA data sources (I.E. Fight Metrics) where for fighters coming to the UFC from other organizations who might not have a DK points line, one can be calculated.

While it might be difficult to determine what minimum score will be needed to hit a certain pay line, you can make an educated guess on finishes and work from there. Again, the math is not overly complicated (certainly not beyond the calculator on your phone).

Final topic is film study. There are varying opinions (even among my colleagues) on how much time to allocate to film study as an overall component of researching a given card . Part of it depends on your individual capacity for remembering what you have already watched. I started playing DFS MMA in the summer of 2015, so I am at a cycle where, with only minor exceptions, I have seen most fighters that are currently in the UFC fight in real time. As such, the amount of film study I undertake has lessened. However, I feel that film study is extremely important for fighters making their debut in the UFC and has a refresher to test your memory on individual fights. Case in point, UFC Fight Night 91 in SD: This was the card where I was fortunate enough to tie for 1st place in a “Gotham” satellite contest and ultimately win my entry. Film study on UFC debut fighters Devin Clark (versus Alex Nicholson) & Mathew Lopez (versus Rona Yahya) had me fading both fighters, while using their opponents in my DK lineups. Both Clark & Lopez were riding hype trains (Clark from the UFC Program “Looking for a Fight”) and they both lost by a finish.

4.) Read, Listen & Learn

I need to make the time to do more.

First a confession. I put my 1st DFS MMA lineup into a contest early summer of 2015 by solely using the Bloody Elbow Staff Consensus Selections. I turned $16 into $400 and I was hooked. While I may have joined Twitter in 2009, I never was active till I started playing DFS MMA. Twitter has turned into a great resource and I converse daily with many people in my sphere that I consider friends (or at least non strangers). At around the same time I also started listening to Pod Casts and watching YouTube videos on MMA cards. I was pleasantly surprised at the incredible amount of good content available. I fear that I am going to leave someone out, so please don’t consider this list all-inclusive or take offensive: (people referenced below are hosts of Pod Casts and/or YouTube Videos)

*Note that I often use Pod Cast to simply mean no video

“First to the Races”:

There is a fine line to getting out content early, but not so early that something is missed. I have seen content putout 30-45 days in advance of a card and while perhaps the content may have something to offer, I typically will avoid, especially if the content is put out while I am still researching a prior card. Will Martin & Brandon K. will typically lead the way in getting out content on UFC Events early. Will is particularly knowledgeable about European Fighters and has been a great help with UFC Events in Europe
Great general information, which will typically include predictions:

Daniel Levy, Nick Baldwin, Flying Bryan, The ViviSection (Zane & Connor), James Lynch (primarily fighter interviews, though he is occasionally a guest on one of the other host’s programs where he gives selection and I personally, would like to see James be on more often), Fight Network (Canadian Program with Robin Black and others, typically broken down to a number of short videos)

DFS MMA Oriented:

-DK Playbook offers short videos and columns on individual UFC events
-Bookie Beatdown (from Canada with Paul & Cody) is a great Pod Cast (was a video, though recently converted)
-bbbomb (Brett Appley)/GravyCakes (Chris Gravel) produce videos provide a wealth of DFS “goodness” on every UFC Card. It is well worth having to put up with Brett’s every expanding snap back hat collection and the times he wears a hoodie pulled over his hat while indoors. At least he doesn’t wear a scarf!
-RotoGrinders MMA Forum is probably the 2nd place I landed after Twitter
-RotoGrinders Premium MMA (bbbomb AKA Brett Appley) – Yes, I am a part time contributor and no, I don’t benefit financially in any way. Brett’s write-ups on each event is worth the cost of admission, though there are additional features like expert rankings and the Premium Chat is a great forum for contact and sharing information, both before and during a fight card

At some point in the future I may add some additional Commandments, though for now, I would like to close with that I am optimistic for the growth of DFS MMAand while there may have been and likely will continue to be, some hiccups along the way, I am encouraged by the direction that DK is taking.

Peace Out!