A quick guide to a fast-growing segment of fantasy sports
While fantasy football has been in existence more than 50 years, it has really taken off since 2000. A more recent development has been the introduction of DFS or Daily Fantasy Sports, which appeals to those looking for shorter time periods and immediate results (i.e., payouts), as opposed to seasonal or dynasty leagues.
As is the case with traditional fantasy sports, football is king when it comes to DFS with DraftKings and FanDuel, which have agreed to merge pending government approval, leading the way. With more than 57 million people participating in fantasy sports in the U.S. and Canada alone according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), a Forbes article from September 2015 estimated that entry fees for DFS games, across all sports, would reach $14.4 billion by 2020.
This article appears in Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere
So for those who are more traditionalists when it comes to fantasy football but perhaps have been interested in giving DFS a try, here are 10 things to consider:
1. Bankroll management
This is the first step because all of the others become pointless if you aren’t handling this properly. If you are new to DFS, or even if you aren’t, depositing only what you can afford to lose is critical.
If you deposit $100 and won’t be able to deposit for weeks, then use the magic ratio for NFL (playing 20-25 percent of bankroll) per week. Then you have a full month to utilize your bankroll in worst-case scenarios. In other sports with more daily contests, your ratio should be much lower per day.
2. Know the contests and payout structure
This one is very important for new players. Focus on the contests with higher-win probabilities. This will typically be your “Cash” games or 50/50 and Double-Ups. Using the same ratio as above, I would use the 80/20 method.
* 50/50 and Double-Ups: These contests are where the top half of the player pool will double, or nearly double the contest entry amount. If you play $1 and win you get $1.80-$2. There’s a 50 percent chance of winning. Use 80 percent of your bankroll in these contests.
* GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pools): These are tournaments and can have anywhere from 50 all the way up to 50,000 entries. These have much larger payouts, although they are typically in the 10-21 percent range most nights. These are more rewarding to win, but far more difficult to do just that. Start with 20 percent of your bankroll and then slowly increase that allotment as you gain more experience and become more comfortable in this format.
3. Enter the right contests
Now that you should have an idea of how to start and the options available, it is important to actually win. The best way to do this is to enter the right contests. Cash games are self-explanatory, so enter those at will.
GPPs, however, are a different animal altogether. When starting out, I would recommend finding “Single-Entry” tournaments. These are games in which each owner can only submit a single lineup. The odds remain the same, but this way you won’t face experts who submit multiple lineups.
Again, if you are solely an odds person, a 16 percent chance of winning is just that, but single-entry may mean more opponents and actually increase your odds. Would you rather face an expert and his one lineup, or take your chances against 150 “expert” lineups?
Do not accept or play head-to-heads. These are contests people create, typically those players with massive bankrolls. You accept the invite and you have 50/50 odds, but you are likely facing someone who is very good and knows what they are doing.
4. Look for GPPs with highest payout odds
This takes a little extra effort, but with some simple math you can do it. My rule of thumb for starters is to find tournament contests with better than 18 percent payouts and enter those. The odds are lower relative to the cash, but why not go for your best odds?
5. Learn what chalk plays are and know when to fade players
This one can take some time and extra effort as well. In cash contests you don’t need to worry about popular players in great spots. Play them! In cash games you want your best and safest plays.
In GPPs, however, if you want to try to maximize your payout potential, you should differentiate your lineup(s). If you remove (or “fade”) a top player figuring he will be heavily owned and replace him with a riskier player, you could actually improve your chances of success in a given tournament if your gamble hits.
Another option more people are using are sites that offer projections, lineup optimizers and other resources. Not all sites are created equal, but using some of these services can give you everything from core plays and advanced statistical breakdowns to comprehensive, optimal lineups.
This information can be a fantastic weapon when deciding between players, or even on days you want to play but are cramped for time to do research on your own.
6. Monitor injury reports
NFL DFS can be stressful if there is a star player you want to use but it’s unclear if he will actually suit up or not. Typically you find yourself waiting until an hour before kickoff to hear the news. If anything, play it safe and only rely on guys you know will be active, and fully participating, especially for cash games.
Keeping tabs on players who didn’t practice and seemed unlikely to play but ended up being active can be a big advantage at lower ownership for you in GPP contests too.
7. Avoid Thursday games
This is more a personal preference, but Thursday night games don’t have the best track record when it comes to the quality of the product on the field. I will enter GPPs that play Thursday-Sunday, but not use any Thursday players. It’s probably best to play it safe than sorry, and this strategy can provide you with an upper hand on the rest of the field.
8. Track your results; evaluate winners’ lineups
The key to long-term success in DFS is to not only evaluate your lineups but also take a look at those that are winning. If you are continually entering giant tournaments and continually losing, you should make note of that. If you are dominating cash games and your cash lineups are doing better than your GPP ones, maybe you should try the same lineup in both formats.
Also be willing to accept the results. If you are not winning, take a step back and try to figure out what’s working and what’s not. Stick with what is bringing you success and don’t get too far ahead of yourself either. If you are losing contests regularly but hit one week and your bankroll increases, don’t assume you are ready to dominate going forward.
9. To multi-enter or not?
Once you start dabbling in DFS, you may catch on quickly or find you are having so much fun that you end up with multiple lineups across a multitude of contests or tournaments. My advice is to start small, maxing out at three to begin with, and then building up from there. Don’t assume if you submit 10 lineups you will hit big on one of them, or break even for that matter. Also, having too many lineups is the easiest way to burn through your bankroll when you first start. If you can’t afford to potentially lose with all of your lineups, don’t put yourself in a position to do so!
10. Don’t get too confident
Finally, if you get on a hot streak don’t start entering more tournaments or start spending twice as much of your bankroll as you had been. I have seen too many people do this, where someone hits it really big one week and immediately goes from spending $25 a week to $100.
NFL DFS is different and harder to gauge compared to other sports because of the amount of time between games. There is no harm in upping the ante especially when you win big, just don’t go crazy and risk losing your new winnings over the next two weeks.
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.