Ultimate Daily Fantasy Sports Guide

If you are new to playing fantasy sports, there is a lot of stuff for you to learn and consider before you can start dominating and making money. You need to understand the community and what drives it, bankroll management and how to scale once you start winning, selecting the right games that align with your style of play, along with all of the sports-specific strategies that go into dominating your league.

For starters, I recommend that you go with Draft Kings. They are the number one guys in the business for a reason.

All of the platforms will allow you to enter into daily tournaments, though their platforms vary slightly. If you are just getting started, pick one and adjust after you learn more about each platform.

Before we dive in to the details, here is a quick rundown of what some of the industry jargon is.

DFS: Daily Fantasy Sports.

+EV: Positive expected value; a situation where you can look to have a positive return on your investment. As a daily fantasy sports player it will be your goal to constantly seek out these opportunities.

$/Point: Dollars per point; the amount of dollars you must spend for every point that a player is projected to score. A lower $/point is better.

50/50: A league where the top half of entrants get paid and the bottom half of entrants lose their entry fee. These are generally safe and a good place to start unless you start entering the same lineup into more than one league.

Bankroll: The amount of money that you have to invest into daily fantasy sports.

Bearish: A negative or pessimistic outlook on a certain team, player, or situation. If you are bearish on a player, you wouldn’t use him for your lineup.

Bullish: A positive or optimistic outlook on a certain team, player, or situation. If you are bullish on a team, you would use their players for your lineup.

Buy-In: The amount of money that you will need to enter a certain league.

Ceiling: A player, team, or lineup’s best possible outcome; the max amount of points they could score.

Floor: A player, team, or lineup’s worst possible outcome; the minimum amount of points they could score.

Commission/Rake: The fee charged by the DFS site to play in a particular league; generally this is around 10% of total buy-ins.

Exposure: The amount of money spent on a player; if you have high exposure for a particular player, it means that you have a large percentage of your bankroll placed on him

Fade: Avoid a particular game; if you decided not to play in a game because of weather, you would be “fading” the game.

Freeroll: A DFS league that is free to enter, but pays cash prizes.

GPP: Guaranteed Prize Pool; a league where the prize is guaranteed regardless of the number of entries.

Head-to-Head: a one on one fantasy league.

Hedge: Actions you take to reduce your risks; if you are bullish or a particular lineup, you would hedge by making another lineup with none of the same players, even if it isn’t as good in your mind. When you hedge you are reducing risk at the cost of also taking away from the possible upside.

High-Low: Also goes by “Stars and Scrubs;” when you choose multiple elite, high-salary players to go along with a low-priced bargain player.

Multiplier: A league where you can multiply the fees to enter by a specific factor based on payouts; in a 3x multiplier the winners get paid out 3 times what they paid to enter.

Overlay: When a DFS site loses money on a GPP; if $10,000 is guaranteed but there’s only $7,000 worth of entrants, the overlay would be $3,000.

PPR: Point per reception; a scoring system that gives a point for all catches and majorly changes players’ strategies.

Qualifier: A league where winners don’t receive any cash, but instead a ticket to play in another league; 1 10-team qualifier with an $11 buy-in might give out one ticket to play in a bigger league with a $100 buy-in.

Reach: Selecting a player who doesn’t give a lot of value.

ROI: Return on investment.

Stacking: Pairing multiple players on the same team as a way to increase the upside possibility.

Now that you have a general understand of what some of the most-used terms are, you need to learn about possibly the most important thing for your DFS career, and the thing that will most likely define whether you become a daily powerhouse, or fizzle out. That thing is bankroll management.

BANKROLL MANAGEMENT

If you are going to become a dominating force in the world of fantasy sports, you are going need to get better and better at performing statistical analysis and making mathematical predictions. I strongly believe that one of the best ways to improve at daily fantasy sports is to approach it scientifically. You have to test different strategies and make small, but meaningful adjustments to your current strategy. It is important not to make adjustments that are so big that you won’t be able to narrow down what exactly is working and what isn’t.

Science is defined by making predictions that are testable. When you are first starting out you will make adjustments that aren’t very accurate. That’s okay. The important thing is to constantly test what works. If you find a strategy that is working for you, begin making small adjustments while at the same time brainstorming completely different methods to try in the future.

Just like science evolves over time, so do the best daily fantasy sports (DFS) players. However, that isn’t possible if you don’t have a strong grasp of what went wrong in the past. By evaluating your current setup and looking at the data from previous days, you will be able to pinpoint exactly which adjustments are working for you, and what isn’t. The best way to fail at this business is to go in blindly without ever thinking about what you are doing.

Your ability to look at trends over a large period of time will largely determine if you become a baller in this business. We will get more into this as we go along, but keep it in the back of your mind, and don’t forget it.

Let’s start off by figuring out what went well and what didn’t. First, open up your league history, which can be found by looking at the contests that you have entered. There should be an option to download your entry history. By clicking it you will have an excel spreadsheet with all of your past leagues. They will be sorted nicely by which sport it was, what place you finished in, your points, winnings, and entry fees. This is gold to you—treat it like such. Constantly try to find trends in the data. There have been plenty of times in my DFS career where noticing small adjustments changed my daily winnings dramatically.

