Daily Fantasy Sports: Five Tips to Win at DFS
As daily fantasy sports (DFS) grows larger each passing day, more and more players are registering for contests for the first time. Depending on your site of choice and the sport you’re playing, the strategy you use for each contest and site will vary. I’m basically passing on my knowledge to you, the reader, and show you how to win at DFS LONG-TERM!
Though strategies will differ based on the sport, there are several basic tips for players to remember no matter what sport or type of contest (cash or tournament) they are playing. Below, I’ll go over my top five tips for profitability in daily fantasy sports (hint: it’s similar strategy to use when betting sports online).
No. 1: Embrace Variance
It’s no coincidence that many of the top DFS players are former poker players or poker professionals. Variance is the difference between the expected result and the actual result. Poker players understand variance, or as put in laymen’s terms, luck.
For instance, if a Texas Hold’em player holds AA and his opponent re-raises all-in with KK, the player holding AA is around an 80% favorite to win the hand. 20% of the time, he’s not going to win, and the player with KK will scoop up the pot.
20% is a percentage that can’t be discounted. One out of five times, the player with a superior hand will lose, but in the long run, the player holding AA is going to win the vast majority of times. The 20% of hands where KK ends up taking down the pot are variance.
The parallel to DFS in the above example is simple. If a player continually puts out strong lineups (better than his opponents’ lineups), he will profit. However, like poker there’s going to be plenty of variance. Those who play DFS every day experience losing streaks or stretches of breakeven, along with the joy of winning.
Understanding variance and realizing that losing days is a part of becoming a profitable player is crucial. There are going to be bad runs and tough breaks, but that’s just the nature of the beast. In the end, if you’re putting out a better lineup than your opponents’ day and day out, the money will come your way.
No. 2: Adopt a Bankroll Strategy
This is another area where DFS parallels back to poker almost perfectly. It’s also one of the aspects that players struggle with the most.
Bankroll management is essential to long term success. As DFS players, we can’t control the variance of daily fantasy sports, but when it comes to how much we put into play each day, we have ultimate control.
If you’re a profitable player, the worst thing that can happen to you is to be out of action. How can a potentially profitable player lose his bankroll? It’s certainly possible if he fails to exercise proper bankroll management.
Many players exercise no bankroll management whatsoever. It might be obvious to some, but putting half your bankroll into play on any given day is a terrible idea. In many cases, they manage their bankrolls so poorly that they don’t even give themselves a chance to know if they could be profitable long term.
How much of your bankroll should you use each day? That depends on how risk adverse you are and what type of contests you’re playing. Most top DFS players agree that putting more than 10% of your bankroll in play each day is too risky. Meaning, anything higher than that and your risk of ruin is too high.
Figuring out the best bankroll strategy for your personal goals and game types is vital. Most importantly, you need a viable bankroll management plan, and you need to stick to it.
No. 3: Listen to Vegas
In daily fantasy, there are many tools at your disposal when it comes to evaluating players and their salaries. Perhaps more important than any other statistic or tool are sports betting odds.
The oddsmakers aren’t always right, but they have a better bead on the outcome of sporting events compared to anyone else, including the so-called “experts” in the sports media or the public’s perception of a game. It doesn’t matter which sport you’re playing, betting odds should be something you look at every day. They should be a crucial part of your daily research.
Point spreads and totals can tell you a lot about how a game might play out. The higher the Vegas total, the more points likely to be scored in that game. Since our fantasy lineups are based on scoring, regardless of which sport you’re playing, we should be looking to target games with high totals.
We can dig even deeper with player and team propositions. These won’t be available for every sport or game, but they are especially popular markets for NFL bettors. A typical player proposition might be the passing yards of a quarterback or the number of points plus assists in a basketball game.
I value Vegas’ opinion so much in my analysis that I almost always look to target players that the oddsmakers are counting on to score points. This isn’t to say that you should always shy away from a player if the odds suggest that there won’t be many points scored in the game. There are other factors besides Vegas’ opinion, but it’s an excellent starting point to building your rosters.
No. 4: Play Lower Buy-ins in Head-to-Heads and 50/50s Leagues
One aspect that makes DFS appealing to the masses is the availability of multiple league types at several buy-in levels. Players can register in contests as small as $0.25 and play as high as a thousand dollars. They can play a contest where you just have to finish in the top 50% of the league or beat a single opponent, but can also play in leagues with thousands of players vying for big money prizes.
As in poker, the higher the stakes, the better the players. For that reason, I recommend sticking with the lower buy-ins when you are starting out.
The players at these levels are much worse than those at higher limits and the more leagues you enter, the more chances you have to win against a different set of opponents. It makes little sense to buy into a $50 league when you can buy into five $10 leagues or 20 $5 leagues. Spreading your bankroll out across multiple lower buy-in leagues will reduce your risk and will help you avoid the stiffer competition.
Head-to-heads and 50/50s leagues are boring compared to the massive prize pools of some of the larger tournaments, but these leagues are the lifeblood of daily fantasy for experienced players. They’re an excellent way to rake in profits without the scores needed to win a major tournament.
For these leagues, players should be focusing on maximizing their floor of points while forgoing some upside. They’re not flashy, but profiting in these contests is half the battle when it comes to becoming a winner at DFS.
No. 5: Maximize Your Bonuses
Every site will offer players a deposit bonus when they first sign-up. In addition, they may also offer reload bonuses at certain times of the year. It’s absolutely critical to take advantage of these promotions. These sites are giving away free money.
DFS is a dual against other players or managers, but each player also has another enemy, the rake. Most contests are raked at about 10%, which means players are losing $10 for every $100 they put into play. If you’re playing a lot, the amount of rake paid can easily drift into the thousands of dollars. Seasoned daily fantasy veterans who play for high stakes are easily paying tens of thousands a year in rake.
This is why it’s so important to take advantage of deposit and reload bonuses. Theses bonuses will help offset the significant amount of money lost to the rake fees. If possible, deposit the amount needed to get the maximum bonus. For instance, if a site is offering a 100% deposit bonus up to $600, do your best to deposit $600.