Interviews

11 months ago

Smith1313: Playing DFS in the Middle of the Ocean

Smith1313 is known as one of the top players on FanTeam, where he has played over 4k daily-fantasy tournaments. With a total profit of more than 15000 Euros and a 40% ROI he is both feared and respected in the young European DFS community. But very few people know that he often picks his teams… in the middle of the ocean!

We talked to Nikolai, who is a chief officer on a container vessel of a large European company, a couple of months ago, during his time off naval duty.

* all ocean pictures were made by smith1313 himself during his voyages

Given your somewhat unusual job for a DFS player, how do you prepare for a DFS slate?

When I am at sea, I begin my preparation as early as Monday. I look up the results of previous matches, which teams are playing this week, write down my predictions for these games. Then I evaluate where to expect clean sheets, where both teams will score etc. I have no opportunity to wait for gameweek reviews so I typically have a few stacks ready and some captain picks to go with them at the beginning of the week.

During the week I correct a few things - count how many stacks of each team I have, spread my captains around to come up with as many viable combinations as possible. At the same time, I evaluate player pricing for the slate, look for underpriced players.

Finally, I write down my final list of stacks I am going to use. I write stacks containing players rated as doubts for the gameweek on top of my list. I do this so I can easily change these players when starting lineups are announced. Teams that will most likely not require any changes I leave at the bottomt. There is a good chance I won’t have time to correct any of them because of the total number of teams I enter.

I start entering my teams one by one while I am on the morning watch crew. I take a screenshot of all my teams with my iPad. My wife helps me make changes before the deadline while I give her instructions via Telegram as my internet connection is not fast enough to make so many changes in such a limited timeframe.

She has completed a 3-hour summer 'amateur DFS player course' which I had organized for her). Now she can easily tell the difference between a top and differential player, explains to her friends that Shaqiri and Shakira are not the same people. She knows better than I do what form Matej Vydra is in and digs tactics better than Statsbomb’s editor. She helps me a lot in my hobby - we are a team for sure!

When I am at home things are somewhat different. I try to watch ‘Match of the Day’ and have my lists ready by Wednesday. I comprise my teams on Thursday and enter them all on Friday. The whole process is less tricky and faster, and I have an opportunity to do more research. Still, I will end up playing 2\3 of my EPL season being on board of my vessel, the same as last year.

Each football club has a mascot. What is yours?

Since I pick most of my teams on my morning watch shift, which is from 4 to 8 a.m., I have to go with an owl. While I am at sea, that is the only time when the internet connection is good enough for me to enter my teams, because most of the crew is sleeping. At other times, when more than 20 crew members are using it at the same time, the only thing I can access is messengers. At home, I always enter my lineups when everyone is sleeping late at night.

Do you watch games or just use stats to prepare?

I have no opportunity to watch anything on board. I’ve gotten used to just using stats and info I get from different Telegram channels. I am subscribed to most of them covering EPL and sometimes discuss things with my fantasy buddies. I absolutely love the Daily Fantasy Football channel on Telegram run by Vadim Arsenev. If I were to select the only source of info on EPL fantasy - that would be it.

At home, I watch ‘Match of the Day’ and sometimes rewatch those episodes on board when I start missing football. I consider the ‘eye-test’ to be more important than any stats possible when playing daily fantasy sports. I try to watch as many matches as possible, and in full, but, due to the lack of time, do not get to see as many as I would like.

How did you start playing DFS in the first place?

I tried playing in some free seasonal tournaments but never followed my teams at sea and weren’t making any transfers for months. Then I came across some blog entries about DFS by awd2 (one of the all-time best on FanTeam as well) and some other lads. I tried a couple of freerolls to see what the fuss was all about, then started entering tournaments with the lowest entry fees.

What is your most vivid DFS-related memory?

My first ITM in a freeroll and a top-3 finish in awd2’s private FanTeam tournament. That’s when I really felt the thrill, pleasure, and excitement. And my first main event victory, of course. Full of pride, I said that I was ‘the one who knocks’, quoting Heisenberg from 'Breaking Bad'. I said it to myself late at night in my cabin, but it really boosted my confidence.

What do you eat on Saturday morning to help your fantasy teams succeed?

I try to think less about football on Saturday. One hour before the deadline I drink a cup of coffee and eat something sweet. A chocolate bar while at sea, and a homemade cake when I am at home. I absolutely love cakes that my lovely wife makes - I hope she reads this).

Do you play football or football simulators in real life?

I started playing football at the age of 7 for a local academy. Wasn’t good enough and ended up entering a naval school. Now I only play in Sunday leagues of my hometown.