The first thing you are going to want to look at is average scores. While it can be fun to look at your average scores, I do not think it is an effective metric at determining your performance and progression as a DFS player. If you really want to, looking at your performance over an entire sports season is better, but we still don’t think it is that great of a metric. There are better ways to look at and assess your progress as a daily fantasy sport baller.

Next is your win rates and profit. While you will need to score a lot of points to dominate and win over the long run, the goal of daily fantasy sports isn’t to score as many points as possible. The goal is to win the most money that you can. These two are not synonymous. Don’t get it twisted. There is a huge different between maxing out your projected points and making your win probability high, particularly when it comes to tournaments.

Looking at win rates and profits is the easiest for cash games. You can rapidly build up a huge game log by playing head to head and 50/50 games every day in almost every sport (football is the main exception and difficult to analyze given the minute amount of games).

Personally, I like 50/50 games a measure of a players quality because you are going up against a massive number of players. If you play in the NBA or MLB, go into some 50/50 leagues (even if they are low buy-in) to determine your lineup strength. After a few months, you will have gained massive exposure to a very large number of lineups. You can then take a look at how much often you end up in the upper half of entrants, but also how where you finish overall. If you are finishing in the bottom 40% of your lineups, that is a good sign that you need to make some changes.

Assessing win rates and profit is very difficult to do in guaranteed prize pool (GPP) tournaments. This is because of the top-heavy payment layout of all tournaments. GPP money tends to be characterized by longer periods of little to no growth or small downward movement broken by huge cash payouts. That is one of the reasons that I think you need to review your GPP winnings separate from your cash game history. One way to do this is to take a look at the distribution of scores in multiple league types. Because there is zero value in finishing in the 60th percentile in a GPP (whereas that would be money in the bank for a 50/50), your goal should be to win.

A safe route is to limit your upside and your downside, which will give you a larger exposure to moderate scores, as well as a narrower range of potential outcomes. If you try to take a high payout strategy from the onset characterized by risk and high-variance, you are opening up the possibility for baller payouts, but also a higher probability of losing.

If you are doing it correctly and creating your lineups according to league types, you should see more higher level lineups and more horrible lineups in your tournaments. If your scores are the same regardless of which leagues you enter into, that is a warning side that you are approaching cash games and GPP incorrectly and inefficiently. The end goal for a tournament is to maximize your access to a high ceiling, while decreasing your downside. Obviously, these two things are not synonymous and you will take on a higher downside if you are entering tournaments with high upsides.

With that said, let’s take a look at GPP. GPP is obviously going to be more fun. You have the chance to earn tens of thousands of dollars of the amount of  money it would take you to buy a new video game. However, bankroll management in GPP needs to be a lot tighter, because playing fast and recklessly with your bankroll can end in your year being break-even or a loss.

When I view bankroll advice overall, I don’t think there are necessarily any hard and steady rules. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the camp that says “play this % of your bankroll in specific games.” Therefore, I don’t want to give you that type of response. Instead, I think that the best amount of entries a person should purchase comes down to five factors:

  1. Your past performance in the given sport
  2. The rake/overlay in the contest
  3. Your real-life financial situation (I don’t want you to miss your car payment or something)
  4. The payout structure of contests
  5. Taxes and other factors that come into play

YOUR PAST PERFORMANCE:

The first thing you need to think about is your past performance (which can be reviewed by exporting your history. If you already forgot, I talked about it higher on the page). While it can be true that your past performance isn’t an indicator of what you can possibly do in the future, it is important to think about. If you are just starting out, obviously you won’t have much data to go off of, and you shouldn’t put much stock into the data points because you haven’t had enough time to develop an effective strategy.

However, if you have been playing a bit and can recognize a sport or a league where you have positive performance, focusing in on that will allow you to be more confident and aggressive with your investment strategy. The key here is keeping up-to-date statistical records of your ability over time. While there are going to be good days and bad days, over a long enough time or a couple of seasons, you will be able to see how you perform and figure out where you should be spending most of your time.

THE RAKE/OVERLAY IN CONTEST

The amount of rake or overlay in a contest is often my biggest determinant in the amount I will increase or decrease for a given day of playing. In baseball and basketball, I can easily triple or more if there is enough overlay in a contest. However, if the rake is high, such as the few sports that I don’t feel solid in, I will refrain completely.

It is pretty obvious that you should enter when there’s more overlay. If you have $500 in play at 15% your rake, the average guy is going to lose $75 on that action over time. For the same $500 at 7% overlay, you would win $35. That is a 22% return on investment (ROI) difference, which comes out to $100 in expected value before any skill or variance is introduced. You can clearly see that you want to have a lot more money in play when there is definitely overlay.

The main thing here is to make sure you have enough money in the bank so that you can use it when there is an advantageous situation. You don’t want to put yourself in a position to play the same exact money every day in the same contest if another contest shows up where there is a better overlay opportunity. To be a baller GPP player (and an alpha), you need to prepare to stretch your play on certain days and reduce your entry on others.

