New to daily fantasy sports? If so, you’ll want to review these common mistakes DFS players make. They’ll save you time, help you to preserve your bankroll, and help you to avoid the frustration of losing every contest you enter.
Even if you’ve been playing DFS for awhile, it’s a good idea to go through this list. A lot of team owners get lazy. They become complacent. As a result, they sometimes fall into the same traps they triggered when they were newbies.
The mistakes described below are universal; they’re not specific to any single sport. Keep them in mind whether you play weekly fantasy football, fantasy basketball, or any other sport, from fantasy NASCAR and golf to hockey and MMA.
They’ll not only help you to land more paydays, but they’ll also make playing daily fantasy a lot more fun.
15 Mistakes Daily Fantasy Sports Players Make (And How To Avoid Them
Blunder #1 – Setting And Forgetting Your Fantasy Rosters
There’s nothing wrong with setting your rosters early. The problem is, a lot can happen between the time a contest opens and the first game of its slate.
For example, players can suffer injuries, putting them on the sidelines. They can get arrested, forcing them to miss their games. They can come down with a bad stomach bug, keeping them in the bathroom instead of on the court or field.
If they don’t play, they can’t score.
If you set your lineups early, review them a half hour before the first game starts. Update them as needed. You can’t afford to draft players who score zero points.
Blunder #2 – Following The Crowd
Everyone’s slotting Melvin Gordon at running back, so you should do the same, right?
While picking studs with high-ownership percentages is sensible in some circumstances, it’s imprudent in others. Following the crowd will only result in a roster that lands you in the middle of the field. It’s a formula for mediocrity.
That might suffice if you’re playing in a large 50/50 or double-up. But if you’re playing in a GPP tournament, you’re almost sure to lose.
Make your lineups unique. It’s the only way to break out for a payout.
Blunder #3 – Neglecting To Check The Injury Report
Injuries are the bane of daily fantasy players. Nothing hurts more than spending good money on a player you expect to produce only to find out after a game starts that he’s a late scratch due to an injury.
As I mentioned above, you can’t afford to have non-scoring players on your roster.
There’s a simple and easy way to avoid this scenario. Check the injury report a half hour before the first game. Put it on your daily to-do list and set an alarm so you don’t forget. Make sure your guys are going to get playing time. If one of them is a late scratch, you’ll have a chance to replace him.
Blunder #4 – Trusting Projections From A Single Source
There’s no shortage of pundits sharing their favorite fantasy draft picks. Each week, they announce who they’d put on their rosters along with their reasons.
It’s tempting to find an authority you trust and let him or her do the heavy lifting for you. After all, they have the tools to do deep dives into the stats. Their research is bound to be solid, right?
Maybe. The problem is, not all pundits DO research. Many of them declare their weekly picks based solely on various biases. Some just parrot other “experts.”
Here’s the point: if you’re going to use weekly fantasy projections (and to be clear, you should), find at least three reliable sources. If all of them are saying similar things, and you’re confident they’re doing the research, there’s a good chance their projections will be solid.
Blunder #5 – Creating Rosters Too Early
This is related to Blunder #1 (see above). Again, there’s nothing wrong with setting your lineups early. A lot of experienced DFS players do so. But if you’re the kind the player that does it just to get the task out of the way, it’s a bad idea.
Why? Because you’ll probably be disinclined to check your lineups and make changes before game time. In other words, you’re likely to “set and forget” them.
If you’re certain you’ll review your lineups for late injuries, last-minute scratches, and the like, feel free to build them early. Otherwise, wait until game day.
Blunder #6 – Fearing A Lack Of Predictability
Daily fantasy is unpredictable by nature. Sure, you can project how players will perform based on their recent stats and matchups. But nothing is guaranteed.
A lot of newbies find this to be unsettling. They fear the variance inherent in daily fantasy. They worry about the potential inconsistency in players’ performances, which might ruin any chance they have of cashing.
But the lack of predictability in DFS is one of its best traits. Oftentimes, it’s instrumental in allowing team owners to break out from the pack and finish at the top of the field. To that end, the randomness can be an advantage, particularly in large-field tournaments where breaking out is necessary to cash.
Don’t fear variance. It’s what makes DFS great.
Blunder #7 – Giving Vegas Oddsmakers The Cold Shoulder
Oddsmakers in Vegas know the score. Their livelihoods depend on the accuracy of their lines and player/team projections. They do the research because NOT doing it means potentially losing their shirts.
Moreover, Vegas uses fancy algorithms to do deeper dives into the numbers than most of the talking heads you’ll find offering weekly picks. They have more skin in the game.
Don’t ignore Vegas when you create lineups. The oddsmakers know what they’re doing. Take advantage of their hard work.
One of the simplest ways to do that is to identify teams expected to score a lot of points in upcoming games. Look for high over/unders. Then, draft select players from those teams.
Blunder #8 – Failing To Do The Right Research
Let’s say you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and research players for your rosters. That alone gives you an edge over lazier team owners.
But it’s important to focus on the right numbers. You could literally spend your entire day crunching stats that have little value.
For football, that means focusing on matchups, opportunities, fantasy points scored per opportunity, and red zone stats. For basketball, you want to concentrate on pace of play, defense vs. position (DvP) rankings, and ceiling/floor stats.
