In poker, investment, and Fantasy Football mirages and destructive assumptions will bury you. We all want to get an edge on the competition and unlock the mystical key to victory. It’s not hard to see how people want to believe in and use what I call “cheat codes.”

Up up down down left right left right B A; that’s the Contra code that gives you 99 lives. Remember when life was that simple? If you had trouble beating a game you just had to find a cheat code or hook up the “game genie” and your problems would be solved. Many people take this with them in to adulthood, continually seeking shortcuts to solve their problems.

There was a cheat code in “Punchout” to get all the way to the end without having to fight any of the previous opponents. So someone could never have played it before and get right to the end. But what happened once they got there? They had no chance whatsoever of beating Mike Tyson. The collective experience of beating the lesser fighters built the skill necessary to beat the final challenge. That’s the sad part about cheat codes; even if you’re victorious it’s hollow and you’re left with lesser skills than people who are playing the game straight up without cheating.

It’s extremely convenient to believe that Poker contains cheat codes. When I started playing I read a few books, hoping to unlock the “secret.” There was a continual cycle where I would learn something new, apply it, have some success, then realize that I still hadn’t been able to “beat” the game. These setbacks motivated me to double my efforts to learn more. The better I got, the more I realized that there was no cheat code to poker. It takes a great deal of collective knowledge and experience to become a winning player.

I like listening to ignorant people give advice about investing in the stock market. They always say things like “what ya gotta do is, buy lotsa _________ cause it’s been doing really good and my advisor says it’s gonna keep going up.” In the early 2000’s this blank was Real Estate and the Financial Industry. Investors got greedy and demanded increasingly higher returns; many people insisted that their advisors put them exclusively in real estate and financial services since they were the “hot” stocks. They thought they had found a cheat code for the stock market. In the late 90’s when tech stocks and dotcoms were the cheat code. What investors ought to have learned (but probably haven’t) from all this is that hard work, studying, and a willingness to constantly reassess is the only way to get ahead.

The other important caveat from investing that I’d like to mention is diversification. Most Financial Advisors will divide their client’s assets up in to four or more areas. Within these areas an advisor will mix in stocks and funds that vary in size and sector. The portfolio is balanced on a yearly basis in order to spread the risk around the most areas.

The most commonly held and most idiotic “cheat code” assumption in Fantasy Football is that owning multiple players on the same team is a good idea. The typical strategy is to get a quarterback/wide receiver combination.

The argument in favor sounds appealing and logical at first glance. Any time your QB throws to your receiver you get double points. Touchdowns are huge bonuses and it’s really exciting any time this happens. If your quarterback has a big game, odds are your receiver will too and odds are you’ll win your week. That sounds awesome! Who could possibly hate that? Me.

There is a price to pay for everything. In order to get these games where you hit your “combos” you must take the games where the quarterback plays poorly, killing the receivers’ production, burying your team, and virtually ensuring a loss. You are also a lot more vulnerable to injuries, even if they’re not to your player. For example if the offensive line gets decimated the entire offense will likely suffer.

Our goal is to put up a solid number of points on a weekly basis. Inevitably we will face a few opponents each season that put up a ton of points; we can count on a few losses regardless of the talent on our roster. We will also face a few opponents on their down weeks and pick up cheap wins. This variance is simply part of the game. If we play for combos, however, or variance will be through the roof.

Picture this: your QB/WR combo delivers and you have a great week. Only problem is your opponent has several players with big games and you lose narrowly. The following week, your next opponent has a bad week but your QB/WR faces a tough defense and gets shut down, crippling your team and causing you to lose.

Bye weeks and the playoffs are additional arguments against combo-ing. I don’t believe in drafting players (or not drafting them) based on bye week but I’d prefer to spread mine out if possible. Players being on the same team obviously guarantee that this will happen. We also run the risk of having a down week during the playoffs which is when we want to be at our best.

This season I owned Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne on the same team. I took Wayne because he fell to me then I didn’t trade him because he was so productive. This all came back to haunt me during the Fantasy Playoffs in the finals, Week 16. My “combo” backfired.

Do We Alter Our Draft Strategy?

While we don’t want to own players on the same team during the season I have no problem with drafting them with the intention of trading. The way I’d do it is trade whichever player(s) you can get the most value for. I firmly believe in drafting the best available player at all times regardless of position or what you need at the time. This is another topic that I will post on at a later date.

Final Thoughts

When the competition isn’t very good you can get away with a lot of mistakes. Our goal, however, should be to improve to the point where we can compete in any league regardless no matter how tough it is. When you’re trying to get an edge against other astute players you have to win by doing the little things right. Managing risk is very important overall and owning players on different teams is one such necessary step in the right direction.

  1. fantasy flukie says:

    This is a great article. Every fantasy player from novice to expert should read this piece. Whether I want to admit it or not I have gotten caught up in the combo. This year for instance I got caught up in the Brees, Hartley, NO DEF combo. It was great for a while but as the season went on I had to break up the group. Became too dependant on the SAints and though they won the Superbowl it didn’t bring me a fantasy title….

    I FIRMLY believe that you have to draft the best player available…. it literally can change the fate of your season to have trade value…..

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