YOUR REAL-LIFE FINANCIAL SITUATION

It is going to be a lot easier to have a daily fantasy sports bankroll if you have money to spend in the big world. You can’t get past this. If you are bringing in some income each month, you are going to have more money to play around with. This is okay. All of us started out in DFS without a lot of money. I think when I got started I might have had $1,500 in the bank. If you have less, don’t worry. Just start saving where you can while you start learning how to win at DFS. Once you hit a successful strategy you can start to spend more and more money. Then from there it will snowball until you are making multiple hundred dollars a day. From there you can really starting upping it to break into the next level where waking up and seeing $1,000 fresh ones hit your bank account ain’t nothin’ but a thing. But know one thing: if you plan on becoming a baller, you are going to need to start saving your money so that you can keep buying in for contests and tournaments. The more you save, the more you can spend and start learning your own strategy that wins. Bottom line, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a huge bank roll yet, but understand it’s purpose in the long run at helping you reach baller status.

THE PAYOUT STRUCTURE OF CONTESTS

A flatter payout structure doesn’t mean more expected value (+EV) for top players, but it can definitely help out when it comes to variance. If a tournament is paying out to 20% of players with only 10% of the prize pool going to the first place guy, you can be assured that you are going to a least cash in some of your entries for a good amount of you open up with 10 or 20 entries in the tournament.

However, on the flip side, a top heavy tournament is going to mean that you either win big or lose big. If the top guy is getting 50% of the payout with less than 10% of the entries getting any money, you have to expect from a realistic standpoint that you are not going to get anything back from your entry.

While you need to always be prepared to lose your entire entry in a tournament, the payout structure is going to tell you whether or not you want to enter, along with the overlay and rake. A tournament that provides a flat payout structure with overlay is a GPP player’s sweet sauce, and you need to be ready and able to put a lot more entries into that tournament as opposed to a top-heavy, rake-heavy tournament.

TAXES AND OTHER FACTORS THAT COME INTO PLAY

This last category is going to cover a variety of things you need to consider in regards to your bank roll. For example, if you are break even for the year at playing DFS, you should be less likely to play for a bunch at the end of the year. Whereas, if you have been killing it, you are probably going to want to finish strong and up the ante.

Why does that occur? Let’s take a look. If you are up to $10,000 for your first year (which is very doable given enough work effort and the right strategy), with a 30% tax rate you are now looking at $7,000. If during the final week you end up with an additional $5,000, you would be up another $3,500 after taxes. Yet, if you lose $5,000 you would deduct it off your winnings and be down really just $3,500 after taxes.

If you are down for the year, the math goes the same. If you are down $10,000 and won $5,000 in the final week, you would be able to keep the entire $5,000 since you would still have a negative NET for the year. Yet, if you lost another $5,000 in the last week, you wouldn’t be able to deduct that from your winning since you are already down for the year.

It gets shady if you are around break even. If you stay even for the year, you can only walk away with 70% of winnings after taxes. However, if you lose you are eating the entire loss.

This will only come into play in December, if you are break even and playing for a lot of money. This is obviously going to be unlikely, but it has happened. It is something that needs to be considered if you are a GPP player.

At the end of the day it is going to be crucial that you find a system that works best for you. My advice is to consider these factors so that you end up in more +EV situations.

Now that you have a solid understanding of what the jargon is and how to effectively use your bank roll, let’s look at some things to consider when you are first starting out.

BEGINNER CONSIDERATIONS

  1. Make sure you take full advantage of all the bonuses that you can when starting out. A lot of sites offer deposit bonuses when you sign up and will match your deposit. This is huge and can mean the difference between you having enough money to start building a strategy, and burning out too quick. I recommend that you wait to open an account with each site until you have the maximum bonus match. For example, if the site will match you up to $600 dollars, wait until you have $600 so that you can get $1,200 in your account to start playing.
  2. Don’t let an early winning steak or losing streak determine your long-term confidence in DFS. Just by the nature of the game, there is a lot of variance involved. Stick in it for the long term and dial in your strategy. Just don’t get to hyped or hit a big low because of what happens at the onset.
  3. Learn to build effective lineups for the contest type. For GPP, learn to stack and keep your variance high. For cash games, don’t stack and find a safer approach by utilizing high-value plays.
  4. Play using more of your bankroll in 50/50 and H2H at first. That way, when your variance goes down, you are less likely to have a terrible losing streak that will make you want to give up (but you won’t even if it does happen because you are an alpha male). Play at least some GPP to give you the chance to hit it big, but don’t completely rely on it.
  5. Don’t be afraid to play satellites for entrance to bigger tournaments. There is often a lot of overlay value in satellites, especially on the smaller sites.
  6. Join a community. It makes the overall experience better. When I first started I had a group of friends that would spend hours talking game and building strategies together. Most sites are geared towards just DFS, which is obviously cool. However, this site is all about being a dominant, alpha male, so this is a great community to be a part of as well.
  7. Don’t worry too much about what other people are playing for the day. Just focus on building up your strategy and everything will work out for you in the long run.
  8. Take a look at the sites that offer projections for player performance. At first, it will be a great resource. However, as you learn and get better and better at DFS, you will realize that they aren’t always right, and that’s where you start making a killing.
  9. Learn to be conscious of rake and value. A good player that just gets into a bunch of high rake H2H games is likely going to make less money compared to someone with less skill that always goes after lower rake opportunities.
  10. Enjoy the process. This is probably the most important piece in all of this. You need to be in it for the long haul. DFS is an awesome opportunity for guys that are looking to crush it. However, just know that it might take you a couple of months to start hitting those sweet, consistent paydays. I didn’t do it overnight, but that’s okay, because now I am killing it. And the best part is that I enjoyed it the entire way here.

