Many of my friends who play season-long fantasy are hesitant to try DFS. And many that I have convinced to try DFS have not stuck with it. The most common reason that I hear is that it is a money suck – in other words, you can get stuck into a vortex of losing too much money too fast. Another common complaint is that the games are “rigged” so that only the high volume sharks can turn a profit while anyone wanting to play for reasonable stakes is just a fish waiting to be swallowed.
I will tell you what I tell these many friends – I am far from a shark and yet I have managed to grind out a profit through my time playing DFS. Can I quit my day job from my DFS winnings? Certainly not. But I have managed to keep the game fun for myself while getting a few extra shekels a year which I always use toward family vacations. My secrets are pretty simple and I am going to share the top three basic keys to success on this forum.
Sports Knowledge and/or Statistical Knowledge
This is, of course, obvious. You cannot succeed at daily fantasy by blindly picking players. Using baseball as an example, I use hitting stats like righty/lefty splits, home/road splits, hard contact rates, ISO, wOBA, wRC+ and others. For pitchers, I use home/road splits, soft contact rates, K/9, SIERA and wOBA allowed (among others).
But note that sports and statistical knowledge is only 1 of 3 major factors in succeeding in daily fantasy. This is the mistake that many of my friends who have not succeeded have made and it is the mistake that I made when I was first starting. I felt like I had more background knowledge and was performing more statistical analysis than 99% of players, and yet I was break-even or worse. I could not figure out why I was not having more success, and then I began to read about DFS on industry forums and learned that there are two other key factors to winning at daily fantasy.
This is where DFS gets a little more tricky than regular fantasy sports. There are very specific ways to pick a team in order to win at daily fantasy, specifically GPPs, that most winning players put in their back pockets. If you are not using some sort of “game theory” when making your selections, but are rather just picking one player at a time based on stats, you will not win.
The most basic game theory, specifically for GPPs, is stacking. In my Daily Fantasy Quick Hits, I always list a “Stack of the Day”, and the reason is simply that most winning GPP lineups will have some sort of stack. The reason is fairly subtle and fairly obvious if you think about it – correlations. If a leadoff hitter gets a single and then the 2nd hitter knocks him home, and you roster both of them in your daily fantasy lineup, you are getting double points for the run – on DraftKings 2 points for the run and 2 points for the RBI. This is a very quick way to gain extra points and really the only way of hitting the top spots in GPPs. There are other game theories, and I will continue to outline some in this space, including knowing and mastering specific DFS site scoring rules as well as ownership percentages/contrarian play.
The key, however, is that in order to succeed you should read up on game theory and employ something that works for you. Playing the game with no theory is a sure way to lose money.
Personal Game Strategy/Game Selection
This one is even more subtle, but is another area where I learned from my mistakes. In my first season of DFS baseball, I decided that I would play $20 a day – $10 would be cash games and $10 would be GPPs. The way I figured it, I knew a lot of stats (see #1), so I would surely come out ahead in cash games, and using that money, maybe I would fluke my way to the top of a GPP and make some serious coin.
At the end of the MLB season, however, my bankroll was smaller than what I started with and I could not figure out why. I used the brilliant RotoGrinders bankroll tracking tool and I noticed that I was cashing in about 52% of my cash games, but that produced an ROI of about -11% because I was losing to the rake. But I noticed that my ROI was about 8.5% for the GPPs that I was playing.
At that point, I decided to focus my energy on GPPs, since that is what I was better at – and then once I started employing game theory (see #2 above), I began making a pretty good profit. Now, for baseball, I play 8 different lineups on most nights for $24 and put them all in GPPs. Usually I play 2 hitting focused lineups, 2 pitching focused lineups, 1 2-2-2-2 stack, 1 3-2-1-1-1 stack and 2 5-3 stacks. This has worked out great for me – but the key is that you need to find the games and strategies that work best for you and your way of playing.
I should also add that bankroll management is a key to winning at DFS. You need to stay disciplined and stick to your limits. Never lose more than you can and never go on tilt.
I hope that this has proved to be helpful. I am a huge fan of daily fantasy as a game that keeps sports interesting for me on a day to day level. But I can’t lie – making a small profit has gone a long way in terms of my love for DFS. Hopefully you all can take this advice to heart and become winning players too!
If you ever have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @assemblyneil or reply in the comments section of any of my articles. Happy Grinding!
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