Ask Your Fantasy Former Poker Guy: T.J. Hernandez of 4for4.com

"Donald Brown is more Ryan Mathews than Danny Woodhead. Continue to target Woodhead in PPR leagues."

After reading C.D. Carter’s book, which used the wisdom of high-stakes poker players to help make sense of the DFS landscape, I knew that I had to get T.J. Hernandez in for an interview. He can help you with your entire draft weekend, from how much to tip your stripper (OK, maybe not that far), to your league poker game to the draft itself. T.J. once made a living playing online poker, which makes him my hero. He’s also a Raiders fan so he knows from suffering.

How did you get started in the fantasy football writing game? By having awesome friends. An old poker buddy of mine, Joe Bunevith, works for FanEx.com, a small DFS site, and I kept bugging him to hire me as a blogger for their site, even after he told me that they didn’t need one. Joe ended up pointing me in the direction of Ryan Hodge and Dave Loughran, when they were looking for writers for their old site, TheFantasyBums.com.

When TFB shut down, Ryan and Dave pushed hard for me to get a shot at FantasyInsiders.com and the opportunities have taken off from there. I owe a lot to those guys. I love telling people that story because it shows how you really can create your own luck, and how awesome our community is. Thanks again Joe, Ry, and Dave!

What was your online poker life like? Short. I started playing “full-time”, aka barely paying all of my bills, in December 2010 and Black Friday was April 15, 2011. In retrospect, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was at poker, but I learned a lot of valuable lessons by chasing a passion that was off the beaten path.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but a lot of the things I learned playing poker were setting me up to come into the world of fantasy analytics and daily fantasy sports with a mature and realistic perspective.

Are you a full-time fantasy footballer? Do you enjoy careers where you don’t have to look anyone in the eyes? I wish. I made a couple bucks last season, but football is the only fantasy game I play, so there’s no opportunity for year-round income. Even if I’m lucky enough to approach full-time money from fantasy football, poker showed me that I’ll always want some form of variance-free income in my life.

I’m actually not a complete hermit! I’ve grown an affinity for live poker, and I manage a bar in downtown San Diego, so I’m always surrounded by people. In a perfect world, though, I would definitely only work from my home office.

Regarding your 4for4.com TE streaming series: Is 2014 going to play out like 2013, in that other than Jimmy Graham and maybe Julius Thomas, it makes sense to stream TE? I’d still put Gronk in that category, if healthy, and I think Jordan Cameron and Jordan Reed can easily become no doubt plug-and-play options this year. That being said, tight end is an inherently inconsistent position, and by the time August rolls around and wide receiver and running back competitions are settled, it’ll be hard to justify drafting a Greg Olsen type in the early-ish mid rounds.

4for4’s Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed is so good as a predictive metric, that I’m way more comfortable using it than blindly playing someone like Dennis Pitta every week (Denny might fire me for that one!).

What can you tell the uninitiated about Apex, the leagues and the blog? It’s really the best public money league around, and I don’t just say that because I’m writing for them. I fell in love with Apex last year before I even knew that they knew who I was.

Leagues are hosted on MyFantasyLeague.com which, anyone that plays MFL10s already knows, is a superb hosting site. The format is tailored to favor skill. Full PPR, with 3WR and a flex, and 8 bench spot. They pay out more than any other site I know of and they pay quick (sick brag: I know they pay out quick because I’m a 2013 Apex Champion).

My two favorite features: waivers are decided using a blind bidding system and every week you get 2 games, one head to head and one vs the league average score. This 2 game system really helps eliminate a lot of the luck factor.

As far as the strategy blog goes, it’s really an honor to be on the team with Mike Braude and Asher Molk. These guys are putting out stat-based, advanced metric, subscription quality content for free. Be sure to check out their work.

What’s the sportable DFS series going to be like, now and during the season? Right now I’m putting up a lot of theory based strategy content, currently offering up my thoughts on how to approach each position on your daily fantasy football roster. Before the season starts I’ll be posting a lot of nerdy math stuff that will touch on bankroll requirements and management, ROI, break even percentages, variance, win rates, etc. for both cash games and tournaments. That material should really engage all of our readers from the Black Hole.

During the season you’ll be able to find more of the traditional DFS talk like value plays and maybe even some optimal lineups.

Do you think this year’s crop of rookie WRs might be the exception to the rule of rookie WRs not being redraft-worthy? I’m guessing you saw my article basically telling everyone to avoid rookie wide outs like the plague. The talent from the top rookie receivers is phenomenal, in my opinion, but I don’t foresee much fantasy value. Rookie wide receivers just don’t provide consistent production over the course of an entire season. [Zach note: Second-year guys, other than “Cordy” Patterson, seem like huge bargains.]

