We speak to ‘Knova‘ who is one of Australia’s best daily fantasy sports (DFS) players. With over 400 career wins and over $700k AUD in total winnings it’s safe to say he knows his stuff! If you’re interested in fantasy sport and are looking to learn more about how to enter the rapidly evolving world of daily fantasy sport this article is a must read.

Tell us about your background

I’m from Sydney and have a background in Finance. It’s hard to find a sport I’m not interested in but my favourites are rugby league, basketball, cricket, NFL and a bunch of snow sports events. 

When did you start playing fantasy sport and how did you get into DFS?

I’ve been playing fantasy sport for over a decade but mainly season long competitions with friends until about four years ago. The site my mates and I were using for season long NRL had a promotion with free entry in to a main contest on Moneyball that weekend for NRL, so that’s how I got started. It snowballed pretty quickly after that. 

What did you find were the main challenges initially transitioning from traditional fantasy to DFS?

I was pretty lucky to be honest. I got started shortly before Draftstars launched, and I also won some contests on Moneyball very early on to quickly make me feel comfortable throwing in a few entries. I was exclusively NRL DFS at the time, and basically won from the get go so didn’t really face many challenges until I tried my hand at other sports. At the time, what I knew from traditional fantasy was already enough to be a winning player for NRL, and that made looking in to strategies specific to DFS much easier. 

Any advice for beginners in DFS in Australia? 

Typically most people find DFS and start out with one of their favourite sports or a sport they are quite familiar with. They have a fair bit of knowledge about the sport and know what teams/players can do and what can happen in a game. What they struggle with is how to turn that information in to building a good DFS team. My advice would be to look at the basic strategy of what makes a good team in the DFS sport you are playing, and also look at correlations to get a better idea of which players perform well in the same game and which don’t. For most beginners, if they pair that information with what they already know about a sport, they will make pretty reasonable DFS teams and give themselves a shot at a big win early on.  

How would you recommend getting started on taking DFS more seriously from a data point of view? Any tools/methodologies you’d recommend?

I would recommend focusing more on becoming better at DFS itself, rather than your understanding of the underlying sports. You can certainly go away and look at data from the sport you are playing and gain an edge that way, but you can also go and look at stuff like contest history and the lineups good players are making and see what you can learn from them. Excel is all you really need to be able to analyse the things you need. 

Seeing AFL, NRL or Cricket do something similar, where we could compete with the rest of the world and you could win $50k or $100k on any given night would be very enticing. 

There’s so much strategy that goes into DFS. One thing I’ve struggled with is how people construct a large amount of teams and what the reasoning is behind that. Any resources that are a good guide to learning more about this space?

What you are talking about is MME (mass multi-entry). MME is typically 150 lineups on the US sites, but in Australia where the support tools and prize pools aren’t as advanced, anything 50 entries and up would be considered MME. The simplest reason people use MME is that they increase their absolute profit (but reduce marginal profitability of each additional lineup). Beyond that though, before a game or slate of games starts, it can play out a number of different ways. If you enter 1 team you can only really target 1 scenario of how the game(s) play out. When you enter a lot of teams you can target a few different scenarios. 

There are lots of support sites available for DFS which will help you build your teams based on projections and some other restrictions and rules you manually set. You can also build your own tools to make a lot of teams in excel. It’s not too hard to find some MME content with a quick google search. You’ll learn pretty quickly that it’s not about “covering your bases” as you can’t come close to covering all the scenarios with only 150 lineups. 

There is some misconception in Australia that entering 150+ times means you can’t lose, but that’s definitely not true. It’s a skill in and of itself, and even profitable players who switch from making 5 lineups by hand to trying to use optimisers to build 50+ lineups can become losing players until they improve that skill. In the U.S where so many people enter 150 lineups, the field already knows that entering 150 lineups doesn’t mean someone is a profitable player. 

Additionally, hand built lineups tend to be individually better as you pay attention to each one. When looking at MME lineups, people tend to look at what % of each player they have, rather than making sure each individual lineup makes sense. Some sports also reward hand built lineups much more such as NFL or NRL. 

DFS is obviously a significantly larger market in other places like the US and India. What are your thoughts on ways the industry could continue to grow in Australia?