Baseball is a statistician’s heaven on earth. Nowhere will you find more numbers to crunch. So it’s doubly important to focus on what matters most. You’ll want to dig up stats on weighted on-base average (WOBA), batting average on balls in play (BABIP), expected field independent pitching (xFIP), splits, skill-interactive ERA (SIERA), and the number of strikeouts a pitcher throws per nine innings (K/9). That’ll get you started.
The point is that you spend your time wisely by focusing on the stuff that matters.
Blunder #9 – Using The Same Strategy For Different Contest Types
The draft strategy you use in a 50/50 won’t do you much good in a large-field tournament. Likewise, the strategy you use when competing in a GPP won’t do you any favors in a double-up or head-to-head.
Different contest types require different approaches to slotting players. A conservative strategy tends to work well in 50/50s and double-ups. By contrast, you need to take bigger risks to win a payout in a tournament.
Switch up your game plan based on the type of contest you enter.
Blunder #10 – Using The Same Strategy For Different Sports
Just like your draft strategy should accommodate contest type, it should also reflect the sport. Football is different than basketball, and basketball is different than baseball. You’ll have a much better chance of winning if you know how to adapt accordingly.
Fantasy production in baseball and basketball are pretty consistent at most positions. MLB and NBA players play so many games that variance in their performance from week to week tends to smooth out over the season.
Football’s different. There’s less consistency, at least in comparison to baseball and basketball. Moreover, weekly performance at every position can be greatly influenced by numerous variables.
Blunder #11 – Pinning Your Hopes On A Single Roster
If you’re competing with a single lineup, you’re missing out in at least a couple of ways. First, daily fantasy is more fun with multiple lineups. You have more chances to win.
Second, you rob yourself of the opportunity to diversify.
If you’re playing in a small 50/50, this isn’t a problem. But diversification is key to winning large-field contests, such as GPP tournaments. You’ll be competing with DFS players who’ll enter 100 lineups or more. Improve your odds of winning by creating multiple rosters. You can either use the same core of players in each one and rotate others in the remaining slots, or draft completely unique rosters.
Bottom line: don’t rely on just one lineup.
Blunder #12 – Spending Too Much Time In GPPs
I get it. Those massive prize pools are irresistible. Who doesn’t dream of winning a big payout in daily fantasy? By comparison, grinding in 50/50s all day sounds a lot less exciting. A lot less sexy.
But here’s a reality check on GPPs: your chances of winning a huge payout are slim.
Sure, there might be $500,000 up for grabs, but you’d have to place in the top 20 just to win $1,000. Or suppose you enter DraftKings’s NFL $4.44M Fantasy Football Millionaire tournament. You’d have to place 75th to win $1,000. That’s out of more than a quarter of a million players!
Definitely enjoy yourself in GPPs. The potential for a huge payout is thrilling. But if you want to increase your bankroll, spend most of your time in cash games (50/50, double-ups, etc.). They may be less sexy, but they’re easier to win.
Blunder #13 – Squaring Off Against The DFS Pros
Overconfidence is a bankroll killer in daily fantasy.
Suppose you’ve won a few contests and feel confident that you know how to put together a winning lineup. Fair enough. But don’t let your self-assuredness lead you into a trap. Don’t assume you can hold your own against the pros.
There are experienced players on DraftKings and FanDuel who compete in hundreds of contests each day. Many of them have enormous bankrolls as well as fancy tools they use to crunch data. To say they have an edge would be understatement.
To mitigate the disparity between newbies and pros, both DFS sites now assign experience badges to players. You can tell at a glance whether the guy or gal you’re going up against is a potential shark. Use that intel to your advantage to know when you’re outgunned.
It can save your bankroll.
Blunder #14 – Neglecting To Track Your Results
The only way to know how you’re doing in daily fantasy, and adjust your strategy accordingly, is to track your results. One of the biggest mistakes DFS novices make is to assume they can keep track of everything in their heads.
They can’t. No one can.
After competing in dozens of 50/50s, double-ups, small-field leagues, and large-field GPPs, the numbers begin to blur. No one can be expected to remember them. If the details aren’t recorded somewhere, there’ll be no way to review the results, pinpoint errors in strategy, and make adjustments.
When you track everything – wins, losses, type of contest, field placement details, slotted players, etc. – you have a way to assess the effectiveness of your strategy. If a tactic isn’t working out as planned, you can change things up.
If you neglect to record your results, you’ll be robbing yourself of this opportunity. Creating lineups will become little more than guesswork.
Blunder #15 – Failing To Watch Your Bankroll
Bankroll management is one of the most important aspects of daily fantasy sports. If you don’t watch your money, you might burn through it more quickly than you can imagine. The last thing you want is to come off a series of losses and discover that your bankroll has dwindled to a fraction of what you started with.
That’s a terrible feeling!
The good news is that you can easily avoid this problem. Map out a plan that dictates how much money you’ll risk each night. Detail the number of contests you’ll play as well as the average size of your buy-ins (or entry fees).
Then, commit to cutting yourself off once you reach your limits.
Whether you’re just getting started in daily fantasy sports or need a jumpstart to jolt you out of a state of complacency, review the 15 common blunders above. If you’re making any of them, you’re almost certainly leaving money on the table.
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