An Incredible Start to 2013: Interview with Al Smizzle
Alvin Al Smizzle Zeidenfeld has been on an unstoppable tear so far in 2013. Fresh off of taking down the DraftStreet Basketball Championship for $50,000, Al won the first big event on DraftKings during MLB season and ‘Walked-Off’ with almost $40,000 more. Still not enough? This past week Al qualified for the FanDuel DFBC finals in Las Vegas ($200,000 1st prize) and the DraftStreet DSBC Finals ($100,000 1st prize) within a two day span…all right before his 40th birthday. The heater he is on is just silly.
‘Smiz’ is sitting at #2 in the RG TPOY (Tournament Player of the Year) standings where he could very easily win another trip to Vegas. He’s a StarStreet Playboy Mansion seat away from Daily Fantasy absurdity, so I’m sure that notch in his belt is coming soon.
The best part of all of this, is that Al Smizzle is a great guy, and one who is very engaged in the RotoGrinders community. You’ll find him in the forums chatting it up and he is even the co-host on an online Daily Fantasy TV Show on Grinders Live. Al is a man of the people, so of course he was willing to share some interview time with RG after his latest victories. Here’s what he told us:
Interview With Al “Al Smizzle” Zeidenfeld
Dude…what a week!? What has it been like the past days while you took down two major qualifiers?
It’s been a pretty crazy week but a whole lot of fun. I tend to play 90% cash games on the non-qualifier days and I’ve been running pretty hot and cold in those so for me to run hot on the exact nights that I needed to was pretty insane, unexpected and welcomed. For it to happen within a span of four days is just beyond insane! I tend to be a one lineup sort of player so it’s a real grind for me to put in twenty, thirty, or SEVENTY unique lineups like last Friday on FanDuel. The result is that I don’t end up playing in the cash games as much on the Q days because I don’t know what lineup is going to be my best. I guess you could say that on cash game days I’m more of a sniper trying to pick off as much as I can with a single shot while on Q days I’m shooting buckshot and just hoping that something hits somewhere.
The best part for me is that from a bankroll perspective I can tone down my entries into the qualifiers on those sites and focus a little more on cash games on those traffic heavy nights. I’ve also made deposits on a couple of sites I don’t play in my normal rotation and will be trying to win a seat into their big championship finals in addition to the FanDuel and DraftStreet seats I won this week.
Your overall ranking is currently 49th, but you’re Top 10 in the Monthly, MLB and TPOY (2nd). Is it safe to say MLB is your strongest Daily Fantasy sport?
I played mostly tournaments and qualifiers during NFL season and this was the first time in a few years that I’ve played NBA so I kept my buy in levels low and spent the season trying to re-acquaint myself with the ins and outs of playing NBA fantasy. By the end of the season in NBA, I obviously had gotten my feet wet and had a pretty good grasp and was lucky enough to take down the DSBBC. All that being said, Baseball is the sport in which I feel I have the biggest edge. I started with DFS baseball last April and if you look at my earnings graph I came out blazing but then stopped playing around June because dealing with a two year old and a three month old was a bit too much for me to be able to focus on the daily grind of baseball and DFS. Now that the boys are a little bit older and things have gone back to a more “normal” schedule I have really been focused and my early results have thankfully reflected that. It’s always nice to see the rewards when you put in the work. I have first hand experience from poker that even if you are playing your best the results don’t always come in the short term as quickly as they have for me in DFS.
How did you get started in Daily Fantasy? When did you start taking it seriously?
I learned about it from listening to Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio I guess. I had been listening to the station for a year or so and just decided last March to give it a try. I’ve always had a deep rooted interest for knowing an awful lot about sports and in particular fantasy sports but before DFS didn’t really have any way to monetize it. I joined FanDuel the first week of baseball season and when I saw how easy it could be to potentially make some money at it and have a ton of fun along the way I was hooked. Granted, I really hit the ground running and I think I had a winning session nine of the first ten days I played or something sick like that so I was instantly hooked.
I was taking it seriously from day one, but fantasy sports and more specifically Daily Fantasy isn’t something that people understand why you’re taking seriously if they’re not involved in it themselves. That is, until you can say, “hey look, I won $X.xx last month in a fantasy basketball tournament and then again in a baseball tournament this week”. At that point they start to stand up and take notice and it gives a lot more validity to the amount of time I put in and knowledge I feel I have on the subject of fantasy sports.
How has being a co-host on Grinders Live helped (er, or hurt) your Daily Fantasy game?
Doing the show has really focused my preparation and I now have a pretty solid schedule of what I have to research on a daily basis and a couple of times I have posted a picture of my note sheet on twitter to show the viewers of the show who have become twitter followers of mine what sort of work I put together in order to organize all the info (as well as my thoughts) in order to be able to quicky go through and make quality lineups across three of four sites. I have noticed that on show days my win rate has increased a bit which goes to show that by putting in the extra work I’m definitely getting the results.
When I first became a host on the show some players mentioned to me that I was giving away too much or that people would use my information against me in h2h games or whatever but I honestly haven’t noticed anything of the sort.
What was your approach to qualifying for the DFBC? The DSBC? How would you compare/contrast the strategies for each?
