Being a new daily fantasy sports player can be a little overwhelming. While the game is simple to get into, there are countless lessons to be learned through experience, both by winning and losing. This article will explore a few of the lessons that I’ve learned playing daily fantasy on FanDuel over the last two years.
Whether you’re brand new to the format, have struggled in your contests so far, or even if you’ve had success and simply want to sustain it, hopefully these tips will help you refine your strategy and increase your chances for victory this season.
3 Things To Consider … When Choosing Contests To Enter
1. Contest Mixology: Deciding which types of contests to enter can sometimes be as difficult as putting together a lineup. With so many great options to choose from, there are several factors in making that decision.
First and foremost you must decide what your objective is. Are you playing for the excitement, or are you playing to make money? Are you trying to win big today, or are you trying to play every day or week for the whole season? Daily fantasy sports are a lot of fun, enough fun that many people continue to play despite losing money.
If you fit that description, playing mainly for excitement with money to burn, then tournaments may be the best contest type for you. If not, it’s important to realize that only around 10% of entrants will win prize money in each tournament, and only a select few will win big. Especially in the larger field, low entry fee tournaments, the odds of winning a significant prize are stacked extremely against you.
And though the entry fees may seem small, entering a $2 tournament every day for a year and never winning any prize money will cost you $730 over the course of a year. Lost money adds up over time, so if your goal is to make a profit, you’re better off sticking to head-to-heads, 50/50s, double ups, and 3-man league games. Entering contests that you have a better chance to actually win will go a long way to preserving and growing your bankroll.
2. Don’t Spend It All In One Place: Once you’ve decided the type of contests you want to play, the next tough decision to make is how many contests you want to enter, and at what entry level? Every player has a different bankroll and a different daily budget, but whatever it is, you need to identify yours. If you treat your bankroll as a broken faucet, your money will go down the drain accordingly.
Once you know how much you can afford to spend each day or week, you can identify your appropriate entry fee level. You could put your entire daily budget into one contest, you could enter as many $1 contests as you have dollars, or you could find a balance between those extremes. Putting all of your money into a single contest, or even just a few, exposes you to more volatile outcomes. Even with a good score, your opponents may still outscore you and you’d lose all the money you staked that day.
Of course, even with a bad score, you may still outscore your opponents and win. And unless that good fortune is what you’re looking for in your daily fantasy sports experience, I recommend spreading things around as much as possible.
To that end, the appropriate entry fee level for you is the one that allows you to enter the most contests. The more unique opponents you face, the more accurately your winnings will reflect the relative performance of your team each day.
3. Choose Your Own Opponents: Opponent selection is one of the easiest ways you can make an impact on your chances for success, particularly in head-to-heads and small league contests. After you’ve played FanDuel for a while, you’ll likely be surprised both by how beatable many experts are, and by how difficult it can be to beat a user with few or no wins.
Due to the small sample size, there is a natural volatility in daily fantasy results that makes it possible for anyone to beat anyone on any given day. However, over the long haul you will have a better winning percentage against newer users who still have many lessons to learn or may not have as much at stake.
Making an effort to choose contests with the least experienced opponents available can provide a few extra percentage points to your win rate, and these small margins often spell the difference between profit and loss in the long run. Opponent selection is most easily controlled in head-to-heads, but can also be effectively accomplished in league contests by waiting for the contests to fill until there is one spot remaining.
3 Things To Consider … When Drafting a Lineup
1. Lineup or Lineups?: One of the most commonly debated topics in daily fantasy sports is whether to use a single lineup across all of your contests or to use multiple lineups in different contests. Both sides have merit, and in the end it comes down to personal preference.
That said, there are situations where one is clearly preferable to the other. In head-to-heads, league contests, and 50/50s, it is advisable to play the single lineup that you feel is your best possible lineup for the day. The reason being the same volatility in outcomes that I mentioned in the entry fee section above. If you play multiple lineups in small field contests you run the risk that your good scoring lineups run into other good scoring lineups, and your bad scoring lineups lose regardless.
If you play a single lineup across all contests, while it may turn out good or bad, your winnings are more likely to accurately reflect your team’s performance. On the other hand, if you play mostly tournaments or other large field contests, you actually want to subject your team to additional outcomes, so it becomes advisable to play multiple lineups.
This is particularly true if you have multiple entries in a single tournament, but even having a multiple lineups in separate tournaments will give you a better chance at one of them hitting the extremely high scores you need to win such large field contests. And with the huge rewards that come with winning or finishing high in a tournament, one win can turn a bad day into a great day.
2. The Best Laid Plans: Now that you know how many lineups you’re going to make, it’s time to actually make them! In the simplest terms, you want to spend your entire salary cap and get the most points per dollar that you can. What turns this gloriously simple concept into a complicated art form is the fact that the future is unknown.
But as with the concepts of outcome volatility mentioned above, sometimes the best thing we can do is try to eliminate obvious mistakes, and follow a formulated plan. This provides a leg up on opponents not doing the same thing, and lends additional structure to your strategy to allow for more consistent performance over time.