As for virtual football, my career started in grade 6. I was gifted my first PlayStation and played literally every football game there was. FIFA, some random Japanese simulators, PES. I started faking being sick to skip school and play. I’d have probably gone blind if my mother hadn’t noticed my bloodied from pressing buttons fingers. I had to go back to school then). Played my share of football managers on PC. Now there are always sailors who love FIFA on board, so we sometimes play with other members of the crew.

What do you think of the newly added formats such as One-bullet, Late Swap, Man-of-the-Match?* Do you play them?

The more variety the better, I reckon. I am not entirely sold on the late swap format, though. I would play midweek slates and Champions League slates in that format when you only need to make adjustments only a couple of times. As for the long weekend slates - that’s not for me. I can’t spend the whole weekend making changes before every batch of matches. On the contrary, I wish all slates featured the early kick-off match, even if it means lower guarantees. There is less money in the prize pool on Fantasybet, but they run 2 slates every week - one with the early kick-off, the other - without.

I can say I enjoy MOTM and One Bullet formats. The more variety the better, as I’ve said. Although, I believe introducing new players to DFS is more important than adding variety to existing formats right now. European sites should look to integrate new players into the eco-system gradually by creating special tournaments for the new players and those who don’t play regularly.

* One-Bullet - a tournament where each user can only enter one team
Late Swap - a DFS format where you can change players up to the very moment their matches start
Man-of-the-Match - a DFS format on FanTeam where you may choose only one player from each match played.

Which player lets you down more than others?

Bobby Firmino and Harry Kane. The former simply because I tend to pick him in nearly every team I make.Even though he fails to deliver most of the time he still remains one of my favorite players. As far as Kane is concerned, I can never pick him at the right moment. I pick him - he stays quiet, when I don’t - he explodes.

Which EPL player would you:

  • go to a pub with,
  • rather not meet,
  • leave your child with?

I’d have James Milner, Jamie Vardy, and Callum Patterson accompany me. Milner is one of my favorite players. He has played in every position for nearly every Premier League club. He is the Premier League in a sense. He is the Leeds United’s academy product and still supports his boyhood club - which is my favorite club as well. It is somewhat a pity that he doesn’t drink alcohol, but Vardy would compensate for that I guess. We could start with a pint and finish with some Vodka and Skittles. I’d tag Patterson along because I love all things underdog. I have great respect for people who have risen to the top not due to excessive talent, but due to determination and hard work. Callum could have easily been selling milk and cheese at some local market on Sundays, but instead, he scores in the EPL week in week out. His goofy mustache and celebratory dancing come as a bonus.

There is no player or coach I would avoid. I believe I’d find what to talk about with anyone. As for my child, I’d leave it with Eddie Howe.

When do you plan to become the all-time profit leader on FanTeam?

DFS is just a hobby for me, so being first, as far as numbers are concerned, be it profit, ROI or whatever, isn’t really important. I don’t think numbers are what make a successful DFS player.

If you wrote a book ‘DFS for Dummies’ what would your first piece of advice be?

It’s hard to pick one. Each player is unique and needs specific advice. I could probably write a chapter on confidence, luck, strategy. How many teams to enter, how to study your opponents and how to turn your wife into a DFS guru. But if I were to give you just one, it would be a quote from my favorite:

It is necessary to begin from the beginning rather than from the middle; from a kopeck rather than from a rouble; from the bottom rather than from the top. For only thus will a man get to know the men and conditions among which his career will have to be carved. That is to say, through encountering the rough and the tumble of life, and through learning that every kopeck has to be beaten out with a three-kopeck nail, and through worsting knave after knave, he will acquire such a degree of perspicuity and wariness that he will err in nothing which he may tackle, and never come to ruin.

'Dead Souls' by N.V. Gogol

Make a man go and try DFS with one phrase.

If life is football, daily fantasy sports will light up your life.

We would like to thank Nikolai for taking the time to answer our questions. As the industry in Europe grows, we will be interviewing people like our today's hero, who are already successful at DFS, people who are learning the game, and people who are making the game. If you have a fantasy-sports related story to tell the world, hit us up on Twitter.

Alexey Bobrov
Author

Alexey Bobrov

Alexey, also known as KJIIOIIIKA, has been playing daily fantasy football since 2015 on various European sites. Scratches his fantasy itch mostly on FanTeam, where he has a net profit of €6000+ with over 1300 tournaments played and a 50% ROI. FanTeam's 2018 World Championship of Fantasy Football finalist. As the chief editor at DraftGym, his mission is to help our young European fantasy community grow. A proud father of two, plays ice-hockey at the regional level, loves board games.