How to Play Fantasy Sports Strategically (and Win)

58 Pages Posted: 31 May 2019 Last revised: 16 Sep 2019

See all articles by Martin B. Haugh

Martin B. Haugh

Imperial College Business School

Raghav Singal

Dartmouth College

Date Written: May 23, 2019


Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of annual users and widespread appeal among sports fans across a broad range of popular sports. Building on the recent work of Hunter, Vielma and Zaman (2016), we provide a coherent framework for constructing DFS portfolios where we explicitly model the behavior of other DFS players. We formulate an optimization problem that accurately describes the DFS problem for a risk-neutral decision-maker in both double-up and top-heavy payoff settings. Our formulation maximizes the expected reward subject to feasibility constraints and we relate this formulation to mean-variance optimization and the out-performance of stochastic benchmarks. Using this connection, we show how the problem can be reduced to the problem of solving a series of binary quadratic programs. We also propose an algorithm for solving the problem where the decision-maker can submit multiple entries to the DFS contest. This algorithm is motivated by submodularity properties of the objective function and by some new results on parimutuel betting. One of the contributions of our work is the introduction of a Dirichlet-multinomial data generating process for modeling opponents' team selections and we estimate the parameters of this model via Dirichlet regressions. A further benefit to modeling opponents' team selections is that it enables us to estimate the value in a DFS setting of both insider trading and and collusion. We demonstrate the value of our framework by applying it to DFS contests during the 2017 NFL season.

Suggested Citation

Haugh, Martin B. and Singal, Raghav, How to Play Fantasy Sports Strategically (and Win) (May 23, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Martin B. Haugh (Contact Author)

Imperial College Business School ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Raghav Singal

Dartmouth College ( email )

Tuck School of Business
100 Tuck Hall
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

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