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GregR

Understanding MFL blind bidding waivers in depth

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Was answering some questions for someone in PM and decided this might as well just be a post. I'm going to be speaking specifically about how MFL does conditional Blind Bidding (BB) waivers, but I would be surprised to find out other sites do it very differently.

Basics:

If you understand queued up waivers, then you already understand the basics of conditional Blind Bidding waivers. Just like in queued up waivers, you enter a prioritized list of players you want to get in each "round", including a player that you wish to drop if you are awarded one of your chosen players. Of course you also include a bid on each of your players. You can also specify a player to drop only if you win the bid.

In queued up waivers, if you submit 3 rounds, at most you'll get 3 players. If you submit 3 rounds of BB waivers, you'll also at most get 3 players. Just like in queued waivers, once you are awarded a player because of him being in a round, anything else from that entire round is dropped. If you want 1 RB and 1 QB, then submit 1 round of all RBs and 1 round of all QBs. If you want 1 IDP regardless of position, and 1 RB, and 1 other offensive player regardless of position including other RBs, submit 3 rounds. One with all IDPs, one with only RBs, and one with all offensive players including RBs.

So in both systems, you only get 1 player out of each round. But here are where things differ. In BB, order of the rounds is (mostly) interchangeable. If you want 1 RB, 1 WR and 1 QB, it doesn't matter if you put the RBs in round 1, or round 2, or round 3. The computer picks a player to resolve bidding on, and it looks at every one of your rounds to see what player is left at the top of that round, and if he matches the player being resolved. It doesn't matter if the player is currently at the top of your round 3 or your round 1, it's all the same as all rounds get looked at. So long as the player is available, you can afford the bid, and any player you specified to be dropped as a condition is actually still on your roster. You could even have the same player at the top of two different rounds, in which case both bids would be considered and the higher one would win.

Hopefully, you're now wondering why I said "mostly" above in regards to order of rounds not mattering. I'll get to that soon, but first we need to look behind the scenes at how the computer resolves bidding waivers so we understand how to get our most advantage out of them.


Note: For blind bidding waivers that are not conditional, it's the same thing except you can only put a single player into each "round". Again, the order of your rounds plays mostly no role in the outcome.


Details, details... Resolution Order Matters

When my league first went to blind bidding waivers, I was manually processing them so owners could submit detailed instructions (If I win this player I'm going to drop this player and accept Joe's trade of...) and I'd carry them out. However, I quickly came to realize that the order in which I resolved bidding on players changes the results. It didn't seem that should be so, but once I'd gone through the steps manually, it was clear why it happens, and that it's an inescapable thing that will happen whether it's done manually or by computer. At which point we switched to letting the computer do all the resolution. Both so it was consistent, and so there would be no reason to wonder if I was resolving them in an order that would help my team.

So let's go through an example to illustrate how order matters a lot. Consider the following 3 teams, each of whom submitted one round of BB waivers:


Team 1:
Round 1
Jerry Rice $3
Earl Campbell $10
Warren Moon $5

Team 2:
Round 1:
Earl Campbell $5
Bart Starr $7

Team 3:
Round 1:
Jerry Rice $4
Steve Largent $3


Now let's resolve the bidding. Let's say that I decide to resolve the bidding on Jerry Rice first, and then on Earl Campbell. For each player being resolved, I look at the top bid that is still valid (not counting players already eliminated).

Jerry Rice: Team 3 bids $4. Team 1 bids $3. Result: Team 3 gets Rice for $4

Campbell: Jerry Rice is gone, so Team 1's top player is now Campbell for $10. Team 2 has Campbell for $5. Team 3's round is completely gone because it was already used for a player. So Team 1 gets Earl Campbell for $10.

Bart Starr: Team 1's round took a player so is used up. The only remaining round is Team 2 who now has Bart Starr as the top remaining player, so he gets Starr.


Ok, now let's instead resolve the bidding on Earl Campbell first:

Campbell: Team 2 is the only team who has Campbell at the top of any round. Team 1 won't be awarded Campbell while a higher priority player is above him in their round. His bid on Campbell isn't even looked at since there is a player above him that is still available. So Team 2 gets Campbell for $5 as it is currently the only bid placed on him.

Jerry Rice: Team 3's bid of $4 again beats Team 1's bid of $3, so Team 3 gets Jerry Rice.

Warren Moon: Team 1 is the only player with a round left the hasn't taken a player, and the top available player in it is now Warren Moon, so he gets him.


