RotoGrinders Interview: Andy "meansy53" Means
You may know him from his popular Premium article series, Core Plays, in which he narrows down the top cash game options for the NBA slate, or from his nightly Crunch Time show, where he and Kevin Roth help viewers with important late-breaking news and the impact it has on that day’s DFS slate.
He’s Andy Means, also known as Meansy53, and he’s one of the most popular figures here at RotoGrinders. Recently Andy took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us, talking about his life as a Duke basketball walk on, and how he could school Dan Back in a game of one-on-one hoops. Enjoy!
RotoGrinders: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and go to school? What did you do before DFS? Are you married, and do you have kids?
Andy Means: I grew up in Indianapolis and went to Lawrence North High School. It is best known these days as the school that Greg Oden and Mike Conley went to. However, it was a basketball powerhouse well before those guys came through. Eric Montross helped win the school’s first state title in 1989, and I’m pretty sure there is a newspaper out there somewhere of him picking me up to celebrate after a Regionals win that year since I ran onto the floor right when the game was over. I caught up with him several years later while I was at Duke since he was doing TV or radio for UNC, and we had a big laugh about it.
Prior to giving this DFS thing a run, I was the Director of the Indiana Athletic Commission for several years. We were tasked with regulating all boxing and MMA events in the state. Between that and joining the RG team, I got my Masters in Accounting from the IU Kelley School of Business. The CPA Exam and I, however, have not yet crossed paths.
I am married and met my wife Meghan through an old Duke teammate. I was living with Chris Duhon in Chicago his rookie year, and Meghan was a Bulls front office employee. We are celebrating our five year anniversary in September. We don’t currently have kids, but have rescued two dogs. Winnie is a pit/lab/terrier mix and is 6 years old. Boogie is six months old, a Dachshund/Bassett mix, and has made an appearance or two on Crunch Time.
RotoGrinders: When did you get into DFS? What was your introduction to it?
Andy Means: I started playing NFL DFS as a hobby in the fall of 2014. Like most guys who start playing DFS, I was a season-long guy and couldn’t get enough of it. I started taking it more seriously with each day that passed, and soon became obsessed with learning as much as I could. With that came some success in NFL, NBA, and MLB.
RotoGrinders: Tell us about your DFS path. The struggles you’ve had… the successes. When did you feel you had become successful enough to consider yourself a pro?
Andy Means: I don’t like to talk too much about my successes. I am not much of a screenshot guy. What good is a big Saturday night if you give a bunch back on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday? Since I am mostly a cash game player, I am more about the daily grind anyways. And with so much good content out there now (and subsequently, optimizers that can give the bottom 5% of DFS players out there a competitive lineup with zero thought), the margin for error in cash games gets thinner by the day. That is probably my biggest struggle; trying to adapt my cash game brain more towards tournaments. To answer your specific question though, I had enough success in my first full year of playing as a hobby (2015) that I decided to give it a try full time. I think I ended 2016 (my first full year as a pro) ranked 30th overall in the RG rankings.
RotoGrinders: Tell us about your daily life, the routines you take, and the approaches you utilize.
Andy Means: When I am not taking Winnie and Boogie for walks, I am trying to read/listen/watch as much sports content as possible. I try to listen to as many podcasts and read as many articles that my day allows me. The more I can learn on a given day, the better. As anyone who has read my RG articles knows, I like getting my content up as early in the morning as possible. That allows me several hours to attend to those things or watch some NBA games that I missed the night before.
RotoGrinders: Do you look/listen to other’s advice? If so, what do you try to glean from it and whose names are at the top of your list?
Andy Means: I definitely try to get a feel for what others in the industry are saying. We have two of the best baseball minds in the business here at RG in Dave Potts and JM Tohline. When I have down time, I am almost certainly putting on a Grinders Live show of some sort or reading some other content on our website such as Noto’s Grind Down.
And you’d be a fool not to listen to everything that Evan Silva and Adam Levitan have to say about the NFL. I have to mention Drew Dinkmeyer and Mike Leone at DailyRoto too, as they were key in helping me add an NBA analytical process to the basketball background I already had.
RotoGrinders: How many lineups do you typically enter on a slate? If more than one, what is your approach?
Andy Means: Since I mostly play cash games, I usually play one lineup per slate per site. When I am doing Crunch Time during NBA season, I try to just keep that to one site. It can get pretty stressful doing that when news is breaking! Trying to juggle more than one lineup probably wouldn’t be profitable most nights.
Especially during MLB season, I try to pick out a slate every week or so to try my hand at MME’ing/scripting. I think it is important to expand my horizons a little bit and get out of my comfort zone, and I have found MLB to be the best sport to try that at.
