DraftKings continues to be one of the hottest daily fantasy sites. Even though it’s smaller in overall size than FanDuel, it’s the site of choice for tens of thousands of fantasy sports fans.
Having said that, it doesn’t matter how popular DraftKings is if you’re unable to win. Whether you’re playing fantasy football, baseball, soccer or golf, it’s the chance to win cash prizes that keeps you playing.
How do you win over the long run? It’s a matter of doing solid research, knowing how to draft good talent, watching your competitors’ lineups and managing your bankroll. It’s more complex than it sounds. Entire books can be written on each of those steps.
For example, bankroll management entails more than just knowing how much money you have in play. It also takes into account how to get through losing streaks, splitting your roll between low-stakes and high-stakes contests, and paying taxes on your winnings.
I’ll boil down the most important points in this two-part series.
Updated for 2016 NFL season
Crash course on winning at DraftKings
Since NFL is the hottest fantasy sport by farseason, I’ll use examples from football. But don’t let that throw you. The 10 points we’ll cover below and in an upcoming post apply whether you’re playing daily fantasy baseball, golf, hockey, basketball or any other sport.
Let’s get on with the first key…
#1 – Adjust Your Draft Strategy By Contest Format – Cash Game or Tourney
That advice might seem trite. But contest format plays a huge role in how you draft talent. Your priorities will change with the size of the contest and its payout structure.
Cash game line-up’s vs GPP Tourney line-ups.
If you’re playing in a large-field tournament, the payout structure is going to be top-heavy. Approximately 10-15% of the field will end up in a cash position, and most of the money will go to the top 10 players. That being the case, you need to take risks to land in a cash position. You need to draft guys who might have a breakout night.
If you’re playing in a 50/50, the payout structure will be flatter. Half of the entrants get paid, and everyone gets paid the same amount. You don’t need to take as many risks because you’re not trying to land in the top 10 of the field. You just need to end up in the 50th percentile.
Here’s one way to think about the draft: the flatter the payout structure, the more guaranteed points you want to log. That includes 50/50s and head-to-heads. The more top-heavy the payout structure, the more breakout performances you need if you hope to cash.
#2 – Tread Carefully When Drafting Sleepers
Everyone dreams of picking a sleeper who breaks out and has a huge night. The team owner not only cashes, but ends up looking like a fantasy sports master. When it works, it almost seems like magic.
The problem is, most fantasy players find that picking sleepers rarely works to their advantages. They pick speculative talent, hoping for a miracle. But when the dust clears, they find their sleepers still sleeping.
It’s not that picking sleepers is a bad fantasy play. It can work stupendously well if you know what you’re doing.
That’s the key: being selective.
Remember, a low salary doesn’t imply hidden talent. More often than not, it means the player isn’t expected to turn in a major performance that week.
Drafting sleepers can be a great tactic in building a winning roster. But picking players who break out takes research and a fair amount of luck. It’s not just throwing darts at a board. Listen to the talking heads each week but remember that so are thousands of others. Find those guys who aren’t being talked about so much but who look like they might end up with quality playing time due to an injury or opponent or other myriad of factors.
#3 – Check The Latest Injury Report
This should go without saying. But every day, fantasy players at DraftKings clearly forget to check the injury report before constructing their lineups. When game time arrives, they’re stuck with players who end up missing their games.
For example, according to the latest NFL injury report (at the time of writing), the Cardinals’ Carson Palmer is out with a bad right shoulder. Will he play this Sunday against the Eagles? Who knows? He’s currently listed as “Probable.” If he ends up skipping the game, you don’t want him on your roster.
The same goes for Reggie Wayne, wide receiver for the Colts. He’s dealing with an elbow injury from a recent game with the Bengals. Will he play this week against the Steelers? At this point, it’s anybody’s guess. His status is listed as “Doubtful.”
The point is that you should always check the most recent injury report to make sure your lineup is filled with guys who are going to show up. The last thing you want to do is waste your salary cap on players who will add zero points to your score and your chances to win.
#4 – Learn How To Work DraftKings’ Bonus Points
The scoring system at DraftKings includes a few bonus items that a lot of team owners neglect. If your players hit certain numbers, you’ll earn extra points.
Take a look at the DraftKings’ scoring system for weekly fantasy football. Hidden in the numbers is a 3-point bonus if your QB passes at least 300 yards. You’ll also receive a 3-point bump for logging at least 100 rushing yards. And you’ll receive another 3-point bump for logging 100+ receiving yards.
You want players who can turn in those numbers.
QB Bonus Points
In the QB slot, that means keeping an eye on Drew Brees, Mat Ryan, Kirk Cousins and Phillip Rivers so far this season. All 3 have averaged more than 300 passing yards per game in 2016 (at the time of writing).
Your receivers can bring you a lot of bonus points. You have 3 WR slots to fill at DraftKings, and each one can potentially earn you 3 points by receiving 100+ yards. Julio Jones, A.J Green, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, are currently leading the pack this season. Each one has turned in an average of 100+ yards per game.
The rushing bonus at DraftKings is tougher to earn. There are two reasons. First, you only have two running back slots to fill at DraftKings. There isn’t as much opportunity in your roster as you have with your three receivers.
Second, there aren’t a lot of RBs who maintain an average of 100+ rushing yards per game (current group). That group is currently limited to Ezekiel Elliot, David Johnson and DeMarco Murray.
Bottom line: the bonus points at DraftKings can come in handy, especially when you’re trying to squeak past other team owners in a small league or 50/50. But don’t rely on them. They’re tough to earn.
#5 – Establish Your Bankroll Metrics
As I mentioned earlier, bankroll management in daily fantasy sports involves more than just keeping track of how much cash you have at risk. You need to start with a plan that gives you control over your daily and weekly spend. Then, you need to figure out how many bets you should have in play at one time.
The most reliable way to do that is to come up with a formula that reflects your results. As you win more contests, your optimal number of bets will change.
Here are a few guidelines I recommend if you’re just getting started in fantasy sports.
Second, track your wins and losses. Make a note of the date, sport, contest format, field size, entry fee, and dollars won or lost. It doesn’t matter if you do this with a legal pad and pencil or on a spreadsheet. I prefer the latter since it allows me to sort the data. The most important thing is that you do it.
Third, use a formula that takes your results into account to determine how much money you should risk each day (or week for fantasy football). There are several formulas you can use. A lot of veteran fantasy players use the Kelly criterion. We’ll discuss that method, as well as other bankroll management issues, in more detail in the near future.
Those are the basics when it comes to bankroll management. The key is to reach a point where you don’t have to think about how much to play. Your metrics will lay it all out for you.
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