Athlon Sports sought out advice from four fantasy experts that are well versed when it comes to participating in Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) contests and tournaments during the NFL season. These industry veterans were asked a variety of questions with the goal of giving them the opportunity to offer deeper insight into the world of DFS. Be sure to check out their work:
Ryan Kostroski (@fantasytipsryan), thedfs5pack.com
Ray Kuhn (@ray_kuhn_28), rotoprofessor.com
Adam Morley (@fantasysixpack), fantasysixpack.net
Joe Pisapia (@JoePisapia17), author of the Fantasy Black Book series/
What was one of the hardest lessons you learned playing NFL DFS? Were you able to avoid doing it again?
Kostroski: Always enter your cash lineup into at least one tournament. We all play for different dollar amounts, so I don't care if it's only the Quarter Arcade — just please make sure you enter it into at least one GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool). It's always fun when you have a monster lineup; the fun goes away, though, when you get nothing extra for beating out 99.99 percent of the field as opposed to just putting down the money.
Kuhn: Overthinking things and being too rigid. The key, and it's clearly easier said than done, is to find a happy medium. I generally keep a running tally of players I'm interested in but resist the urge to really get into lineup construction until the weekend.
Morley: The hardest lesson to learn is to throw away proper bankroll management. There are essentially only 16 slates of reliability, so you just got to ride the variance no matter what. This short sample is why people can win heavily one year and be left confused about why they lost heavily the next.
Pisapia: Early on, it was staying away from multi-entry tournaments. The enticement of prize pools and multiple lineups doesn't outweigh the folks who are pushing in thousands of dollars in any given week and can afford to be wrong with a higher frequency.
Do you play every slate for the NFL season? Do you have a personal preference, or one slate you tend to excel in?
Kostroski: I play most NFL slates with the only exception being the Sunday afternoon slate. I do, however, play the vast majority of my weekly NFL funds in one main slate lineup. I disperse these funds with about a 4-to-1 spread of cash games to GPPs.
Kuhn: I typically stick with the main slate. Slates that include the Thursday game or anything less than the full amount of games tend to get interesting with game theory and ownership levels. For me, I want as much time as possible to gather information and make my decisions with a full complement of games and options. I generally find my greatest success with the Sunday main slate.
Morley: The larger the slate, the less luck is involved. I avoid slates of less than four games and ramp up or down the amount invested depending upon the amount of games. I won't play any short slates except for $1 here or there for fun or if there is overlay.
Pisapia: I prefer main slate Sunday. Occasionally, the afternoon isolated slate is worth playing if you see matchups worth exploiting.
If you had to list three keys to DFS success, what would they be?
Kostroski: 1. Understand your personal schedule. With all the DFS analysts out there, I am shocked this topic isn't addressed more often. If you are busy that day and can't monitor starting lineups, injuries, sits, etc., please don't play for much money or at all. This is a hard game filled with smart people who are always watching. You need to be able to do the same to win consistently.
2. Athletes are real people. Understanding that people have bad days will help keep your emotions in check and make the game more enjoyable. Also, there are intangible aspects to an athlete's game because they are people and not just box scores. Guys on back-to-backs in the NBA and playing their third game in four nights will get tired easier. Young men with a night off in New York or L.A. are more likely to be "tired" than an older player at home.
3. Don't spend so much time obsessing over ownership percentages during the day. First off, I've yet to see numbers from any site that are extremely accurate. We are all just taking educated guesses throughout the day. I'm not trying to tell you that ownership percentage isn't important; I'm just advising you to spend more time picking good plays. If you do this you will naturally have a mixture of both chalk and contrarian plays.
Kuhn: Research, flexibility, and a level head. While each of these seems like common sense, it is also easy to lose sight of them. When setting a lineup, no piece of news is too small, and information is power. And the more you can uncover, the better. It's not just knowing who the next man up is at the running back position, but knowing which linebacker is banged up or top cornerback is sidelined. Trends are important, and more so than what can be gleaned from the box score.
Morley: As we say in poker, don't try to level yourself. It's when you make a bad decision by overthinking something. Everyone tries to play DFS like Spinal Tap, but you got to bring it down from 11 to a 6. Keep it simple and be aware that ownership is a crutch bad touts use to justify horrible advice, because if you can say the magic words of "ownership," suddenly all stupid plays are forgiven. There are a lot of very smart people in DFS. If you are the only one playing someone then you likely did something very stupid. Those players are very low owned for a reason.
Pisapia: 1. Understand expected game flow. That should influence your decision making on players more than prices.
2. Trends matter (both positively and negatively).
3. Don't get cute. The easy answer is oftentimes the right answer.
If you could only play one contest a week and simply wanted to profit on the year, which type of contest would you play? (50/50? Head to Head? Single Entry GPP? Multi-Entry GPP? League or Tournament?)
Kostroski: For NBA and NFL, it would be single entry Double Ups. In MLB I would play multi-entry GPPs.
Kuhn: For me, it's a 50/50 for sure. You can double your money by beating half of the field each week. No, it is not that easy, but the odds are certainly in your favor. I know it's not the question, but while I'm going to concentrate on 50/50s, you have to at least throw a lineup into a single entry GPP just in case your lineup truly goes off.
Morley: There are so few slates that winning players can easily have a losing season, so this doesn't matter. But nobody should ever play 10-mans or 20-mans (contests). You're going to be putting yourself in a cage where there are more pros than payouts.
Pisapia: Play 50/50 every week smartly and you can see a profit by the end of Week 17. Sure you may miss out on the big payday, but better to end the season in the black overall.
Every serious DFS player has had a "sweat" watching the games play out. Feel free to share a brief story. Did it end happily or tragically?
Kostroski: My best-ever DFS return was around $9,000 off about $40. I got home from some family fun on a Sunday afternoon. I knew my lineups were doing well, but then I got home and checked DraftKings for the first time. When I saw my contest winnings at about that total with very few player minutes remaining the sweat becomes real. Happy ending, no doubt.
Kuhn: Yes, this is a common occurrence and everyone has substantial experience when it comes to this. There is always going to be a bad beat, but the best advice is to stick with your process. Of course, you can learn from mistakes, improve and refine your methods, but put both the happy and tragic "sweats" out of your mind.
Morley: My sleep ROI is significantly better than my sweat ROI so I'm sticking with it. Slept through basically all my big nights.
Pisapia: I prefer to not check frequently. Sundays I watch the games, play outside with my kids at halftimes and let the football gods take over. Living and dying with every moment will burn you out. If you did the right homework, you should trust it.