Just to touch on a couple probable rookie re-draft targets:

The Bills leveraged a lot to get Sammy Watkins, so he’s going to get the opportunities, but EJ Manuel isn’t good. I have a man crush on Mike Evans, but as a Cal fan I’ve experienced first hand how bad Jeff Tedford is at being an efficient play caller. I think Jordan Matthews could be the focal point in Chip Kelly’s offense…in his second year. [Zach note: You’re hoping for disappointing rookie years to get a deal before year two, which is the new year three.]

While I might sound pessimistic on these guys, I actually think they’re all going to have very good careers. The problem is, if you want them on your team this year, you’re probably going to have to draft them way too early, i.e. before you get into the double digit rounds.

What does DFS have to offer in 2014, other than taking my money? Ha! You and me both buddy! If anyone is familiar with the history of online poker, I really think we’re about to step into the Moneymaker era of DFS. Now that all the major sites are going to guaranteeing MILLIONS of dollars for their NFL players championships, the economy is going to explode.

If I hire you as my draft-day consultant, can I get your help on the fantasy league’s Friday-night poker game as well? Can I just get invited to the poker game myself? Here’s a quick tip: Stop calling. Raise or fold. Everything. Seriously.

I really am excited to offer custom one on one fantasy football advice this year. Denny has put together a Murderer’s Row of consultants. I’m honored to have even made the cut.

The spouse question: Does your wife/sig other/girlfriend have any issues with your football obsession? I’m a single man. I’m still holding out for Wendy Peffercorn.

Football or sex: which do you think of more? You can get sex year round. Football’s only a couple month’s. I’m pretty sure I’ve thought about football while…nevermind.

What’s your usual Sunday football tradition? I’m on the West Coast so I have to set my alarm early. I’m usually up by 7:30am on only a couple hours sleep, walk to the coffee shop to get the blood flowing, and then on the computer setting lineups and such until kickoff. I can’t forget the weekly overly optimistic phone call from my dad about the Raiders every week.

I have Sunday Ticket at my apartment with multiple TVs, so I literally don’t leave my couch until after the Sunday Night game is over. It’s an open house every week, but everyone usually stops coming over about a month in, probably because the only rule is that the Raiders always get the main TV. There’s always plenty of food, so if you’re in SD, come by! [Zach note: I’d party with you and Murph.]

Which football writers are on your must-read list? It’s a long list, and I know I’m going to leave a lot of guys out here. In no particular order if I see these guys post an article on twitter, it’s automatically favorited if I can’t read it right away: CD Carter, Davis Mattek, JJ Zachariason, Fantasy Douche, John Paulsen, Jonathan Bales, James Todd, Rich Hribar, Sal Stefanile. There are so many other awesome fantasy guys putting out insanely good content, though. Check my twitter follows list.

Is there one fantasy league that you want to win over all others? The FFFC.

Realistically, though, my hometown league with my high school friends and brother is the most important league to win. It’s my smallest buy in, but it’s the best banter by far. We have a private league podcast that I host, so losing to any of these guys is not fun. I won the Rusty Trombone in 2013, so it’s been a good off-season.

Tell me about a hobby/interest outside of football. I’m a huge stand up comedy nerd. I try to go to as many live stand up comedy shows as possible. When my schedule allows, I love driving up to LA and going to the Comedy Store. Bill Burr, Ari Shaffir, Paul Virzi, Joe DeRosa, and Tom Segura are killing comedy right now.

Is there anything I failed to ask that you’d like to address? With all your beer talk on twitter, I was hoping we’d get some San Diego microbrewery talk in. I guess you’re just going to have to make a trip out here and try them in person.

Karl Strauss and Ballast Point come to mind as a couple of my favorite locals, but there’s a Mermaid’s Red Ale by Coronado Brewing that I’ve had to order every time I see it on tap somewhere.

Let me know about any sites/podcasts/contests that you’d like to ‘plug’. We’ve pretty much touched on them all, but in case anyone needs links, I write for 4for4.com, Sportable.is, and ApexFantasyLeagues.com, and I’m available for one-on-one consulting at DraftDayConsultants.com.

Thanks T.J., and stay frosty out there in San Diego. Follow him on Twitter.

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One Response to Ask Your Fantasy Former Poker Guy: T.J. Hernandez of 4for4.com

  1. Teddy Hernandez Sr June 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    Enjoy reading my son’s articles. Yes Im overly optimistic this year as well about my Oakland Raiders. Keep up the great work TJ

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