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Applications of Game Theory to Fantasy Football

The NFL season is just starting, and avid football fans are drafting their fantasy football teams. Although the average participant of fantasy football does not actively apply game theory in their selections, many people use game theory in their draft picks without knowing it. The author of the article uses selecting a certain wide receiver because your opponent is starting a certain quarterback (taking away your opponent’s quarterback’s best wide receiver) as an example of applying game theory to fantasy football. The basis of game theory, as discussed in class and in the articles, is to predict what your opponent does in order to choose the best corresponding option for yourself.


According to both articles, selecting inconsistent players and riskier choices is beneficial because other people tend to go for safer “for sure” players and teams. Since in fantasy football, you are in direct competition with everyone else and your opponent’s loss is equivalent to your gain, game theory in fantasy football is all about doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing and outsmarting your opponent. If everyone picks the safe players, then those players will be much more expensive, and going with riskier choices and combinations will have a higher payoff due to the lower cost. Therefore, by applying game theory, you can exploit everyone else’s predictable behavior and gain an edge on the competition by going with riskier moves because that is the unexpected and unpopular move. However, if the popular move is to go for riskier players, then you should go for safe players. For instance, the article gives an example of choosing safe, veteran wide receivers because last year, rookie wide receivers did exceptionally well, so due to the recency bias, people will tend to draft young, wide-card wide receivers.


Overall, the articles suggest that the dominant strategy in fantasy football is to have a strategy that is the opposite of the predictable or popular strategy, which is usually making risky moves and picking inconsistent players. This is counterintuitive because human nature gravitates towards minimizing cost and risk, which is the optimality-based approach. Game theory exploits the tendencies of human nature, including optimality and recency bias, and rewards those who defy their natural inclinations in order to counter the majority strategy.





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September 2015