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Trade Fever: Learning to Read Your Opponents

In the last Trade Fever, we discussed what a draft involves and introduced ways to maximize the value of your picks by being aware of your surroundings. That article also hinted at the fact that by reading opposing managers, you could better your team’s selections and results. Well, this time around we’ll to go deeper into that subject as there’s more to winning your league than simply using statistics. To better your chances at achieving success, you must also understand how to play the player or else you’ll find yourself being the one that’s played. This article aims at helping you get the edge over your opponents by reading their clues and biases. 

Without a doubt, preferences can be seen in even the most experienced GM:  just pay attention to the details as you observe how the other managers approach their respective teams. Take note of their behaviours and trading patterns and analyse draft selections from previous discussions, and you’ll soon see that these habits become a language in themselves. Take that opportunity to read and learn from them.

Think of it like the language you use when interacting with others: some dialects are well thought out and professional, while others are simply amusing, especially the conversations between friends. For example, in the film “I Love You Man”, as male interaction becomes more relaxed, it often becomes accompanied by goofy lingo such as “Slappa da Bass” and “Totes McGotes”. In most cases, the comfort level reflected in this laughable language shared with buddies can often relate to the behaviours seen in poolies. Same can be said about the consistency that appears in GMs when drafting and trading. The more you learn to understand the language of their behaviours and preferences, the faster you can apply it to your strategy.

Now, most online leagues have discussion forums. These are great to have around because you get to see firsthand how other GMs react to a given player, especially during the league’s initial roster draft. This is usually the starting point in noticing any perceived value about selected players and you’ll see that through key expressions.  Most of the time, it’s easy to spot especially when you get statements like these:

"Man, I was really hoping he'd fall to me …"

 “Nice pick, he was next on my short list.”

"What, this guy was still available! I’d have picked him 2 rounds ago!"

or my personal favourite "$%#@ you! I really wanted him!"

There are certainly other statements that you can take note of as the draft unravels. The following a good example of using this tactic to your advantage. Say you’re picking 9th overall and again at 15th (due to the snake format) in a dispersal prospect draft. At that selection you’re looking at the likes of Magnus Paajarvi, PK Subban, Cody Hodgson, Oliver Ekman Larsson, Alex Pietrangelo, Joe Colborne etc…  So it’s your turn to pick and you want to select Subban, but instead have a change of heart and take a forward in MPS, hoping to land the former at 15th overall since there are still great D options on the board. Now, you’re happy with MPS but at the same time you really like Subban.  Then of all things, PK (of course) gets selected one pick ahead of you at 14th. You’re somewhat disappointed… yet at the same time this is occurring, that GM states in the discussion thread that “because Eberle, Filatov and MPS were taken, I had to go with Subban.” If that wasn’t enough, later he would go on to post “Subban is off limits, unless it’s for the three prospects I mentioned.” This is great news and exactly what you wanted to see / hear. Why? Because these statements should automatically tell you that this particular GM really wants MPS (and secretly you want Subban too). You now know that you have the edge in trade talks and you’ll be able to get more from a MPS/Subban deal simply because you observed the reaction of the other GM towards your selection.  

Another great way to play the player is something that
happens to all of us at one time or another: the push / pull effect of desiring (or disliking) a specific player. Sometimes you get put into a situation where you really dislike a player, but can't seem to turn your head away from that player’s potential value to the league and even more so, as trade bait. The smart move is to put aside your bias and take that player. You may not like it, but its these types of decisions that win you a pool. If you choose to let the proven player (value wise) slide for another player simply out of spite, you’ll quickly come to regret that decision at season’s end. In one of my previous leagues, a GM chose to pick Getzlaf 3rd overall instead of Crosby out of spite just because he hated Crosby, and couldn’t bare having him on his team. Going 4th overall, I chuckled as I couldn’t have been happier to draft Sidney with that selection (Ovechkin went 1st, Malkin went 2nd). Let’s just say that Crosby’s 5 point night against the New York Islanders on the last Sunday of regular season was the icing on the cake that won me the pool.  Just think of what that GM could have gotten for the 3rd overall pick if he had shopped it around!

These biases stem from personal reasons and every poolie has them. Most times, just having that certain player on the team will cause a GM to itch. Usually though, that same player is liked by many other GMs. This is your cue, take advantage of it! Even though you yourself might not adore that specific player, read these situations wisely and maximize the return for your team. By playing off of the other manager’s bias, you can get a nice discount for that given player. For example GM X owns Martin St. Louis and isn’t too fond of him. Because of this preference, that manager will more than likely sell low on him. You, being aware of this news, can find a way to buy low. You obviously know that St. Louis is still an above average player and will definitely produce (barring injury). After some persistence, you get the deal done. If you're an aggressive trader and practice this strategy, you’ll find it quite useful. Yes, it may take some time to do, but if done correctly, you'll effectively boost your overall team as well as your chances of winning it all.

Needless to say, there are as many different types of preferences as there are managers in your league. All of them are influenced by different motives and each has a background story; therefore it’s your job to read between the lines.  Like the introduction states, winning isn’t just about the stats and categories. By acknowledging that fact, you’ll be able to start playing the player, which will undoubtedly better your chances at making more profound decisions. In the next edition of Trade Fever, we will go deeper into the different types of preferences seen in managers, and yourself. From the draft table to trade talks, every action made has an effect on where teams rank in the standings. Making thoughtful choices will definitely increase your odds at staying on top of the game.

Good luck!

GMG Signing off.

In the next Trade Fever articles, we'll look at:

  • The types of Bias / Preferences
  • Before, During and After – The complete trading process.
  • Keeper league vs. One year league and upside vs. realistic expectations


Published Mon, Aug 23rd, 2010