Well population difference has a fair bit to do with the size of those markets. I’m unsure on India but in the US they only recently have started to legalise sports betting in states other than Nevada. DFS was essentially surrogate sports betting there for many years which saw it explode in popularity. In Australia, it is still relatively early on for DFS. It’s a lot of fun and has the potential to be much larger here. Getting the word out is still a large part of growing DFS in Australia. I’m not sure how widely known sites like Draftstars and Moneyball are in Victoria where more of the players seem to come from, but almost everyone I run in to who loves to punt on sport or plays Supercoach and other season long fantasy games, have still not heard about DFS. My focus to grow DFS in Australia would largely be on getting word about the product to the many sports fans who still don’t know it exists. 

It’s also pretty exciting to think about what is possible as some of the most popular sports in this country begin cross borders in DFS. We’ve already got access to playing in combined prize pools for NFL, NBA, Golf and everything else Draftkings has to offer to the multiple markets they service. Australian DFS player Jayk123 won $US350k one Sunday late last year in a single NFL tournament, before winning $US1m in a tournament the following Sunday. Seeing AFL, NRL or Cricket do something similar, where we could compete with the rest of the world and you could win $50k or $100k on any given night would be very enticing. 

You’re ranked number 1 one Daily Fantasy Rankings with over $700k in prize winnings. That’s incredible! Is your passion in playing DFS long term or do you have other interests you’d like to be involved in?

It was pretty humbling to reach that #1 DFR ranking when you look at the other players who have held it over the years. I honestly didn’t think it would be possible given that I don’t play AFL DFS and it is by far the biggest DFS sport tracked by DFR. I’ll always play DFS to some extent simply because it’s fun. Eventually though I’d like to get in to portfolio management and longer term investing. 

With no sport on due to coronavirus, how have you been spending your time?

Oh spending way too much time playing video games for sure. I dabbled a little bit in some of the esports DFS contests but pretty quickly most of them were just 2 game slates which I didn’t enjoy. Other than that I’ve put a bit more time and effort in to my fitness. Now that we are beginning to get a timeline for the return of different sports I’ll begin preparing for that.

Which sports and teams are your favourite personally? 

Favourite sports/leagues are NRL, NFL, NBA, Cricket and F1. Haven’t adopted teams for NBA and NFL yet, but big St George Dragons fan in the NRL, NSW Blues for Origin, Sixers in BBL, Australian Test Team and Mercedes for F1. 

Favourite sporting moment?

Oh definitely the Dragons 2010 Grand Final win. The area was buzzing for months after that. 

A more neutral sporting moment was the Mens 800m track final at the 2012 Olympics. To summarise it, middle distance running is quite tactical, so you don’t see world records at the Olympics very often because you need a lot of things to be right (conditions, track speed, pace makers etc). Many experts believed the only way hot favourite David Rudisha was likely not to win gold, was if he tried to break the world record. He could either run the tactical race and win gold, or try and break the world record and risk not even medalling. He went out, broke the world record, and dragged the rest of the field to the fastest 800m race in history. The guy who came last would have won the previous 3 Olympics. You can probably guess which track event I used to run. 

First time you felt confident in your skills with DFS and knew you’d like to do it long term?

Probably when I started to win at sports that weren’t NRL. When I started, there were barely any DFS players from places where NRL was popular and the field was mostly people who had won money in other sports, or casual fans, who were just playing NRL DFS because it was there. I had such an information advantage that I’d expect to do well. Once I was able to play different sports where I didn’t have that information advantage, and was able to learn new skills was when I started to become confident with DFS. 

Favourite DFS moment?

Oh definitely the Biggest Bash live final. Draftstars ran qualifying contests throughout the 2018/19 Big Bash and flew 80 or so winners from around the country to Melbourne to compete in a DFS contest for the Big Bash Final. It was great being able to meet so many of the other Australian DFS players, have a few beers, play a DFS contest, and put a face to some of the names. Hopefully there’s many more of these types of events to come. 

NRL Supercoach Winner Discusses the Fantasy Sports Industry in Australia

NRL Round 24 Draftstars Preview