RotoGrinders: What’s your biggest night in DFS and what do you remember most about it? Your worst night and similarly what do you remember about it?
Andy Means: One of my best nights that sticks out to me was Kobe’s last night. Hindsight is hilarious in that everyone thinks he was the biggest lock of all time that night, but I thought there was real concern that he would only play a few minutes that night and maybe get a curtain call at the end. It was enough of concern that I didn’t want to go all in across the industry, so I played him on FanDuel in my one lineup and faded him on DraftKings. I remember having a big night on FanDuel because of him, as the rest of my team was close to the nuts too. He wasn’t nearly as high owned as some people make it out to be when they talk about that night now.
RotoGrinders: You provide Premium content for RotoGrinders, most notably the NBA Core Plays and nightly lock show, Crunch Time. Tell us about the type of work you do and how Premium members can benefit from your content.
Andy Means: Weirdly enough, the Core Plays article originated from when I’d get frustrated with my own roster construction on certain nights . I’d wipe my lineup clean, completely start over, and ask myself “Ok, who are the absolute must plays I have to have in my lineup?”, and then I’d work it out from there. When I’d have friends who play casually text me and say “who are some good DraftKings plays tonight?”, I’d do that same exercise and give them 3-5 players or whatever it might be. So that was the basis for the Core Plays article. I remember when I was a noob first starting to read articles at RotoGrinders, I’d frequently find myself with all of these “good plays” but unsure who exactly to prioritize. So that is what my article tries to accomplish.
As for Crunch Time, I think people benefit from that because I’m not sure there is anything else like it in the industry that takes you right up until lock. We react to news on the spot, and I talk through the challenges in my own roster construction that I’m sure everyone else is going through at the same time. And it is also a bit of an extension from my Core Plays article, so I try to bring it all together during the show. I have really enjoyed it, as Roth and I hit it off from the get-go.
RotoGrinders: If you had one piece of advice to offer to a player new to NBA DFS in terms of strategy, what would it be and why?
Andy Means: Be active on Twitter! You can gain so much knowledge from beat writers about minutes, rotations, etc. that some people are too lazy to look for. Be engaging too…a lot of beat writers enjoy the conversation.
RotoGrinders: Who are your favorite NBA beat writers?
1. Rod Beard
2. Anyone else who answers my questions on Twitter
RotoGrinders: Give me a basic outline of your day-by-day from the time you wake up until you go to sleep (what you do with kids, DFS, RG work, etc.)
Andy Means: I am usually up anywhere between 4 AM and 6 AM. My wife gets up early to work out in the morning, so it is hit or miss if I fall back asleep! Once I am up and have taken the pups out, I get to work on whatever RG article I am writing that day. I know people like early content to digest, so I take pride in having that stuff up early. Whenever that is done, I grab a quick bite to eat. Then I try to prioritize articles, podcasts, etc. that I want to knock out for an hour or two before I do my initial sweep of RG Consensus Value Rankings for the day. The next several hours is when I really dig into my DFS lineup(s) for the day. For instance, I look at Basketball Reference, the NBA.com Stats page, CourtIQ, etc. Once I feel that I have the slate fully analyzed, I do another sweep of my CVR.
Usually, that leaves me with about an hour before I need to start setting up for Crunch Time. How I spend that hour varies day by day.
Since I do all of the production on Crunch Time, I try to start that process 30 minutes before we go live in case I run into any problems. Once the show is done, I immediately sit down to dinner with my wife. She gets home right around when the show goes off air, so we usually tag team dinner preparation most nights.
Once we eat, we go for a walk with our dogs, and then I’ll try to digest as many NBA games as my eyes allow me. Sometime I will take a night off from watching games and catch up on recorded shows with my wife. (which makes for a more jam-packed following day)
RotoGrinders: What shows do you and your wife like to watch?
Andy Means: The Crown, Homeland, Chicago PD, Modern Family, Game of Thrones House of Cards, Law and Order SVU, My wife made me watch One Tree Hill from the beginning with her because she thought I’d like it. It turns out that she is just obsessed with Nathan Scott and thinks I remind her of him (which is probably why she married me)
RotoGrinders: What does your wife think of your career in DFS?
Andy Means: It’s a story we share with friends and family now, but she made me give her a Powerpoint presentation when I told her I wanted to do it full time.
RotoGrinders: You were obviously an athlete in high school and college – where did your love of sports come from? When did you start playing? Do you miss it and is DFS somewhat of a replacement for it in letting you do something on a competitive level?
