How to Calculate Max Bid in an Auction Draft

Last Updated January 31, 2023

One of the most requested custom draft features of 2020 has been the ability to set and adjust a minimum bid. One of the most controversial aspects of auction drafts is whether or not to have a max bid, and how to handle multiple teams vying for the same player when their max bids are equal. So let's have a fireside chat about these auction draft mechanics and what makes them so challenging.

Minimum Bids

Minimum bids are pretty straightforward and self-explanatory, to be honest. There only exists a question of how to implement a minimum bid so that it feels natural.

Dibs Theory

On Drafty, the nominating team defines their opening bid before nominating a player, and when that player comes up for auction the nominating team automatically claims the opening bid. That's what we call dibs!

If the nominating team has filled their roster or gone bankrupt before their nomination comes up for auction, then they forfeit their dibs (obviously) and the opening bid can be claimed by anyone for the minimum bid amount.

Max Bids

Isn't it funny how we commonly abbreviate the word maximum when referring to "max bid" but almost never shorten the word minimum to say "min bid"? There's your shower thought for the day.

Calculating Max Bid

Max Bid when not enforcing full rosters

Max bids are more difficult to calculate than most people expect. Suppose that you have $78 in your budget and 13 roster spots left to fill. If your league doesn't require a full roster and allows teams to spend their entire budget on a single player, it's not hard at all. This would mean a team's max bid is always equal to their remaining budget. Easy.

(budget) = (max bid)
78 = $78

Max Bid when enforcing full rosters

Now suppose that full rosters are enforced (which is the Drafty default mechanic). Things get more complicated.

Go ahead and figure the equation for yourself before I give it to you... suppose your budget remaining is $78 and you have 13 roster spots left to draft. What's your max bid, assuming a $1 minimum bid and a requirement that you fill your roster?

Here's the correct answer...

(budget) - (roster - 1) = (max bid)
78 - (13 - 1) = $66

Did you get it right? If you bid $66 on the next auction, you'll have 12 roster spots and $12 left in your team budget. This is the math that gives people pause, particularly after they lose an auction because they hit their max bid ceiling unexpectedly.

If that concept bends your mind a little, get ready for a full-blown headache. What do you do when two teams have the same max bid, and they both want the current player really badly?

Max Bid Tiebreakers

In a traditional auction draft, the format provided by the mainstream fantasy league providers, there has been no creative problem-solving around the concept of a tie.

No creative solutions from the big fantasy sites

Suppose that two or three teams all have identical max bids, and they are each willing to go all-in for a player now on the auction block. On ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, MFL, Sleeper, and Fleaflicker it's all the same - the team who gets to the bid button fastest will be able to place their max bid and win the auction. That's not very strategic, but since there has never been another mechanism offered as an alternative, drafters have never demanded innovation. That's where Drafty comes in and our manual bid (called Flash Bid) can be turned off by commish in the draft settings.

Drafty default emphasizes +1 bids and manual bid protection

On Drafty, we use a +1 bidding system and an innovative Overbid Shield that protects other bidders when one person makes a manual bid (called Flash Bid). We encourage bidders to make use of Auto Bid - another Drafty-exclusive bid button that automatically outbids your opponents up to your target value for the current player.

In a traditional draft room you might bid $40 manually when no one else is willing to go above $25, so you may spend $15 more than you needed to to win a player. With Auto Bid, you'll obnoxiously outbid everyone who tries to nickel-and-dime the auction and eventually win with a $26 bid. This saves your virtual budget and helps you bolster your final roster!

For bidders who love to spam the Place Bid button instead of using Auto Bid, you're protected from a sudden price hike by our one-of-a-kind Overbid Shield - a virtual shield we created that physically blocks the button for a couple of seconds immediately after a price jump, so you're protected from accidentally bidding higher than you meant to.

Summary / TLDR

I hope you found this discussion to be enlightening. Minimum bids are an easy concept to grasp, but the best implementation is up for debate whether the nominator should or should not be required to make the opening bid. Max bids require elementary-level math skills to calculate, and as such there is regular confusion about whether the math has been done properly (that's not an insult to anyone, even 5th-grade math isn't a skill many people use on a daily basis).

Max bid tiebreakers have never been properly problem-solved by the mainstream fantasy draft providers. They lazily operate with a first-come, first-served mechanism. If you hit the max bid button first, you win. Drafty enables greater bid strategy with the +1 bidding mechanism, whereby teams engaged in a bidding war can battle for the bid position that will yield the final +1 bid (the max bid) and win the auction like a true champ.

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