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Daily Fantasy Football: Lessons Learned from a Profitable Season

Follow me @RexWindwood

I’m going to say something that will make me sound like some asshole, spoiled kid with no appreciation for hard work:

Daily Fantasy Football isn’t that hard.

If I told you I’ve increased my bankroll by over 5000% from the start of the 2014 NFL season until now, what would you say? Based on that statement alone, you would probably say something along the lines of: “Big deal. You got lucky in a tournament or two. You’ll never do that again.” And I wouldn’t blame you.

But if I told you these returns were created steadily by being profitable over 85 percent of my NFL daily contests, I think you’d be more interested in hearing how it’s done. In fact, here are the numbers:

5050

 

Because you can compound your returns playing daily fantasy, you don’t need to win big tournaments to grow your bankroll. Here’s a spreadsheet that allows you to see what your returns would be given various scenarios. Feel free to download the spreadsheet and experiment by changing assumptions.

While my success is by no means normal, I think anyone, with some hard work, can manage to become consistently profitable for the long-term. I’m here to share some themes that I think can take a beginner in DFS to long-term profitability. Or at least until the hedge funds take over the DFS industry.

I can think of 3 key themes that helped me take my daily fantasy success to the next level. While I mainly focus on the NFL, these 3 themes are applicable to all daily fantasy sports.

Cost Per Point Analysis

The most important thing I think someone can add to their game for improved success is considering salary efficiency or, in other words, how many dollars it costs for 1 expected fantasy point. I see too many amateurs only considering this type of value metric in their heads. For example:

Player X is $7300 and I expect him to put up 16 fantasy points.

Player Y is $6700 and I expect him to put up 15 fantasy points.

Who is more salary efficient? Now imagine this example with 50 more options, and now you might see why it’s worthwhile to actually calculate these values rather than eyeball them.

The human mind cannot accurately comprehend and calculate these values with hundreds of options to choose from (unless you have some NZT-48). Humans are riddled with inherent biases; mitigate these biases by incorporating a simple cost per point calculation into your daily fantasy strategy. All you have to do is throw your favorite site’s projections into a spreadsheet and add in the salaries from your daily site. A swift key-in of =[salary]/[expected fantasy points] and you’re done. Not too hard. Now you have quantified a player’s value and can make better decisions on who to have in your lineups.

Bankroll Allocation

The next most important thing to becoming consistently profitable is understanding your risk profile and your strengths. For me, success came when I realized I was cashing in almost 90 percent of my 50/50 lineups and then losing all those profits on large tournament entries that never cashed. Once I realized this, I adjusted my strategy to just sticking to 50/50s only. Understand your skills and focus on those contest types where you are most successful.

For most, it will be 50/50 and safer type games simply by way of those games having a smaller house cut or rake than most large tournaments. Cash games aren’t as sexy as the tournaments that offer instant millionaire status, but they are the key to consistent and long-term profitability. Think about it this way: If you can win 60% of your cash games and prudently only risk 10 percent of your bankroll per day of contests that equates to an expected 30 percent return in 20 days of playing DFS (or the equivalent of the NFL season). Here’s how your win rate can affect your expected return in 20 days:

winpct

This is the power of compounding that your finance professors were always talking about.

When focusing on these cash games, keep in mind that you’re just trying to beat half the field. You should be focusing on creating a relatively safe lineup which isn’t always the same as creating a lineup with the highest projected score. This is why you will commonly see good cash game players in NFL DFS pay up for an elite quarterback and running back. These positions are more consistent than WRs and TEs that rely on a relatively small amount of touches for production. Look for more articles on cash game plays and strategies in the future from me.

Become a DFS Sponge

The final advice I have for players looking to take DFS more seriously and become consistently profitable is soaking up as much DFS and sports content as you can. There are a lot of really talented writers and quants out there (particularly on RotoViz). Read their material. Find out who you tend to agree with and check out all of their material. Follow them on Twitter, see who they follow on Twitter, set a reminder to read their recurring articles each week, etc. There are a lot of great podcasts out there. Download them for listening on your commute. Have one on while getting ready before work. RotoViz Radio always has interesting guests and material. If you like a guest on the show, start following them on Twitter.

Follow individual team beat writers. These are the guys that can give you the best info on what to expect from a team any given day. They know their teams well and have their finger on the team’s pulse. I recommend setting up a list on Twitter of DFS follows that way you don’t need to weed through all the other tweets on your timeline when trying to find crucial decision-making info.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how much time to invest into studying DFS content. Content has diminishing returns. Don’t burn yourself out but try to dedicate a few hours each week to reading or listening to material particularly paying close attention to news close to game time.

These three universal themes contributed to my DFS success, and I believe they can help anyone become profitable for the long-term.

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