Alright Jon, that’s cool and all, but how can I actually start developing my strategy? I’m glad you asked, but don’t forget all of the other stuff I talked about; it will be important for your overall success. I recommend you go back and re-read everything up to this point just to make sure you understand what you are doing.

So what exactly determines a player’s next fantasy score? There are three things that go into it:

  • A player’s base level fantasy strength, which is the long-term average of fantasy score the player would get against a perfect, neutral match up.
  • The match-up strength of their next game. This is determined by how much the upcoming match-up varies from what a best-case neutral match-up would look like.
  • The last, most variable factor that tends to throw people off is the variance factor, which accounts for the unexpected and unknowable, like when a running back is stopped at the 1 yard line and the touchdown gets stopped. These are things you will never be able to account for in your strategy. The good part about this is, statistically speaking, over the long term you will be net zero. In other words, given enough iterations and games played, things will even out.

Over time, you want the sum of the errors from your projections to be zero. When that does end up happening, your predictions will be gold.

A player’s category strength, statistically speaking, is how they would perform, long-term, against an average defense. For a sport like baseball, basketball, or hockey, once you get about half way through the season, this starts to converge to their average totals in each category. This occurs because you are beginning to hit a long-term period of time where variance becomes less of an issue. If you are looking to make predictions for football or predictions for sports before the season starts, using a player’s individual stats will not provide enough information for build an effective lineup and strategy. This is because there are a lot of errors to take into account when reviewing the strength of the player’s predicted game schedule.

Early into a season (and for the entire football season) you should keep the strength of the schedule in mind and the defenses that you will be matched up against. A defense that has a bunch of easy rushing yard matchups may appear to be the toughest defense for rushing against. However, a large part of that will just be because of the matchups they encountered and not their true category strength.

Once you figure out a player’s category strength and the categories that are scored, it is time to consider other factors. The defense statistical category strength determines how a defense will do in relation to the league in each respective category. For example, a defense that gave up 110 rushing yards with a league average of 100 yards has a factor of 1.1. You would therefore expect your player to get about 10% more rushing yards than their base strength when up against that defense. For football and any sport during early-season games, this sort of calculation is ineffective and will not be good at determining a winning lineup.

For that situation, you need to factor in the strength of the schedule. In order to do that, you need to calculate a team’s offensive strengths in each statistical category, and take the average of the statistical strengths of previous opponents for that defense. As a quick example, if your factor was a 1.1, 1.2, .9, and .8 up to this point in the current season, you have face neutral match ups. However, if you faced a 1.2, 1.1, 1.3, and 1.2 so far in the season, that is an average factor of 1.2. Therefore, if your defense is giving up 120 rushing yards on average, but is facing a 1.2 average match up, their real, underlying average is 100 yards and you will need to use that number as their defensive strength.

You also need to consider the effects of home and away games. This can add enough variance to complicate things, but just know that home players and teams tend to do better than away. It is difficult to get an accurate measure of how this will affect things early on in the season, but looking at last season can at least give you an idea at the sort of things to expect.

You are also going to fail to account for a player or team that goes on a “hot streak.” All you can do here is go with your gut. Over time this shouldn’t be a deciding factor that makes or breaks your success with DFS. However, it is something to keep in the back of your mind. Sometimes betting against a player with one of these steaks has allowed me to rake in the money, because every else was on the player’s side.

Don’t worry about player injuries. They are just something that you can’t control, and you will never know how things play out until the very end. A player could get injured early on in the season and get better, or get injured right before a game with an outcome that will be crucial in your overall strategy. There is just nothing you can do about it.

Putting this amount of effort into developing your projections takes a lot of time and effort. However, you can use excel and databases to speed things up and make it more proficient. I personally use a huge Google Doc to do most of my projections, and it takes about half an hour to get my projections updated for the next week. There are also a couple of other things that have taken me a long time to figure out and develop and I don’t want to give out on this guide. However, by diving into DFS immediately and learning you can start to develop your own process. We all started at the bottom. Don’t be discouraged. Just know that the sooner you get started, the sooner you will start banking money and living an alpha lifestyle.

DETERMINING PLAYER VALUE

Everyone has their own method of creating quality lineups and how they go about developing their DFS roster. A lot of people like to start out with one or two elite-level players and build their teams around them with other quality players, and finally with low-tier players they think have promise. This strategy, however, needs to be based on factors other than season and career stats.

Focusing on career and season stats is a great idea if you are playing traditional fantasy sports. However, it is a bad move if you are playing daily fantasy sports. Over time a player will average out to a certain level of performance. Their good and bad days will equal out to where they stand as a player overall. If they are an elite player, obviously their good days will vastly outnumber their bad days. If they are a bad player, the reverse is true.

However, in daily fantasy sports, you only get to see one day of the player’s capabilities. They are either going to have an “on” day or on “off” day. You don’t get to see the variance washed out due to multiple days within a season.

