Auction Draft Game Theory

No caption necessary. The clothes, mustaches and posters say it all
Photo Credit: Gravitywave

Every auction is unique, no two drafts are alike. That is what makes them so fun. With each manager comes differing opinions and strategy. While snake draft strategies are all the same, auction draft strategies come in all shapes and sizes (like Furbonell’s choice in women). Because so many auction draft blueprints are personal expressions, Starbonell and MDS both chimed in here. Starbs will hit the larger ideas and I will highlight a few of the finer details that have helped me make my way to the top of fantasy football’s Wall Street. To the jump.

Starbonell’s First Tip (Pause): Make lists
In a snake draft, a standard cheat sheet is usually good enough to help you build a roster. In an auction, however, it’s not that simple. Players aren’t picked in order of value as they are in a standard draft, so only relying on a list of your top 200 players won’t cut it. The best strategy to employ is to make lists. Start off by listing players you really love that you are willing to pay market price for. Then generate a list of overrated players you want no part of (more on that later). Finally, create a list of very cheap players you are comfortable rostering in case you run out of fake dough. Make sure your lists are broken down by position this way you can target your needs.

Starbonell’s Second Tip (Pause): Nominate overrated players
This is an easy one that many veteran auction players are aware of, but it needs to be harped on anyway. When you have your list of overrated players, put a star next to the bigger money players you have no interest in and make sure these are the names you nominate first. Not only will you draw people into wasting their money, but you also give yourself an opportunity to have less competition later in the auction for players you actually want since those owners spending ducats on overrated players have less roster spots to fill. Brilliant!

Starbonell’s Third Tip (Pause): Go ‘head, spend them extra ducats homie
If you really want a player (and I mean really want them in a creepy, Selena’s manger type of way), then don’t be a stingy fuck because they go one or two bucks more than you wanted to pay. Some auctions are full of cheap, usury-dealing crooks who spend conservatively and usually end up with leftover money by the end of the process (we call these people “fantasy writers”). If you find yourself in a situation where a great or potentially great player you are bidding on has just met your pre-allotted limit, don’t be afraid to go another buck or two if you really like the player. In all honesty, what will that extra buck or two fetch? A shot at Alex Smith?

Starbonell’s Fourth Tip (Pause): Do the auction in a sensible environment
This ain’t a snake draft. You can’t skip off to the bathroom as soon as you make your back-to-back picks at the turn and have enough time to do number two and three. For example, if you are thinking of doing your auction at a bar, just stop. Yes draft parties are the perfect excuse to get together with your crew, but doing an auction around a rowdy bunch of dudes is a bad idea. Auctions require your constant attention. Sleep for a second, and you could miss out on a bargain or fail to nab that top target of yours. My advice: do your auction online (this will guarantee a good pace) and have three or four friends max join you for the festivities in order to have as few distraction as possible.

Starbonell’s Fifth Tip (Pause): Have plenty of intoxicants handy
Whether you drink beer, smoke weed, or shoot up with pure MDMA, just be sure you have something on hand to pass the time. Auction drafts take an excruciatingly long time to complete, especially when you have 12 or more people. We’re talking four or more hours. Just saying that makes me feel like a giant nerd-ass and I’m a really slick guy, so the rest of you probably feel truly pathetic. Fortunately, you can make yourself feel cooler by telling your friend to pass you another Teddy “Brew-ski.”

Making Dollars Son with MDS

One Sheet Nas needs only One Mic and you need only one sheet of paper (plus rolling papers). Bring your positional ranks and nothing else. During the draft you should be crossing out names and tracking final bids. Player prices rise and fall with supply and demand. If you track these prices, your rankings will tell you when managers are spending freely or entering thrift mode. You can take advantage of both situations.

Early Spring Be ready to spend early. In my experiences managers like to watch the first few players go off the board before they start putting up a fight. If I had a No. 1-4 nomination I would nominate someone that I am targeting instead of following the usual protocol of queueing up a potential bust. After the first 15 nominations you’ll often find the, “Adrian Peterson was a steal” comment. 

Pay Attention Our auctions use a 10-second bid timer to shave off an hour of draft time. With quick counts you really need to be on your game. Be attentive at all times. Even the great MDS has let a few steals slip through his fingers because he couldn’t find the bottle opener in time.

You Can Kick It I’m from a Tribe Called Be My Guest. You don’t need to wait until the later rounds to draft a kicker. One dollar is one dollar. Be the guy to nominate the best kicker and make people expose their foot fetish. If someone trumps your nomination just move on to the next three-point specialist.

Wait and Bleed Don’t wait until no one is left at a specific position to nominate a player that you want. You’re not limiting your opponent’s ability to bid, you’re simply limiting the supply (demand up, price up). If for some reason Ray Rice is the last of the top tier RB remaining in the player pool, his price could easily exceed all other Running Backs. Play the waiting game and your draft budget could easily end up looking as ugly as the members of Slipknot.

Dont Be That Guy Please don’t be the guy who has $34 remaining when the draft process is complete. You need talent, you don’t need to get steals and deals with every purchase. In higher circles the best buys are often the players who go at market price. Overspending early on is better than seeing $105 in your ledger and finding no one in the player pool.

Don’t Shoot the Sheriff Every draft needs a sheriff, that certain someone who doesn’t let people walk away with steals and deals. You need balls and brains to stay alive in the wild west of auction drafting though. Be sure to monitor who has surplus funds and specific needs or wants.

Don’t Shoot the Deputy Either The life span of sheriffs are often short. Draft strategies (stars and scrubs) or mistakes can lead to early death of cost constables. When a price enforcer goes down, someone needs to take the badge of his/her cold corpse. Personally I love to play the role of sheriff so when my funds are depleted the ghost of MDS will haunt those who have big bank accounts, urging them to patrol the grounds. Most people are content to let one person to be the ‘riff, but we need deputies too.

Knowing is Half the Battle Know the entire player pool. Know your league scoring and settings. Yes that was a G.I. Joe reference. We finish strong around here.