#2 RAPTOR 101: “When to Hold, When to Sell, and When to Take Hits”.

In the second article of this series, we deviate away from advice on coping mechanisms and positive thinking, and instead focus on the decision-making process, and what Psychology can teach us about how we should conduct our transfer business.

The following Psychological concepts will be considered, specifically in relation to FPL transfers:

  1. The Endowment Effect / Mere Ownership Effect
  2. The Availability Heuristic
  3. Reacting vs. Over Reacting
  4. Risk-taking in Moderation
  1. The Endowment Effect – What is it and How Does it Affect FPL?

Photo Credits: https://kenthendricks.com/endowment-effect/

Originating from Economics and Consumer Psychology (e.g., Kahneman, Knetsch, & Thaler, 1990), the ‘Endowment Effect‘ can be defined as the circumstance in which individuals place higher value on an object that they already own, than the value they would place on that same object if they did not own it (Thaler, 1980).

This is closely related to the ‘Mere Ownership Effect’ in Social Psychology, which describes the circumstance in which people who own an object tend to evaluate that object more positively than people who do not (Beggan, 1992).

What impact does this have on FPL?

It highlights a very worthwhile consideration you should have when deciding whether to hold or to sell a player. Often, our desire to hold a player could be cognitively biased by our mere ownership of that player, or, in a similar fashion, due to the investment you have already made. As a result, a good question to ask yourself is the following:

“If I did not own this player, would I want to transfer him into my team?”

If the answer to this question is no, but you find yourself holding onto that player regardless, you may be experiencing the Endowment Effect / Mere Ownership Effect.

My advice in this situation, is to SELL SELL SELL. Do not hold a player just because you own them and because you have invested in them to this point. If you would not want to transfer this player into your team as a hypothetical non-owner, you should not have him in your team now!

The only caveat here, is when there is the issue of having money tied up in a player that you may want to transfer back in at a later date. Here, the decision becomes a bit trickier, as your investment isn’t just trust and patience, but actual money (virtual FPL money) that could be lost.


2. The Availability Heuristic – The Dark Side of FPL Social Media

Photo Credits: https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/availability-heuristic/

When deciding whether or not to sell our players / take a hit, and more importantly, who to replace them with, we must consider the Availability Heuristic (e.g., Schwarz et al., 1991).

In FPL, the Availability Heuristic is the tendency to utilise information that is widely covered and discussed in order to make our decisions.

Consider this: you have £7.5 to spend on a midfielder heading into GW35+. If you are active over on Twitter, you will (probably) immediately think ‘Pulisic’.

Now if I were to ask you why you think this, you may show me some statistics that support your decision, or suggest that he passed the ‘eye test’, but the likely matter is that you have used your availability heuristic. Having seen his name plastered over social media, he is the first name that pops into your head.

This availability heuristic is often the driving force behind many transfers, especially knee-jerk transfers!

Sometimes I make a transfer to bring in a player, and I don’t even know why I did it – the availability heuristic! My own personal example of this was Kane for GW34+. I brought him in for Jiménez, and then sat there looking at my screen thinking: “Why did I do this?” *Sigh*… I really should start taking my own advice!

So what should we do?

Research by Kahneman (2011) suggests that there are two systems for thinking:

  • System 1 Thinking: Fast, instinctive and emotional.
  • System 2 Thinking: Deliberate, careful and reflective.

My advice is that we should (as often as possible) engage in ‘System 2 Thinking’, utilising our mental network that is involved in deliberate, careful and reflective decision-making. This does not mean you cannot trust your own gut feeling, but instead that we should not be impulsive or purely react to the information that comes immediately to mind.

In other words, do not succumb to System 1 Thinking (fast and emotional) which is catalysed by social media – instead, do your research, and consider your decisions without the availability bias.

In any regard, being more aware of our own intrinsic biases can act as a safeguard against fallacious reasoning and poor decision-making, and encourage us to consider seeking a wider range of information. As a result, keep this concept in your mind!

3. Reacting vs. Over-Reacting

Photo Credits: https://www.slideshare.net/CARLNASSAR/learning-to-regulate-ourselves-reacting-vs-overreacting

Being reactive and adaptive is perhaps one of the most important aspects of being a top FPL manager. On Twitter, many top FPL managers such as @lateriser12 (top 100 player) emphasise the importance of being adaptive in response to an ever-changing game.

However, there is a difference between being reactive and over-reactive. In this light, there are certain reactions that I would suggest come under the umbrella term of an ‘over-reaction’:

  1. Taking a hit based on one match or GW.
  2. Taking a hit to remove a player because he didn’t pass one ‘eye-test’.
  3. Taking a hit to transfer a player in because of one ‘eye-test’.
  4. Taking hits on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
  5. Completing very early transfers because of a potential price rise.

In isolation, these types of over-reactive decisions can pay dividends. However, more often than not, regular over-reactions (i.e., taking hits and frequent transfers) will only hinder your ability to develop a strategy and make consistent and logical decisions.

4. Risk-Taking in Moderation – One Step at a Time

Photo Credits: https://drmikemd.com/the-8-types-of-risk-takers

My final piece of advice is on risk-taking, which is relevant to holding, selling and taking hits. The key take home message from this section is:

“Take risks, but do so in moderation!”

This can be linked to the aforementioned ‘over-reacting’ section. Indeed, many FPL managers will claim they are not over-reacting and are just taking a necessary ‘risk’.

However, taking risks needn’t be extensive and wholesale every week.

I like to (try to) limit myself to one big risk each week. In this way, we allow ourselves to be adaptive and differential (key attributes to successfully playing FPL), but we limit the tendency for us to fall victim to our intrinsic biases and in turn take several risks.

Taking risks one step at a time, means that if the risks we take end up being unsuccessful, it is not completely disastrous for our GW, rank, and FPL experience!

This was written and produced by @FPL__Raptor – click the link to follow him on Twitter, to get more Psychological musings in relation to FPL, to keep up to date with his own progress, or to just be friendly and say hello. 


Beggan, J. K. (1992). On the social nature of nonsocial perception: the mere ownership effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(2), 229-237.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1990). Experimental tests of the endowment effect and the Coase Theorem. The Journal of Political Economy, 98(6), 1325-1348.

Schwarz, N., Bless, H., Strack, F., Klumpp, G., Rittenauer-Schatka, H., & Simons, A. (1991). Ease of retrieval as information: another look at the availability heuristic. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 195-202.

Thaler, R. (1980). Toward a positive theory of consumer choice. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 1(1), 39-60.

*Photo credits for the featured image: https://www.projectboldlife.com/achievement/four-steps-smart-risk-taking/*


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