So two identical sets of waiver claims gave different results based on which player we handled bidding for. Team 1 got Campbell for $10 in one scenario, and Team 2 got him for $5 in another. And we didn't do anything "wrong" in either situation. You can imagine if this happened in a league and the second set of results happened, the Team 1 owner might feel like he was robbed, because he didn't get Rice, and Campbell was awarded for $5 when he was willing to pay $10. From his standpoint, he'd feel robbed because he doesn't understand that the order of resolution mattered.

In reality he wasn't robbed. If this exact situation was put into MFL, the second result would be the one the computer would come up with (for reasons I'll come to in a bit). Imagine if the auction had happened live... Campbell was auctioned off first and Team 1 refrained from bidding because he wanted to get Rice more than Campbell. Then later he loses out on Rice too, not willing to go over $3. So the results do match what would have happened live if the owner stuck to his stated values for the players in his bidding.

At this point you might say, "But Greg, can't the computer, or certainly a human being, look deeper into the rounds and see that this is going to happen and so choose to resolve the bidding on Rice first to avoid that happening to Owner 1?" Yes, for my example that would be possible. But other possible examples, there is no way even for a human being to work out a 'best' order. You could have multiple teams going after the same few players in different combinations where there is no perfect order to it that sticks to owner's expressed priorities but no one misses out on a player they were willing to pay more than anyone else for. So you just have to decide a method for choosing the order in which players are resolved, and stick with it consistently. Which is what the CPU does.

So as you can see, the order in which bidding resolves can drive the results when you have some owners who have a player higher up in their rounds than others. Keep in mind then that you can't just assume a high bid for a player placed in the middle of one your rounds is going to be counted when the player is awarded. It might be, or it might not be. But we can maximize our chances if we understand the order in which MFL decides to award players. I'll come back to how to maximize your team's chances in BB waivers in the Conclusions.


How the CPU resolution of blind bidding works:

I'll preface this by saying, I came to these conclusions about 6 years ago when I created a test league in MFL and did a series of BB waivers to test various scenarios to figure out how it works. While it could have changed, I believe this is still accurate, but I'm not 100% certain.

I believe the CPU chooses players to resolve bidding in the following manner:

1) It looks at the top available player in every round for every owner, and chooses the player from that group who has the highest bid placed on him.
2) In the event of a tie between 2 owners, I believe the priority tiebreaker in the settings would be used (worst to first, earliest placed bid, etc).
3) In the event a single owner has 2 or more players from different rounds with the same highest bid, then the player from his earliest round is resolved first. (This is the case that led me above to say round "mostly" does not matter... it only matters in this kind of tiebreak and seldom at that).


You can actually confirm this is the order by just looking at some BB waiver results and seeing the order they are reported. For example, a small set of waivers from last year in my league:

16. Team 1 Waiver acquired Rodgers, Jacquizz ATL RB for $7.00 dropped Mason, Derrick FA WR - Wed Dec 7 8:00:15 p.m. CT 2011
17. Team 2 Waiver acquired Reece, Marcel OAK RB for $5.00 - Wed Dec 7 8:00:15 p.m. CT 2011
18. Team 2 Waiver acquired Williams, Kyle SFO WR for $1.00 - Wed Dec 7 8:00:15 p.m. CT 2011

As you can see, it found the highest bid player at the top of a list, Quiz for $7, and resolved him first. Then it repeated it, found a $5 bid on Reece and resolved it. Then it started on the $1 players. If there were multiple $1 players and we checked the time stamps the bids were submitted, we should see that the earliest submitted bid won since that is how my league resolves ties.


Conclusions: How We Use This To Our Advantage

First, for commissioners, just understanding that the order of bidding does matter can help if you have to deal with an irate, time-traveling owner who missed out on Earl Campbell. And you should probably make people aware how it works so they have an expectation, and so if they argue about it later you can point them to your email or league post where you told them that is how it would happen. Of course, doing so gives them a similar leg up as you are getting by reading this article, but hey, you're the commish, be ethical. You can just leave out this conclusions section. :)

As for looking at this from an owner's standpoint... you have to realize that putting a potentially higher bid on a player somewhere other than at the top of a round may result in your bid not being counted on him. There is no perfect way around it. Let's say you like Player A at $4, but if you miss him then you'll want Player B at $10. There really is no way to be sure you will get only one or the other even if your player B bid may be more than anyone else was willing to pay. If the highest still-eligible bid at the top of rounds on Player B is higher than the bids at the top of rounds on Player A, then Player B would be resolved first by the CPU and your bid wouldn't be counted.

