In MLB DFS, we often find that ownership condenses heavily on certain team stacks/hitters/pitchers. It gets to the point that playing these high-owned picks (what is called “chalk” in sports gambling parlance) can become an unfavorable expected value decision.
In DFS, we are competing against other DFS players, not in a vacuum where simply scoring a lot of points is the only goal. It doesn’t matter what the players we roster score if everyone else gets the same fantasy points. This gains us no leverage against the field. Fixed pie and we all paid for a piece and we all got a piece, nobody wins.
For this reason, the first thought we have would be to avoid playing these high-owned options and seek alternatives that offer us leverage against the field. This is indeed a good option that we can often use to our advantage.
On the other hand, chalk plays are usually that for a good reason, and sometimes it is hard to get away from the best plays on the slate. In these instances, we may want to seek ways to still play high-owned options, but in lineups that still have a chance to compete in large field GPPs.
The way to do this involves what players we position around the chalk players in our lineups and our overall roster construction. I will highlight eight ways to play chalk but do it the right way to win big tournaments.
1. Stack When Playing Chalk Players
There is a curious thing we will find more frequently than you would think. Even when a team is in a great spot, leading to certain key pieces being chalk, the field is still not four or five-man stacking that team to the extent they should. You will see situations where say, the Dodgers are in a great spot. Mookie Betts, Corey Seager. Max Muncy and Justin Turner are all garnering high ownership, while AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor are considerably lower-owned.
This is because large portions of the field only play the players they perceive as having the best chance of success and don’t stack the team. For this reason, if you simply stick to stacking, you can play high-owned players but still have lower cumulative ownership. This is because you are full stacking rather than picking the best players as one-offs.
2. Play Lower-Owned Players In A Chalk Stack
As a companion to tip number one, you can actually make a point of playing lower-owned players in what are otherwise chalky stacks. These will often be players hitting lower down in the lineup and/or with less name pedigree. When an MLB team is in a perfect spot on a given slate, it isn’t just the star hitters who stand to benefit. We can often play some of the chalkiest teams on this late but still keep our ownership in check by simply playing the lower-owned players in that stack.
3. Use A Chalk Stack As A Secondary Stack
Another approach is to avoid four or five-man stacking the highest-owed teams. Instead, we can use a two or three-man to get some exposure to the best plays without full-stacking the chalk. Another benefit is that we may be able to cherry-pick the best options within a chalk stack. Only certain hitters on chalk teams may have big games in cases where the entire team doesn’t go ballistic.
4. Roster A Low-Owned Secondary Stack
One of the simplest ways to play chalk but still keep our lineup unique enough for a chance in big GPPs is to find a very low-owned secondary stack to pair with our chalky stack. On most slates of reasonable size, it is easy to find multiple stacks with next to no ownership. They will usually be inexpensive as well, which is an added benefit.
5. Play Low-Owned One-Offs With a Chalk Stack
Playing a low-owned secondary stack can be an excellent option for adding more correlation to your lineup. Yet, it might not always be as unique as you think. Other players may be taking ownership into consideration and doing something similar. A way to differentiate would be to play low-owned players from multiple other teams around your stack. In doing this, you may be less likely to have a similar lineup to other people looking to differentiate.
6. Play Low-Owned Pitchers With Chalk Hitters
One of the best ways to play chalky hitters and stacks and still keep our lineups unique enough: get different with our pitching selections. The field tends to fixate on a few pitchers as chalk even more than individual hitters and stacks. By simply playing one or two of the other pitchers that are lower-owned, we can achieve unique lineup construction and play otherwise very chalky lineups.
An added benefit is that we may save money at pitcher if we avoid the often chalky high-priced aces. This can enable us to play better versions of the top chalky stacks with all the best hitters on teams rather than playing value bats to fit our pitching.
7. Use Unique Roster Constructions
Another way that we can play lineups with high cumulative ownership while still keeping the lineups themselves unique is with roster construction. While the field still does not stack enough, we will inevitably see many lineups that look similar. These would be five-man stacks of chalky teams with secondary chalk three-mans or three chalk one-offs on DraftKings. On FanDuel, we will see 4-4 constructions with two chalky stacks and 4-3-1s with two chalky stacks and a one-off.
I don’t generally recommend straying too far from highly correlated builds. Still, it is a way of making a more unique lineup while still playing high-owned plays, particularly on smaller slates where correlation is less crucial.
We can stray a bit from the most common correlated constructions as a means of making more unique lineups comprised of chalky players.
8. Play One Or More Sub-5% Owned Players
There is something that is often misunderstood in considering ownership in DFS. Simply adding up the overall ownership sum of a lineup and considering that to be the end-all-be-all is not the best way to gauge your leverage and uniqueness. Take a lineup with eight hitters all owned between 15% and 25%. Then take a lineup with five hitters all over 25% and three at sub-5%. The second of the two may actually be a more leveraged lineup.
Sometimes all it may take to differentiate your lineup from the field is one to three very low-owned plays. This can enable you to roster the highest-projected, chalkiest options elsewhere and still create lineups with the necessary leverage to win large-field GPPs.
To play the chalk or to fade the chalk, that is the question. These eight tips will help you play the chalk when you opt for option A, but most optimally for winning large-field tournaments on DraftKings and FanDuel.