DraftKings Sportsbook’s “Super Pool” NFL Pick’em Contest for New Jersey bettors only, which flew under the radar with an NFL Week 4 launch and little fanfare, is now descending before a Week 17 landing as the success of varying strategies come into focus.
One of the tournament frontrunners is William Bierman, entered as “CSMANIAC,” which some daily fantasy sports regulars may recognize from NFL, NBA and MLB contests. Bierman is currently rated #134 overall on RotoGrinders’ ranking of almost 50,000 DFS players. Each Super Pool entrant must make 70 picks against the spread — at any increment in any week — between Weeks 4 and Weeks 17 the NFL regular season.
Bierman estimates that based on his current standing relative to the field, making certain assumptions — he’s 40-15 with 15 picks left (72.7%)– he has a 16.1% chance to win the top prize, four points better than competitors mattbaren7 at 39-15 (12.1% to win, per Bierman) and vgironda 39-15 (12.1%). The Super Pool format contrasts with the famed Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, in which 3,000-plus contestants make exactly five picks ATS every week of the season. As a result, the Super Pool has invited more variability and, we think, more excitement.
The Super Pool leader as of today (before Monday Night Football) is “JoeD0914,” who has fired all his picks, finishing 46-24 (65.7%). The $1 million guaranteed prize pool will deliver $500K in overlay and boasts a $250K top prize. As contestants in the 989-entry field round the stretch, or wait in the clubhouse, Sports Handle caught up with Bierman to take his temperature after turning in a 4-1 week (Loss on the Chargers -2.5, which once again did Chargers things on Sunday in Denver).
Sports Handle (SH): When did you first learn of the Super Pool contest?
William Bierman (WB): So, like everyone else, I’m a DFS player who is always scouring “the internets” for possible betting edges. A few months ago, I happened to notice this DraftKings event on a promotion list and realized that it wasn’t filling up. I figured that a tournament contest such as this, which presents an opportunity for media publicity, would be a great way for someone like myself to be exposed to the betting public and make contacts.
Once I got into the contest, it reminded me of poker tournaments where tons of players are basically breaking even, or even losing, and still gaining notoriety because they’ve done well in a few high variance events. This is not how I run my betting. The betting business is like a poker cash game, where personal successes is not widely known outside of your personal betting circle. I actually see a ton of similarities between sports betting and the poker industry. In reality, most of my work goes on behind the scenes. So recently as it becomes more and more difficult to find places to bet, I’ve begun to step out from behind scenes, and search for outlets that connect me to mainstream public bettors, like a few others have across twitter.
SH: Do you think given the large overlay, that the field actually skews pretty sharp?
WB: You would think yes. However, due to various state laws that sanction who can and cannot participate, met with the fact that people outside of New Jersey cannot remotely [or by proxy] enter the plays for the contest, the contest was limited to Tri-State area participants.
SH: How do you approach your week-to-week handicapping? Any faith in trends? Discrepancies in contest vs. closing lines? Make your own power rankings?
WB: In general, it’s not a great business practice to share how one comes up with +EV plays. What I will say is that before last week I wasn’t even paying attention to the results of my picks. NFL closing lines are pretty sharp as it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, markets in the world. So naturally, finding some discrepancies in the closing lines might help. As likely as those discrepancies are to help, they are definitely not enough to be successful in such large field events such as this.
SH: With the format at 70 total picks over Weeks 4 through 17, what was your strategy at the outset? Has it changed over the course of the season?
WB: So one of your later questions will come back and expand on this question. But in general its my belief that one should get slightly ahead of the 5 pick per-week pace.
SH: Are you also betting the sides you pick, so long as you get the number posted for the contest?
WB: The short answer is no. I tend to avoid all large markets. While these markets may look like the “sexy” thing to bet on, they are incredibly difficult to beat, my goal is to make money, not try to prove my superiority in highly adaptive and difficult markets to beat. Moreover, I’d be weary of listening to the many out there claiming they are “crushing” these markets. They are more likely charlatans than successes.
SH: What’s been the worst beat among your 15 losses?
WB: I know it sounds strange, but once a game starts I am not paying attention to it. I think that worrying about how your play does after the game has started is mostly a waste of time. If you have a proven track record, and put the work into established models and reliable data that clearly prove a long term +EV decision, then sweating games are just a way to raise your blood pressure. A heart attack is another thing a bettor should avoid.