Therefore, what are the factors that can actually be looked at to determine how valuable a player is? I’m glad you asked.

  1. Matchups = who is your player going up against? How have they performed in the past against this team during this season or seasons in the past? How had this particular player done against one of the defenders that he is going to be up against? How easy is it overall to score on this team’s defense? Take a hard look at everything you can in the matchup department.
  2. Lineups = is your player going to be starting or is he going to becoming in off the bench? How many minutes of game play is he likely to receive? Are there any recent dramatic changes to the starting lineup? Are there any injuries that can tell you about a player’s minutes (you won’t be able to predict an injury, but when it does happen, this is how you can account for it)? Are there any suspensions?
  3. Hot Streak = while I think this evens out long term, it can be a great strategy short-term. If your player has been dominating the last three games, it might be time to adjust your strategy (Hint: that doesn’t always mean keeping them on the lineup. I’ve said too much.)

Do not count this as an exhaustive list. However, it is a good starting point so that you can get a general idea of the types of factors that go into determining what a player is worth.

THE PREDICTIVE FANTASY SCORE

The predictive fantasy score is the total fantasy points I hope to get from a player given the salary I pay them. When I compute this score, I can compare it to their actual scores using stats in the last few games to determine what their return value will be to me.

This model runs under the assumption that each player on a nine-man roster, each being paid the same amount ($6667 on FanDuel for instance), should give me the same amount of fantasy points. Taking a look at a team score of 260 as a good base, each player should then get me about 29 fantasy points. Using this, we can take a look at the final formula developed (again, this uses FanDuel as an example):

  • Predictive fantasy score = (29 * Salary) / 6667

By utilizing this predictive fantasy score formula you would want an elite player ($9,900) in a nine-man team to deliver you with at least 43 points, if not more. A low-tier player ($3,500) should give a predictive fantasy score of around 15 points.

You can take advantage of this fantasy score to figure out whether or not you can expect to get a positive return on investment. This method is great to use as a base for getting started, but as you build up your own strategies you will find even better formulas and methods that work better for your specific playing style.

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

With predicting player value out of the way, I want to give you a few things to consider moving forward.

  1. Never ditch your formula if it is working for you. It is very tempting to hear about things that other players may be doing, but if you have found something that jives with your play style and risk tolerance, keep doing it. Hitting rough patches is a good time to review what you are doing, but don’t be quick to jump ship just because some variance lends itself to you losing for a few days in a row.
  2. Don’t get stuck on a particular player. Some of the more elite players with high salaries just aren’t worth it for the amount of points that they bring in. If you have seen success with certain guys, it is definitely smart to use them in different lineups and test things out. However, also don’t think that you need to rely on them and that they will be the ultimate determinant in your success.
  3. Salary cap is only a number. When I started out playing DFS I would attempt to max out my salary in every single contest. It’s not smart. Obviously, you don’t want to leave a lot of salary cap on the table. However, you also don’t want to force a guy into your lineup when you don’t really feel the need to change anything up.
  4. Higher buy-in leagues are generally going to have better players. Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to compete with the big boys when you are just starting out. We all have huge budgets and know what is going on. Wait until you are hitting consistent winnings in lower-tier contests before you turn up the heat. A lot of us are veterans and we have been around for a while. Build your bankroll and stack your skills; your time will come.
  5. Don’t play with something that you aren’t familiar with. The age old joke is PGA. A lot of guys don’t know a single thing about the league yet they try to enter into GPP after doing 15 minutes of internet research. I’m not going to lie; I did stuff like this when I first started out. However, it wasn’t a good idea and I got spanked.

By now you should have a solid grasp on some of the industry best practices and what is going on within leagues. Now we are going to dive into different sports to that you can get an idea of what it takes to become a baller for each season.

NFL

DO NOT STACK WHEN PLAYING FOOTBALL

Don’t stack in football. If you are playing a different sport such as baseball, and you are generally successful, the odds are strong that you stacked players. This is a solid strategy for baseball and hockey, but it will get you cooked in football. Unlike in those sports, teammates who play football do not benefit from each other’s success. They actually do worse because of it. This just comes down to how games are structured and how the scoring system works.

If a wide receiver gets stopped at the 3 yard line, and then a running back gets the touch down, only the running back is going to get the points (unless of course you are playing in a PPR contest). To win in a GPP you basically need to dominate every position. This means that you are going to need players who account for a large part of their team’s success.

And this just isn’t going to happen when you pick multiple teammates and stack. When one of the player’s has a good day, that is going to mean that other players won’t have had the chance to capitalize on the opportunities necessary to score big points.

Really the only exception here right be a quarterback and their favorite receiver. However, really any other combination of guys on the same team isn’t going to end well for your placings in GPP. This isn’t to say that you can never be successful that way. Just be wary that it will be much harder by stacking players for football.

DON’T PICK OFFENSIVE PLAYERS THAT ARE GOING HEAD TO HEAD WITH YOUR DEFENSE

This pretty much goes without saying, but it is worth mentioning. You are going to need your defense to score a lot of points. This means that you want them to completely dominate and shut down any offense that they come up against. Additionally, if your defense is doing a good job, that means that your offensive players won’t be killing it on the score board either. DFS is a lot different than season-long fantasy play because you aren’t just looking at one opponent. You have to consider a field of entries. You just can’t afford to be giving up points.