Andy Means: I’m not sure where my love of sports came from, but I know I was playing them all at a very young age. I was in my first basketball league as a kindergartner or 1st grader, and the same with tee ball. I never played peewee football, but our neighborhood of kids always had a game going in my backyard.
To be brutally honest, I don’t miss playing sports one bit. Basketball became such a huge part of my life growing up, that I was pretty burnt out by the time I got to my senior year of high school. I had a pretty traumatic experience my junior year too, when our starting center (who was heading to Kentucky the following year) died in the middle of a Regionals game. We were #2 in the state, and the team we were facing was #1. We didn’t know he had died at the time, so we finished the game and lost in overtime. That was by far my favorite year ever playing basketball, and having it come crashing to a halt like that pretty much sapped up my love for the game. I remember just not really caring about playing the game at all the following year.
RotoGrinders: Tell us about your Duke experience. What made you go there? Walk on for the basketball team? How was that experience and playing with the team? What do you remember most about it?
Andy Means: If I hadn’t gotten accepted into Duke, my basketball career would have for sure been over. I was prepared to go to Purdue and just be a normal student.
However, to say I grew up as a huge Duke fan would be an understatement. A ton of family members from my Mom’s side of the family went to Duke (we are talking going back several generations). My Dad went to Duke. My parents got married in the Duke Chapel. I think my Mom figured out I was the 31st person in our family tree to go to Duke.
If you saw me when I was a kid, I guarantee I had something Duke on. I went to the Final Four in Indy in 1991 when we beat UNLV and Coach got his first title. I went when they came several years later for an early round game in the down years. I think my first game I attended in Cameron was in 1996. Duke Basketball was all I cared about, but I never really thought I’d really ever go there and be able to play for obvious reasons (i.e. my athletic ability).
I don’t remember how the momentum started (whether it was my high school coach or AAU coach), but the Duke basketball office and I made contact and they told me they’d be interested in having me be a possible walk-on if I could get admitted to the school. I got waitlisted initially but ultimately got admitted. Once that happened, an assistant coach called and said they wanted me to live with the two freshmen recruits (Chris Duhon, Andre Sweet) and that I would be working out with the team initially. No decisions would be made about whether I’d be on the team.
Once I started working out with them, I was pretty overwhelmed physically and mentally. I didn’t think I was in good enough shape to compete and my grades started out awfully in the classroom. Schoolwork came easy to me in high school, but Duke was a different animal. On top of that, they already had about 15 guys on the roster returning from last year’s team, with a couple more possibly moving over after football ended (Reggie Love ultimately did; Shane Battier’s brother, Jeremy, ultimately did not). So between my own issues and not thinking I was going to make the team anyways, I told the coaching staff that it wasn’t for me. I still lived with the players, got to know everyone else on the team really well, and improved my grades.
By the time the next summer rolled around, I was ready to roll. I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t give it a true shot, and the basketball office was fine with me trying again. I got in the best shape of my life that summer and had no problem making the team when it came down to it.
The experience itself was obviously unlike anything I have ever done or will do. When I think back on it, I usually go back to three things. The first is the goosebumps I got whenever we ran out for warmups at home games. That is when I fully appreciated that I was actually living out my dream. The second is hanging onto literally every word that Coach K. said. Since I, you know, never really played, I thoroughly looked forward to long film sessions. That is arguably where I learned the most. And I never had to worry about him picking on me! Win-win right there.
The last thing is just being around the guys in the locker room, on campus, on the bus, on the airplanes. Some of those guys are still a few of my closest friends to this day, so being around them all the time was as good as it could get even when we weren’t hooping.
RotoGrinders: Who would win a one-on-one game between yourself and BigT? Would you school Dan Back in a hoops match? Are you old as dirt?
Andy Means: First and foremost, anything that involves full court automatically eliminates me. I could not be more out of shape. And since I graduated college, I can probably count on two hands how many times I have played pickup basketball. It is just not something I enjoy doing that much.
That being said, I’d have my work cut out for me against BigT. That boy can still hoop. If I had a week or so to iron out my game, I don’t think he’d be able to stop me from scoring since it would just be a halfcourt game. I, of course, wouldn’t fare any better stopping him. When it’s all said and done, he’d probably have the edge.
I do think I could take Dan Back though! He was surprisingly spry when we played in Nashville, but I think I could take him one on one. Sorry DB!
I’m not sure if I am old as dirt, but I certainly feel like that when I play basketball now. The grey hairs don’t help either. So I guess that’s a yes?
RotoGrinders: Thanks for the awesome interview Andy!