You'd just have to decide if you're willing to risk that Player B might go to someone for $6 before Player A is awarded, causing you to miss both people. So in some cases, you may just have to decide to go with your second choice as your top priority, just to be safe. Other times, if you're taking a flyer on several players, maybe you are more ok with it if you don't get either one, so just leave them as they are. Or you could place each in their own round, but that might get you both of them. Though there are tricks to sometimes can avoid that.

Occasionally you can get creative with the option to drop a player if you win the bidding. If you list such a player, and he's already gone from your roster because he was removed when you won some other bid, it will invalidate this bid. So you could use it like this... let's say I really want at least 1 of 3 WRs. If I put all 3 in the same list, I face an increased chance I may not get any of the three despite being willing to pay more. So instead I submit 3 different rounds, each with a single WR in it. So this way, each is always at the top of a round and my bid on him will be considered no matter the order the CPU resolves them. In addition, I specify that my backup TE be dropped as part of winning the bid on any of the three. In this case, if I'm awarded one of my WRs, my backup TE is dropped. Since he is no longer available to be dropped, the bids on the other two WRs I wanted are invalidated since their conditions cannot be met. So by having them all share the same player to be dropped, and set in different rounds, I increased my chances of getting at least one of the three, but still limited myself to only get one of the three WRs. But I lost my control over which of the three I get. Generally the one I had the highest bid on would be the one I'd get, or if all had the same bid, the one I put in the earliest round.

You can also get similarly creative with roster space, or sometimes with remaining bid money (or cap space if a hard cap), though it's more difficult. An example might be... I'm bidding $10 on Starting RB. If I win, I also want to bid $4 on his Handcuff RB... but if I lose, I don't want to bid on Handcuff RB at all. Let's say I only have $2 in hard cap room currently. I could submit:

Round 1: Starting RB $10 + drop $13 Player X.
Round 2: $4 on Handcuff RB.

Let's say I lose out on the bidding on the Starting RB. When it tries to resolve the bidding on Handcuff RB, I still only have $2 in cap space. Not enough for my $4 bid, so it's an invalid bid and the system ignores it, so I don't get the Handcuff RB which is good since I missed the starter. But... if instead I win on the Starting RB... then in getting him, my $13 player is dropped, raising me to $15 in cap space before Starting RB takes up $10 of it. Which leaves me with $5, so when it comes time to resolve the bidding on Handcuff RB, I do have enough money for him, so would get him if it is the high bid.

Of course if I'd had $30 in cap room going into the above situation, I couldn't have made that work in the same fashion. But the point is, if you understand the steps the system walks through in resolving the bidding, you can try to find ways to eek out an edge in your waiver moves by combining the rounds, the conditional dropped player, and your cap room or blind bidding funds.



Hope some people find this of use. Questions or comments of course welcomed. If I get time next year to go confirm MFL is still working the same, and maybe go test some other league sites, might turn this into an actual article for next year with some more examples of creative bidding.

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Ahh the memories. I used to do this by hand too.

Now, here's my Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Blind Bidding Waivers.

1. Only play on sites that support and execute blind bid waivers for you

2. Have a cold beer.

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Ahh the memories. I used to do this by hand too.Now, here's my Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Blind Bidding Waivers.1. Only play on sites that support and execute blind bid waivers for you2. Have a cold beer.

Heh, yes, it definitely was a pain to do them by hand. Though the knowledge gained from doing so has definitely given me an edge in using waivers with the cpu resolving them for us. Just realizing the order that players get resolved is huge and the implications can help you get an extra player or two a year that you might have missed otherwise.

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I thought this was a great piece, and then though I would bump to see if anyone has any other thoughts and advice on this.

I stink at this so here I am trying to learn. Primarily I tend to underbid to begin with but then again I do very well at the end of the year, but it's a struggle.

It seems that the first week waivers can be perhaps almost (almost) as important as the draft.

What are people's experiences in this first week of bidding and do they bid harder/higher than the rest of the year?

Thanks.

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I thought this was a great piece, and then though I would bump to see if anyone has any other thoughts and advice on this.I stink at this so here I am trying to learn. Primarily I tend to underbid to begin with but then again I do very well at the end of the year, but it's a struggle.It seems that the first week waivers can be perhaps almost (almost) as important as the draft.What are people's experiences in this first week of bidding and do they bid harder/higher than the rest of the year?Thanks.