Every single player that you select for your lineup needs to produce results for you. If you pick players that are going up against your defense, you are already putting yourself in a position to lose. As with anything in DFS, there are rare times where this rule doesn’t hold true, but that time will come once you have worked long and hard at developing your own strategy and style of play.

DON’T GAMBLE ON GUYS THAT LOOK QUESTIONABLE

In daily fantasy sports you have every player from every team to choose from when building your lineup. You need to make the best picks. Therefore, why would you pick a player who has an injury and might not be allowed to play after the first quarter? It just isn’t smart. Even if he ends up playing strong, the team might move up or down and he would end up getting pulled from play anyways. Make sense? There is enough variance in DFS for you to worry about without also having to consider whether or not a player is going to actually play.

ACCEPT HEAD TO HEADS, BUT DON’T OPEN THEM

The best H2H players feed on fish. As soon as a H2H is posted, it is going to be grabbed up. During the start of seasons H2H will last literally seconds on the big sites before they are swallowed up. You don’t want anything to do with this when you are starting out and learning the ropes. Just be smart about it. If you see some guy with 25 entries for H2H, there is probably a good reason that others are avoiding it. Do the same.

PLAY FOR CHEAP WHEN YOU ARE STARTING OUT

Don’t try to jump into the highest paying contests and tournaments when you are just starting out. You are just asking for trouble. Maximize your deposit to get the matched bonus, but don’t think that you need to spend it all at once.

DON’T GET TOO HYPED UP WHEN YOU WIN OR TOO DEPRESSED WHEN YOU LOSE

If you are looking to reach baller status and make a lot of money in DFS, you will get there. However, it isn’t going to happen overnight. It is going to take consistent, daily effort at working on your strategy. You are going to have good days and weeks, and you are going to have some off days as well. This is just part of the process. If you start winning, don’t get too greedy and up your entrees rapidly. Stick to your plan and stay level-headed. If you do this, you will have long-term success in DFS.

MLB

Major League Baseball is the original daily fantasy sport. A lot of baseball fans just don’t have the time or don’t want to put the effort into a full year of baseball. But that’s okay, because a lot of guys are realizing that daily baseball is super profitable. This quick run-through will give you a strong foundation to start out with. From there you can build out your lineups and personal strategy.

  1. Never get crazy with your pitcher spot. I can’t speak enough about this. Pitchers get their stats over about 30 starts, or 200 innings. Hitters on the other hand get their stats over 160 games. This means that hitters are going to have a lot higher variance in performance from a daily perspective. Probably the worst idea that you can have is picking a mid-range option or a low-tier player for your pitcher spot, and having your best hitter for 1 for 4 with a single. If there is an elite pitcher that is obviously the best by a wide margin, don’t try to be clever and fade him.
  2. Use this pitcher checklist to make a choice between ties:
    1. Pick the pitcher who has the highest strikeout rate
    2. If both pitchers have baller strikeout rates, go for the National League before the American League. The reasoning behind this move is quite simple. NL is going to have the pitcher bat, which is going to give you easy strikeouts. For guys that are a lot lower quality though, this choice is going to be evened a bit because average NL pitchers are going to often see outings cut shorter if they are battling in the next inning at a key spot.
    3. If the decision is still a tossup, pick the pitcher who is playing in a better ballpark. Ballparks can be different for left or right handed hitters. Some ballparks are just going to favor one side or the other. An example would be the Minute Maid Park in Houston or Fenway Park in Boston, both of which are heavily favorable for right-handed pitchers.
  3. Betting on base percentage is dominant for cash games. On Base Percentage (OBP) is key and is a much better indicator of a batter’s skill than the more popular statistics that deal with battings averages. For those who are new to baseball this is probably a new concept. The goal when you are playing MLB is to not make outs. It is not to get hits. You only get three outs in an inning. This is why you will commonly see a walk talked about as being even to a first base hit. This comes down to the simple fact that the player made it to first base without getting an out.

 

This lends itself to the fact that walk rate, or walk percentage, is a very important statistic to look at. This also means you don’t always have to chase the guy that is going to give you that nasty shot. Picking someone who isn’t likely to give you negative points is key. Additionally, with any punt plays that I make, I am always going to go after someone with marketable skills. They either need to be good at making it to base, or they need to be a great hitter against whatever type of pitcher they are facing.

 

  1. Most of you are new or have no experience with DFS in general, or more specifically DFS baseball. That is okay. But one key thing you need to realize is that you don’t want to spend money on a catcher when you can spend that salary more effectively on players who are going to get you points for making it to first base. This is pretty self-explanatory, but for some reason guys mess this up all of the time.

Those four points should give you some things to think about when you are coming up with your roster. However, the game of baseball is extremely complex and it isn’t easy to figure out. That is a good thing for you in the long run, because as you become a better DFS player with more and more bankroll, you will be able to dominate newer guys who don’t have a lot of experience. While you might not be consistent when you first start out, it will pay off in the long run as you become a formidable opponent on the larger league sites.