I also like to emphasize that the biases one picks up from watching games will only hurt you the majority of the time. Plus, while the games are going on, there are copious amounts of other bets you could be getting in. Spending time sweating would take away from other highly +EV opportunities one would miss. The hard work is done before the bet is made, not after.
SH: You have two other entries that aren’t in great shape. What happened there?
WB: I believe in checking your work. I was dabbling in a few contrarian approaches, where I tested an assumption that a field of this size would require a somewhat unique approach and extremely high win rate. After seeing that I was not on a valid assumption, I quickly focused on at least one of the accounts, to take the best bet approach, which seems to have paid off.
SH: Some have theorized that the final couple weeks of the season, when playoffs teams are resting starters (or maybe not!), there’ll be more stale lines to exploit. Agree or disagree?
WB: It’s funny to me that people theorize about something that has documented and verifiable data that allows for a factual conclusion. Let’s assume that the assertion is true, at the very end everyone will come in with the same plays (at least the people who are pseudo sharp) and will eventually have to adapt and leverage against each other with alternate plays if their goal is to win. If their goals are to just move up the pay ladder, then this strategy might be fine. For me I am more concerned about placing towards the very top.
Also, consider that some people are really far behind. So even if there are 1, 2 or even 3 more good plays the very last week, and maybe Week 16 the odds of hitting on 7+ or 8+ plays, even if they are good, are not very likely. Again of course, the fact that everyone will have the same picks creates another problematic dynamic for those contestants at the very end.
SH: What do you make of the entries that have already used up all of their picks?
WB: I would assume those are the same type of people who never saw a play they didn’t like.
SH: With roughly a 16.1% chance to finish first and claim $250K, or about $73.7K EV, how do you go about leveraging that position?
WB: These calculations assume that the playing field is equal in skill when picking. In reality, I don’t believe leveraging is what we should be discussing. I believe that when most people ask this question, what they really mean to ask is about hedging.
The truth is, most professional bettors who have an adequate bankroll, and whose only concern is equity in a position do not hedge. Here is why: Let’s assume you have a +EV winning proposition (bet) and in order to bet the other side, it requires you to take a losing proposition. Why would an individual with an adequate bankroll ever take a position that has negative expected equity? I find the people who preach to hedge out profits have an increased likelihood of not actually understanding how betting works.
In reality again sports betting is just a type of market its just masked behind team names and player names. The whole idea of leveraging or hedging is wrong. It’s a concept that forces you to take a bad position in order to reduce variance. It’s a classic human error that is defined by an affinity for risk aversion which is the behavior of humans, who, when exposed to uncertainty attempt to lower that uncertainty even to the determinant of their own finances.
SH: What are you main areas/sports of focus for betting purposes?
WB: In general terms, we are really discussing a market type. Once you can recognize sports betting as a market, you can understand that in all markets there are errors, and subsequently begin to identify and capitalize on those errors. Sports betting is no exception. As a result, my approach to sports betting would be similar to my approach within an equities market. My task and profit is centered around finding these errors. Once the type of sub markets are isolated, I can specifically target specifics within the market. Generally speaking, the smaller the market the larger the expected edge. This however is not an absolute rule of thumb, as data may not be readily available. So it becomes my responsibility to filter and generate quality data analysis. Some of these markets would consist of player props for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAAF and soccer, as well as live bets, NCAAB extra games, NCAAB added games, NCAAB totals, and a few non-traditional betting markets like Mexican baseball.
It may sound strange, but winning in these markets and some others really isn’t that difficult. The core issue of this business is networking in such a manner that you are able to actually put the data to use and bet with significant volume. Having this ability and knowledge is what separates casual betters from successful betters that understand the business of betting.
SH: What’s your standard betting unit?
WB: Once a person has been in the business of betting for a while, this question becomes more complicated to answer. Approaching this question from a financial perspective seems to be the best approach. Some betters will tell you to bet full Kelly, which essentially implies a willingness to go broke and start over. To me, this is a very dangerous strategy for a beginner. For an experienced bettor with a large bank roll, restricted betting limits will phase you out of this method the whole concern of how much to bet disappears and a new concern appears of how to bet enough.
Another recommended approach is betting 1-2% of you bank roll, while others say that you should tailor your bet size to the expected edge of the play. In reality, I think there is a clear difference between being a winning bettor that has good runs and a bettor that runs their betting like a business. When you’ve reached this point, it is no longer about unit size. What ends up happening is you are max betting every single game in which you have an edge on. So unit sizing will become less of a focus once your business grows.