Poker Vs. – Round 4: Fantasy Football!

August 31, 2008

I’ve spent the last couple months dodging invitations to participate in fantasy football this year. You see, as much as I love the sport, and the competition, I’m retired. I retired last year with a new baby on the way, and enjoyed it so much I decided to stay in retirement this year, as well. All was going fine…I had succeeded in avoiding the work league (my biggest challenge). But then wouldn’t you know it, fate had me pulling a Brett Favre. My brother would be out of town for his draft and needed me to draft for him…OK, no big deal, no major investment in time. I’m still fairly up-to-speed on the players, etc…, so I agreed to help him out. Then he sweetens the pot for me – I don’t have to pay any of the entry fee, but if we win anything I claim half the pot. So now I am invested – throughout the whole season – out of retirement.

Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.

Anyway, I’m no slouch at the big FF (1st place and 2nd place finishes over the last 3 years)…and I like to think I can hold my own against most people out there – similar to what I like to think about my poker skills, as well.

So, logically, that got me thinking today….the result of which being the next installment in the Poker Vs. series.

That’s right, poker’s Round 4 is against Fantasy Football. Will poker improve to a respectable 3-1? Or will Fantasy Football beat poker back down to a .500 record?

Let’s find out.

LEARING THE GAME
POKER:
At the most surface level, it’s fairly easy once you know the different poker hands. Two from your hand, three community cards totals your best 5-card poker hand. Grading scale 5/10
FANTASY FOOTBALL: I’d say you first need to understand football in general before you learn the rules of fantasy football, otherwise you’ll be completely lost. Learning football – really learning football – is probably the hardest of the big 4 sports. So taking that into account, and the fact that you have to keep track of all the different types of scoring, bye weeks, I could literally go on for 5 more paragraphs…. 7/10

 UNDERSTANDING THE GAME
POKER:
Hold ‘em games, much more so than draw games, rely mostly on odds and statistics, instead of knowing what the keep and what to drop. So, really, under this category of the skill, if you understand what hands are more difficult to achieve in a hold ‘em game, you’ve already got a leg up against the competition. 3/10
FANTASY FOOTBALL: This, again, takes a strong knowledge of football – just for starters. Once that’s accomplished, you need to be 100 percent (and into the future if you’re really good) up to speed on player performance, player injuries, strength of opposing defenses, bye week, etc… Then you need to stay up-to-date every day (not every week – because the waiver wire waits for no slow poke.) It also helps to have played for a few years, so you can understand how to draft for position, and when it pays to do so. You also have to be able to respond quickly during a draft if you’re guy goes unexpectedly. I’ve been playing on and off for 10 years and I still don’t understand everything – it’s always changing. One year you think you’re solid with RB-RB at your top 2 picks…the next year you’re a fool if you don’t take a WR in the second round. 8/10

BETTING/PLAYING SKILL:
POKER:
Poker’s playing skill is dominated by intelligent betting, which is why these two different areas are combined into one. Taking control of the table with a power bet, throwing others a curve with a curious check, etc… (the list goes on and on) take talent, experience and balls (I sat here for 2 minutes trying to think of a better word to use, but I really couldn’t…sad). Aside from betting, poker players must be able to figure how their hidden hand plays not only against the community cards, but also against what other might be holding (of which betting from them can be a reveal to the contents of these hands, as well). 9/10

FANTASY FOOTBALL: Admittedly, fantasy football doesn’t fall into this category the same way as card games, meaning it’s nearly impossible to group betting and playing skill together here. But in the interest of fairness I’ll talk about each one, then average the scores to get the 1 final tally for this category. OK, for betting, it’s a zero. Everyone pays their fee, everyone pays (if it’s a league rule) the same for trades, adds and drops. That’s it. For playing skill, the main elements once you get past the draft are how you set your lineup every week, and how closely you watch the waiver wires. Setting your lineup might sound simple since your options are limited…but I’ll be honest, I’ve sweated more over whom to start in my final offensive flex position than I have calling $100 pots with a pair of Kings. And if you lose by 1 point because you started the wrong guy, you don’t forgive yourself – ever. I’ve made bad calls before in poker (or bad moves in general) but I typically forget most of them (a select few stay with you), but I remember every single time I started the wrong guy in fantasy football…one of the main reasons I tried my hand unsuccessfully at retirement. (So here betting gets a zero and playing skill gets an eight) AVERAGE SCORE 4/10

READING PEOPLE
POKER:
Well, this is pretty much what the game is famous for after the gold bracelets and sunglasses. If you got it, you got it…and oh boy does it make a difference. 10/10

FANTASY FOOTBALL: Reading people, believe it or not, actually does come into play here. Mostly during the draft itself…but you have to be able to anticipate who’s going to draft at what position. Some of that knowledge can be assessed from what they’ve done so far, some from previous experience drafting with a person, and some is just watching how they react to other draft picks. Getting a good feel for how different people draft, and being right, will be invaluable and let you pass on someone you know will be there when your turn rolls around again. 4/10.
LUCK
POKER: Luck? LUCK??? Blasphemy, you say. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Even the champs will tell you, there is SOME luck in poker. No more evident that the cruel, cruel river. Luck detracts from skill, so poker gets a -3 here. Minus 3

FANTASY FOOTBALL: If you don’t think luck is involved, just ask everyone last year who DIDN’T draft Adrian Peterson….or ask those who routinely draft (or had drafted) Deuce McAllister, Priest Holmes, Donovan McNabb, etc… Luck comes in the form of sleeper stars and big-name injuries, and it can wildly sway the balance of power at any point in the season. Now, for the most part, players perform at least in the general range of what you’d expect (I’d say 70% of the players have predictable seasons)…so luck doesn’t hurt or help you too much unless your #1 or #2 pick is out for the season. Still, luck matters. Minus 2. Final Score:
POKER: 24
FANTASY FOOTBALL: 21

Wow, I thought at the beginning there poker was in trouble, as FF came blasting out of the gate with back to back high-scoring categories. But in true fashion, poker remains the rock of the 2….while Fantasy Football proves to be just a seasonal challenger.