You are going to come across lots of metrics as you start to build out your strategies. However, there are three stats that are particularly important. Know that this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will give you an awesome foundation for starting out.

  • Walk rate for hitters: as I talked about earlier, walk rate is key because it will show you how patient a batter is at the plate. Walk rate will show you whether or not a player is in a slump lately. This is because if you see a period of time where some player is hitting around .150 in hit last 50 or so bats, and he is walking a lot less than normal, it is probably a really good indicator that he isn’t seeing the ball well, as opposed to the occurrence being dictated by random variance.
  • Strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) for a pitcher: top-tier pitchers in MLB have a strikeout-walk ratio of 3.0 or greater. That means they had three strikeouts for every walk that they allowed. You can do the math from there to see that less desirable pitchers will have ratios closer to 2.0 or 1.5.
    • One quick note: Please don’t ever take a pitcher for a game if he has recently allowed more walks than strikeouts. I don’t care who it is. These statistics should be setting off all kinds of red flags and warning signs in your mind. It generally means that something is off which the pitcher. My advice is to wait on that pitcher and see how his next few games turn out. If you are more comfortable with his K/BB ration after that, go for it, but never before. Again, the common theme here is that you want to reduce your risks as much as possible while creating opportunities for you to win. If you can figure out that simple concept, you will be able to dominate in DFS.
  • Weighted on Base Average (WOBA): I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to include this final metric because it can be pretty complex, but I have faith in you guys and I know that it will benefit you in the long run to hear this. Basically this metric is a way of saying that all hits are not the same. Obviously, home runs are going to be worth a lot more than a hit that gets someone to first or second base. The same logic applies when you understand that a triple is worth more than a double. You get the point.

 

WOBA is a good way to see how much contact a hitter is making, or just how much a pitcher is giving up. WOBA can be sorted easily for a large list of players. You are going to hear it thrown around often, especially when it comes to platoon splits. There isn’t really any particular metric that can be used as the end all, be all metric, but WOBA is probably as close as you are going to get. It is one of the best metrics at looking at the overall picture.

If you gain a solid understanding of those statistics and metrics you will be well on your way to developing your personal strategy. I highly recommend you revisit this section again and re-read it if anything failed to make sense to you.

NBA

First up for playing NBA daily fantasy sports is learning about the networks and sites that you are going to play on. When it comes to scoring, a lot of sites are going to have small differences that you want to be aware of, and that can affect your overall strategy. The scoring system is simple enough to pick up just by reviewing each site, so I won’t list it here, but know that the differences across platforms can make a difference in you winning or losing.

One of the first things you are going to want to do is create a value process for your lineup decisions. This will give you the chance to figure out a base line of points for each player and just how many points they will need to deliver to pay off in the end and give you a positive ROI on your salary investment in them. This will obviously vary from league to league. For example, you are going to need a lot higher scores to cash out in GPPs, as opposed to cash games where it won’t play as big of a factor.

Once you come up with your fantasy value process you will be able to take the total and divide that by the overall salary cap of the site that you are playing the contest in. For example, say you realize that 250 points is going to be your goal while playing on DraftKings. You are going to divide that by $50,000 which is your total available salary on that site.

That is going to let you know that you are going to need about five FPs for every $1,000 of salary in order for you to do well and reach your goal. You will hear a bunch of veterans saying that a player needs to reach five times their salary. Well, this is what we are talking about. Using this value system can be very useful. It will help you to pick up on players that may be underpriced. In general though, it is good to point out that you are going to need to get more than 5x your salary for cheaper players, and less than 5x your salary for more elite players.

Once you start getting your hands dirty you are very rapidly going to find out that opportunity is everything. Game time and minutes will directly correlate to opportunities, and opportunities will directly correlate to results. Because of this fact, injuries are huge in DFS basketball. If a player goes down, their backup is going to take over and will have to do something with the remainder of the team to make something happen. Due to this, an effective strategy is looking for backups that lend themselves to a boost in production because of injuries.

In order to effectively stay on top of all the injuries that are happing in the league, you need to keep an eye out for player updates that go on throughout the day. Open up player news on a fan site and start following the player that you want to use for your lineup. Make sense? Good, because this is going to be crucial for you in helping to spot injuries before they happen and as they happen, which can mean the difference between you winning that day and you loosing. One word of advice though: make sure you are getting your information about injuries from a solid source. You don’t want to be pulling information from someone trying to trick you with a fake twitter account (it has happened; it isn’t a huge issue, but just keep your senses about you and do your homework).

The level of pace for gameplay is another big metric that needs to be considered when it comes to DFS basketball. This metric, once again, ties into opportunities. Pace of play takes into account how many possessions on average a team has per game. The faster the pace of play, the more possessions a team will have. And if a team has more possessions, that just means there will be better chances for your players to score fantasy points. To predict possessions per game, you can average the two teams together, or you can take a look at point totals on a fan site. It’s your call. I suggest doing both to get a better picture (I have been able to make a lot of money when people were relying on one method and I used something completely unexpected; don’t be afraid to start innovating and coming up with creative ways to dominate once you learn the ropes).