Let people overpay. There are mid season gems that are nice to have control over. Always. If you can wait til first come first serve after waivers and add some sleepers... this is best trick...

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Good write-up Greg.

Do you or does anybody else have info on BB on RTSPorts in particular? How does it differ, if at all, resolution-wise? What's the process for Owners to enter in their bids on the site?

Specifically, owners can be averse to change and they might think it's "harder" and "takes more time" to do BB. Of course it's an easy sell that it's more fair and that each owner has a chance at every player. But how does the interface "look" as it tracks "Dollars Remaining" and any other pertinent BB related info? TIA

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I thought this was a great piece, and then though I would bump to see if anyone has any other thoughts and advice on this.I stink at this so here I am trying to learn. Primarily I tend to underbid to begin with but then again I do very well at the end of the year, but it's a struggle.It seems that the first week waivers can be perhaps almost (almost) as important as the draft.What are people's experiences in this first week of bidding and do they bid harder/higher than the rest of the year?Thanks.

Let people overpay. There are mid season gems that are nice to have control over. Always. If you can wait til first come first serve after waivers and add some sleepers... this is best trick...
One thing: judgement.There is more strategy because the word "flyer" has meaning.You want a player? You think he might pan out? Well having a budget means you had better be right if you spend your budget early. This has been a bad year for free agent stars, so spending cheap early would have been the better course.

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Good write-up Greg.Do you or does anybody else have info on BB on RTSPorts in particular? How does it differ, if at all, resolution-wise? What's the process for Owners to enter in their bids on the site? Specifically, owners can be averse to change and they might think it's "harder" and "takes more time" to do BB. Of course it's an easy sell that it's more fair and that each owner has a chance at every player. But how does the interface "look" as it tracks "Dollars Remaining" and any other pertinent BB related info? TIA

Unfortunately haven't used RTS before, so not sure how they differ. Hopefully someone else who does will chime in.

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Thanks for this; it clears up a lot of confusion. Great work!

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Shark Pool,

I don't want to take this thread too far off topic, but does anyone have any good links to why a blind bid system is better than a FCFS waiver system?

I have one league that I am in that is very resistant to change from the FCFS system that is currently in place, and I would like to make my case as to why we should switch to a blind bid system. It is particularly bad in this league because the waivers are open 24/7 -even while the games are being played!

The top 2 reasons that I can think of are:

1. Fairness, as it gives all teams an equal shot at free agents, not just the guys who can sit around all day watching the games with their laptops & mobile devices handy.

2. Strategy. A blind bid system adds a layer of strategy and complexity that can enhance the enjoyment of a good league.

Thanks in advance!

Faust

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Shark Pool,

I don't want to take this thread too far off topic, but does anyone have any good links to why a blind bid system is better than a FCFS waiver system?

I have one league that I am in that is very resistant to change from the FCFS system that is currently in place, and I would like to make my case as to why we should switch to a blind bid system. It is particularly bad in this league because the waivers are open 24/7 -even while the games are being played!

The top 2 reasons that I can think of are:

1. Fairness, as it gives all teams an equal shot at free agents, not just the guys who can sit around all day watching the games with their laptops & mobile devices handy.

2. Strategy. A blind bid system adds a layer of strategy and complexity that can enhance the enjoyment of a good league.

Thanks in advance!

Faust

That's the only two reason one needs.

Unsure how having FCFS open even during games even makes sense to anyone who has the ability to think but then again we still see tons of leagues that have "trade-voting" so... :shrug:

Is there an argument for not having a fair BBID system in place so people who can't be online all day or at some exact moment aren't at a disadvantage?

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Shark Pool,

I don't want to take this thread too far off topic, but does anyone have any good links to why a blind bid system is better than a FCFS waiver system?

I have one league that I am in that is very resistant to change from the FCFS system that is currently in place, and I would like to make my case as to why we should switch to a blind bid system. It is particularly bad in this league because the waivers are open 24/7 -even while the games are being played!

The top 2 reasons that I can think of are:

1. Fairness, as it gives all teams an equal shot at free agents, not just the guys who can sit around all day watching the games with their laptops & mobile devices handy.

2. Strategy. A blind bid system adds a layer of strategy and complexity that can enhance the enjoyment of a good league.

Thanks in advance!

Faust

#1 mostly seals it, especially in this smartphone/Twitter age.

However, I only want to be in leagues that have FCFS from the end of blind bidding through the start of games.

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