Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

Best Ball Tournament Selection

Written By :: Alex Pendergrass

Welcome to this year’s first installment of this series of articles designed to help inform your contest selection. Like last season, I’ve been maintaining a table of every tournament offered across the best ball landscape since the NFL draft.

Here it is (as of May 7, 2023):

With this first installment, I’m also going to note some of the changes or trends for some of the mainstay contests compared to last season.

THE STATE OF INDUSTRY

It’s really too early to monitor overlay right now, so I’m abandoning that aspect of this article for this first installment to take a moment to talk about best ball’s growth.

At one point in late September last season, my contest table had 52 contests in it, including one pre-draft contest with a $50k prize pool and five in-season contests (like Underdog’s Resurrection) with $725k in payouts between them. All told, these 52 contests paid out just over $27 million dollars.

This season, my table has 13 contests on it that launched post NFL draft. The combined prize pool? OVER $34 millions dollars.

That’s simply astonishing.

RAKE

We should all be conscious of the cost the contest providers charge us. Underdog, DraftKings, Drafters and the rest need to churn a profit to keep providing us with these fun contests, but we should pay attention to it. And for those who may not feel the desire to chase down a high profile contest, or those with a more limited bankroll, tracking the rake will help you find better value for your entries.

Inflation has hit the best ball industry too. Last season, the two Drafters tournaments were costing users below 10% in rake. This season they’re slightly above 10%, with the Million II contest seeing a full percentage point increase (9.1% to 10.11%). Still, Drafters remains the cheapest of the big three platforms to play on.

Over on Underdog, BBMIV has a very slight increase to its rake (.07%). Likewise for some of the less popular platforms.

Mixed credit is due to DraftKings, however. Their flagship contest has more than doubled in prize pool and flattened its payout structure (more on that later), but the rake on the Milly Maker went from 15.85% last season to 14.95% this year. Plus, should you max enter, you’re effectively refunded 10% of your entry fees via a promotion. That said, the $555 entry fee contest (called The Playmaker last season) 2.5x its prize pool, quadrupled the top prize to $1mm (now allocating 38% to 1st when last season it was 25%), and raised its rake by 1.26%.

In terms of rake, the best bang for your buck remains at FFPC. They’re charging a little more than last season, but if you can deal with tight-end premium scoring (and super flex for their cheaper contest offering) and you don’t have lofty aspirations of becoming a millionaire come Week 17, no other platform comes close…at least until Underdog drops their essentially rake-free Pomeranian contests.

STRUCTURE

Look, we’re all dreaming of taking down a major tournament. We enter each draft with the mindset that this is the roster that’ll crown me as the winner of Best Ball Mania IV. But we also know that just qualifying for the Week 17 finals is against the odds, and once we’re there we are helpless against variance.

So having a flatter payout structure is often preferred so that the sting of making it to the end but coming up short can be lessened.

DraftKings made a concerted effort to flatten their Milly Maker tournament this season. As noted before, the prize pool ballooned and yet none of the gain went to first place. Instead, should you come in 10th, you’re walking away with a cool $100k this year when 10th place last year only made $20k. That $100k is of course exactly one tenth of what first place nets you.

On Underdog, meanwhile, 10th place gets $30k compared to first place who will leave as a millionaire three times over. In other words, they’re getting just one percent of the champion’s winnings. Ouch. Of course, Underdog is instead paying out a full third of the prize pool to the top 1.5% of regular season scorers. So hopefully they’re making some there (although no guarantee by any means).

The flattest payouts belong to NFFC, which is all fine and good so long as you like drafting D/ST and kickers. Oh, and you don’t mind the rake.

Do you want Superflex? Defenses and kickers? Small field tournaments?

The best ball landscape is exploding with options for any preference. I’m certain we’ll see you at the top of the leaderboards!