Defense vs. Position (DvP) rankings and statistics are another good tool to keep in mind when you are playing in basketball fantasy leagues. The rankings are a good measure of how many fantasy points each team supplies to a particular position in comparison to the other teams in the league. When you are taking a look at rankings, it is going to be best to take a look at multiple sets of DvP data. This might include season-long data as well as recent data points from more recent games. This will help give you a heads up about any trends that may be going on and how teams are stacking up against one another in the defense department. With anything in DFS, the more effort you put in to learn about different players, the more you can dominate with this method.

Additionally, it is worth it to point out that basketball is one of the most “streak-prevalent” sports that you can play games in. In another sport like MLB, players can hit hot streaks, but the momentum is generally only going to go so far because the next pitcher in a lineup may change the game up completely. And, in football there are just too many factors to take into account to think about hot streaks presenting a valuable way to predict player performance.

However, in the NBA, momentum plays a huge role in player and team performance. If a player has a lot of confidence in a game, he is most likely going to be aggressive on the court, which can lend itself to more opportunities being taken by that particular player, and thus more points being scored. The only thing to be wary of when buying in to a player with a hot streak is salary. You don’t want to drop a huge salary on a player just because he is hot. However, if you can find an undervalued player that has been dominating recently, jump on it, because it will almost always be +EV for you.

As with any other sport in DFS, make sure you are keeping up with the times and looking for information from several experts. You never want to place all of your eggs in one basket, which is why pulling information from multiple authors can give you a great overview of the playing field and help you hone in on promising opportunities. If a lot of experts are converging on a particular player, and the salary for him is low, you probably want to jump on that.

NHL

The goal (no pun intended) in hockey is to score fantasy points for your roster by having your players score goals, gain assists, log pluses, and get penalty minutes. While this is pretty straightforward and obvious, accomplishing it can take some skill, and that skill is what separates those at baller status from those who are just getting started.

You get to pick two LWs, two RWs, two Cs, two defensemen, and one goaltender. If you are looking to cash out on any particular night, you really need to get a goaltender that kills it on a winning team. You also need to have at least three point scorers goal wise. This is going to change from site to site (this example is for FanDuel and DraftKings) so make sure you understand the score methodologies and know what you are getting into point wise.

Each DFS site is going to have a different scoring system. You are going to hear this a lot at the start of every season, but for whatever reason a bunch of guys still seem to forget this (don’t be one of these guys). Once you figure out the scoring system for the site and fully digest that, it is time to start coming up with your strategy, which is where you are going to bank.

The first thing you are going to need to figure out is what players are most likely to play on any given night. Next you need to take a pass at which goaltenders are most likely to start on that night. Basically, you just want to make sure that your guy is going to be playing on any given night. Additionally, a lot of sites will weigh goalie performance heavily, and if the team that your goalie plays for wins, you are likely to get a nice payout.

The key thing here is to start out by picking your goalie first. After that, you can start to develop your lineup of skaters who will build out your picks for the day. So once you have your goalie, add two or three top-tier superstars and then start to add in the missing pieces. The additional skaters that you add that aren’t top-tier players can came the difference between you walking away at night with a positive ROI or not.

Basically, you are going to want to go after skaters on teams from games that have had a high over/under. It is also crucial to find times when one team has a much better power play and is going up against a team with a bad penalty kill percentage. You would then attempt to go after a netminder in a game with a lower than average over/under where you are going to have a favorable moneyline for the favored team to win. For NHL games, I like to put a goalie with a team that is at the very least -175 on the ML or higher. When it comes to my skaters, I tend to pick as many forwards and defensive players as I possibly can that are on the first line, as well as on a team’s best power play unit. Obviously, this is not always going to be possible. It is just a good “best practice” approach that is important for you to know about and keep in the back of your mind at all times.

Probably the most difficult aspect to setting up a DFS hockey lineup is figuring out where the value or bargain players are. To be able to do that, you need to pay close attention to the lines a team has and discern whether a player with a cheap price is playing on the first or second line. It is even better if this low-priced, value player is most likely going to see some power play time. As with any other sport, you are going to want to hone in on players that are getting more and more responsibility as the season goes on. If you can jump on these players soon enough, you will be able to grab them at a great salary price and dominate (I’ve said too much again).

There’s plenty of stuff not covered here, but again, this is going to get you started on the right path to figuring out different leagues and how you want to approach them. At the end of the day, becoming successful with hockey is going to rely on keeping up with the sports news and making daily roster predictions that turn out to be correct. If you become really good at finding places where a player is heavily undervalued, you will be able to walk away with money every time. And the more you learn, the easier it will be to build out an entire lineup of dope players that will lend themselves to you winning multiple days in a row.

Obviously, as I have hinted multiple times throughout the guide, this isn’t an exhaustive guide or list to dominating in the DFS space. However, this is a guide that I wish I would have had when starting out. By reading this you will gain a very strong foundation that is plenty to start making you money. From there it will be up to your skills and bankroll to take it to the next level and reach baller status.

No matter what, remember that this comes down to hustle, hard word, and skill. The best piece of advice that I can ever give you is to take massive action. We all started at the bottom. When I first started out I barely had any money and knew absolutely nothing. Now though, you have an awesome starting point where you can start making money right at the start.

Good luck future ballers!