And in the end, the very act of having a strategy is the key. If you are simply winging it every day your results will be all over the place, and you will not have a strategy to fine tune through experience. If you employ a consistent thoughtful strategy, the lessons you learn will be more apparent and more easily implemented. And without a doubt your strategy will always be evolving, but at the very least having one and following it will give you a starting point from which to improve.
3. Use The Force…of the Internet: Once you’ve got a plan for how to build your lineup, you’ll need to actually pick players that fit your strategy. Research can be a time consuming task even for those who consider themselves experts. After all, one of the reasons we love fantasy sports is because it offers fresh dynamic content every day, and we know that at any moment news might break that could alter the fantasy universe instantly and forever.
Not knowing this news can be a huge disadvantage in daily fantasy, so it is crucial to keep a high level of awareness and stay informed. You can’t assume that what you knew yesterday or last week is still applicable today when you sit down to draft your lineup.
However, most users do not have the time to read every article about every topic every day. Thankfully, we have the Internet. And billions of other people. Take advantage of their efforts by finding tools that have been built to consolidate information and speed up its analysis.
For example, let Las Vegas do the hard work for you. They already analyze every single game in detail and project not only the winners but also the volume of scoring they expect. These two pieces of information are readily available every day, and while they won’t necessarily give you the names of players to use, they can at least give you an idea of the teams from which you should select players.
Other important information aggregation tools that are available include weather data, breaking player news, historical matchup information, and player rankings and projections. All can be found through a simple Google search, and all will make your lineup selection more efficient and effective. And saving time on making your lineups is a very important part of avoiding mental fatigue so you can bring the same level of effort and focus every single day.
3 Things To Consider … Before Contests Begin
1. So, You’re Actually Playing Today, Right?: This is a question you need to ask yourself about every single player in your lineup, every day. If you can’t answer this question for a particular player before contests start, the smart thing to do is not play that player. You must make sure that all of the players in your lineup will actually be playing in their games that day! This is one of the most common yet most easily avoided mistakes that players make in daily fantasy.
Is the player injured? Will the game be affected by weather? Did someone bring a gun to the locker room and get suspended? These are all reasons why daily fantasy users have received zeros from their players.
A win can still be secured with a zero in your lineup, but your chances are severely hindered. It’s hard enough to get the production you’re expecting from your team, and it’s next to impossible when you’ve handicapped your team’s potential before the games even begin.
Ideally you check all of your players’ status both when you are selecting your lineup, as well as within 10-15 minutes of contest start time. If you can’t commit to doing that, the very least you can do is avoid players who are injury risks or who’s status is in any way uncertain.
2. Stick To The Plan!: Another common blunder made by many users is doing too much as the contest start time draws close. Some users simply cannot resist toying with their lineups up until the last second, often taking out players that go on to have much more successful days than their replacements.
Of course, if there is a piece of documented news that necessitates action such as an injury or a player simply not playing that day, then action must be taken to replace that player. However, if the team you drafted is good to go, it will usually be most effective to trust your original instincts and let your team roll. This is especially true if your reason for mauling your lineup is because somebody said something in chat!
Assuming you had a strategy and stuck with it, there’s a good reason you chose the players you did. Aside from lineup intervention, many users are also struck by a strange sense of lineup fever as the contest start time draws near. These users will decide that they really love their team and it cannot possibly fail, so they might as well enter 15 or 20 more games to take advantage of their fantastic team.
This is a mistake. Sticking to the plan you laid out when you were thinking sensibly is the best course of action. If your team is great, then you will still enjoy winning all of the games you’ve entered. If not, you will avoid throwing away tomorrow’s budget. There’s nothing worse than being five minutes past start time when you’ve bet all your money and your lineup fever fades and you realize your frighteningly mediocre team is your only hope.
3. “Free” Money: The one exception to the above rule of sticking to the plan is when you find a guaranteed prize pool tournament with a significant overlay. An overlay occurs when there has been less money entered into a tournament than the total prize pool, resulting in a much better than usual expected value for entries made in that tournament.
While still by no means a guarantee that you will win money in the tournament, an overlay is a great opportunity to improve your odds that is not always available. Due to the fact that tournaments tend to fill up much more quickly closer to start time, it is difficult to guarantee an overlay on a tournament entered long in advance of start time. Even tournaments that appear to have overlays with 5 minutes to go often fill up by start time.
However, if you can find a tournament with a significant enough overlay close to start time, it is time to think about bending the rule of sticking to the game plan. While I would still advise not entering a contest with an entry fee that is way out of your normal range, it can be valuable to at least identify the available opportunities as contest start time draws near, and make the decision based on how comfortable you feel spending some of tomorrow’s budget today.
I’m still learning new lessons about daily fantasy almost every day, but these are some of the things I’ve already learned over the past two years on my way to 3,300 wins on FanDuel. I hope that you can take some insights from these tips and find your own way to success. Just keep in mind, success in daily fantasy is a marathon, not a sprint.