Well, the DSBC on Draft Street has a cap on entries so everyone is on a pretty level playing field. Most of the big dogs put in their five entries and everyone seems to really have a good grasp on what they’re doing over there so it just comes down to trusting your analysis and having you rplayers fullfill and/or surpass your projections for them. The DFBC on Fan Duel is a bit different. The Friday $10 Q is one where you absolutely have to have the perfect lineup because it’s the one where you will see the most variation in all lineups. I even try and make sure to throw in a few lineups that go completely against my analysis just to be sure that I have covered some bases that I certainly didn’t in my “normal” lineups. The $25 game on Tuesdays is a little less crazy, but still gets a lot of multiple entries (I was personally putting in 20-30 a week in that one) so you still have to nail a lineup but it’s not as crazy as the friday one so you don’t have to take as many chances. My favorite though is the Saturday $109 as it’s capped at around two hundred and fifty runners and you can play it straight up. I had said at the beginning of the season that if I was going to win a seat it was going to be in one of the Saturday Q’s, and sure enough…
You’re list of credentials is getting long: 2013 DFBC Finalist, 2013 DSFC Finalist, 2013 DSBBC Champ, 2013 DK Walk Off Champ, 2012 DSFC Finalist —- What is your accomplishment are you most proud of to date?
I have to say that I’ve felt that the Fan Duel Championships were the hardest to qualify for seeing as how I had failed to make it to the Baseball, Football and Basketball ones from last season so I’m extremely excited to be involved in what I feel is the crown jewel of the DFS sport championsips. That being said, when I step back and take a look at it all, being a participant in the DSFC, the DSBBC and DSBC in consecutive seasons is a pretty awesome feeling. In any sport, poker, or DFS you’re ultimately going to be judged by the amount of championships you take down, but in poker someone who consistantly makes final tables is always going to be considered a force to be reckoned with. I’m very proud that I’ve been able to show consistancy across the three sports that I compete in DFS to make the championships at the site that most consider to be the most shark infested of all.
Is it more fun to be at a live final in Vegas and not win (DSFC finals), or to win a big online event (DSBBC Champ/Walk Off Champ)?
Winning a lot of money is always going to be better than not winning a lot of money, but getting to a big Live Event final is pretty amazing. There’s a lot more pressure in the Live finals because if the lineup you pick looks like it’s not going to have a shot you’ve just got to sit there with a smile on your face and root someone else on. I’m an extremely competetive guy so while it was great to sit next to dp47 (someone who I competed against all baseball season and have a TON or respect for) and watch him take down the DSFC title the last three hours were pretty painful for me. It’s pretty embarrassing to be in a room with the scoreboard up on a big screen and see your team at the bottom of it for eight straight hours. Even though I was a pretty big unknown to a lot of people in the industry I felt I had the ability to win it all.
You really just want to have a sweat and not be eliminated in the first half of a live final. If that happens in an online event, you can just shut it down and move onto something else…can’t do that live.
What’s in store for ‘the Smiz’ for the rest of 2013? What trajectory do you see the industry taking, and how will that effect your day-to-day play in Daily Fantasy?
I think that the industry trajectory is pretty clear currently and I think it’s amazing for the players. People are really preparing for a large boom in DFS from the investor side as we’ve seen $18 million pumped into two sites by two very public companies. We’re seeing new sites open on seemingly a monthly basis and the competition this creates is fantastic from my point of view. We’re seeing some sites like Draft Day give huge frequent player initiatives like significant rakeback and fpp programs. Others like Draft Kings offering prize pools that until they offered them were thought to be years down the road and because of that it looks like they’ve pulled Fan Duel and Draft Street along with their King of the Court and Big Score tournaments. Star Street is going WAY out on the limb by offering the PFBC and a $75k first prize and I’m sure we’ll see things go through the roof once football season starts. Competition is great for the consumer and the more these sites compete for our business and compete for new player acquisition we’re just going to see the prize pools go up, and up, and up!
I remember saying to Dan in the podcast interview that I did back when I won the DSBBC that I would describe myself as a Big Game Hunter and nothing since then has changed. I want to play for the biggest first prizes, I want to win the “big check” events and I want to continue qualifying for those events in a consistent manner. Just as important to me is the success of the Grinders Live show. Dave and I give out what we feel are solid plays everyday. I genuinely feel bad when I have a bad night on a show day because the picks I give are the same ones I use in my lineups. Basically, if I have a bad night, I feel that some of our viewers have a bad night as well. I have to admit it’s nice to get messages on twitter from people who have had success with some of our selections, so I’m going to try to keep being consistent, doing the research and hopefully that will lead to not just my success but our viewers as well.
Would you consider yourself to have gone ‘pro’ in Daily Fantasy currently? If not, are you considering it in the future?
Just like when I was playing poker, it’s hard for me to consider myself a pro no matter how immersed I am in the game because I don’t have the weight of having to play for food and rent. I make enough money from what I do that poker then, and DFS now, are very lucrative and time consuming hobbies that I absolutely love. I’m extremely lucky in that respect.
That being said, Fantasy Sports has certainly become what I do on a daily basis. I drop my oldest son off at Pre-school and then I do research and make lineups for the next three to four hours, Take a lunch break, then log in and do the show with Dave and finish my lineups before games start at 4:00pm here on the west coast. So basically I’m doing DFS prep/research/lineups from 9-4 on a daily basis now and making enough money to realistically support a family. So I guess it’s very possible to say that I’ve already “gone pro” but I just don’t think it’s fair to compare my situation to that of someone who does this for food and rent on a daily basis. I always had the utmost respect for my poker friends who fed their families with their decisions on the felt.
Thanks for the time, Al! Any parting comments for the readers?
“If you have the chance to be rich and famous, take the rich and skip the famous” -Michael Jordan