Daily Fantasy Sports: The Skinny on Cash Games for a Fat Profit Margin
What is a cash game?
January 29, 2018 – Randy Dicker – Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) comes at you with a lot of different contests to play. It’s human nature to look at the contests with the highest payout and want to take a shot. Don’t fall for this common mistake as it’s a great way to set yourself up for losing.
Cash games are an avenue to build your bankroll while keeping the odds of winning as close to your favor as possible. The concept of a cash game is straightforward, play a $1 and win a $1.80, or $2.00, if you finish in the top half of the field. I will explain the .20 cent difference above in a minute. I will review the types of cash games with you and then go over line-up strategies for a successful investment. Cash games play very different from the big money tournaments and are much easier to consistently make a profit. Let’s discuss the first type of cash game, the 50/50.
The 50/50 is a staple contest to play whether you are new to DFS or a seasoned player. The premise is very simple and straightforward. A $1.00 entry into a 50/50 with 100 entrants requires you finish in the top 50 to win a $1.80. Now wait a minute, if it’s a 50/50 why in the blue hell am I not taking home $2.00? This will explain the .20 cent difference I referenced above. The reason is the site you play on takes a rake of the total pot. A rake is a commission for the host site to make money for their services, in this case DFS contests.
Click Here! Now let’s re-visit these high payout contests you (ok maybe by you I mean me) wanted to jump into at the start. These contests usually have in the high thousands of entries with only the top 10-20% of the players winning any money. For instance, FanDuel is running a contest with 68,027 entries tonight. It costs $7.77 to enter and first place takes home $100,000. Life changing money for sure, but so is the lottery. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to take a shot at these occasionally, but you must crawl before you can walk. In this contest, you must place in the top 13,815 to win money or in the top 20%. If you finish 13,815, you basically double your entry fee and win $14.00 after rake. Now compare this to the 50/50 contest and you can see why playing more cash games leads to long-term DFS success.
50/50 contests come in all shapes and sizes. You can enter $1, $2, $5, $10, and $25 dollar contests all the way up to thousands of dollars if you have that kind of expendable income. In the beginning, I found entering multiple $1 and $2 contests worked well for me. For the most part, you get beginner or novice DFS players who, maybe like you, are trying to find their way. Sure, there are sharks that swim in the water and try to prey on new and inexperienced players, but remember you only have to finish in the top 50% to cash. In these low dollar contests, the scores you need to make money are generally lower as well. For instance, if you score a 300 you could very well cash in a 50/50. However, that 300 score probably wouldn’t make the 10-20% finish you would need to cash in larger contests.
Let’s move on to the next type of cash game, Head to Heads.
Head to Head (H2H) Contests
Head to heads are exactly as the name suggest, me versus you winner take all minus the rake. Depending on the player you talk to, some players loath H2H’s while others participate in these contests every night. Personally, I enjoy these contests. There is less room for error in H2H’s versus cash games, which is why I think many players stay away. What I mean by less room for error involves one of your players having a horrendous night. In a higher entry contest, chances are others will have the same player and you still have a chance of finishing in the top 50% and cashing. In a H2H, if one of your players has a bad night and your opponent doesn’t have that player, you are at a great disadvantage. Sure there is a chance that one of your opponent’s players will have a bad night well, but generally H2H’s are less forgiving than 50/50’s.
H2H’s can be played for as little as $1 all the way up to $10,600. As with cash games, it is wise to start low. When I started, I went on quite a winning streak in H2H’s and built my bankroll up to $100 bucks or so. But it took so damn long to do, and I thought I had this DFS thing figured out, so I entered all the money I had into a H2H contest. I got smoked and what took me two weeks to build was gone in a fraction of that time. I had built my bankroll on $1, $2, and the occasional $5 contest. I certainly didn’t win everyone, but I won enough to make a steady profit. Instead of betting it all, I should have played a $10 or $20 H2H. That way if I lost, it wouldn’t hurt as much, and I could start the building of my bankroll again at a much higher money level than $0.
The next type of contest is considered by some to be a cash game, while others differ on that opinion. Myself, I consider it to be a cash game. So, let’s delve into the Double Up.
The double up plays very similar to a cash game except you actually double your money if you win. A $2 entry gets you $4. How this happens is why some people do not consider double ups cash games. Let’s look at a $2 double up with 56 players. Instead of the top 28 players cashing, only the top 25 cash. The site takes the rake from the extra entries which allows for the “double your entry fee” payout. As you can see, the double up offers less chance to cash and is a tad riskier, but I still feel they are a safe way to play to build your bankroll if you are aware of how they differ from 50/50’s.
Over time, playing only double ups and no cash games can be problematic. Once I got the hang of cash games, I started mixing in double ups and had some success. Then I got greedy and played just double ups. My bankroll suffered as my percentage of losing increased exponentially as I pulled all my entries from 50% cashing contests to 44% cashing contests. It’s important to stick to the cash games and sprinkle a few double ups in when your comfortable.
So now you know about some different cash games. But I can’t let you simply throw line-ups into these contests without giving you some information on how to build them. Onward, to victory we ride!
Cash Game Line-Up Building Strategy
With a fighter’s chance of winning money in cash games, naturally you should limit your risk when building lineups. A boring, vanilla line-up works wonders in cash games. Think of it as sex with a condom. Sure, it’s not the most exciting, upside down, and mind-blowing experience you will ever have, but it get’s the job done.
Playing cash games doesn’t require you to score the most points. There is no need to take a chance on a guy that is a “boom or bust” player. You need to find the players that consistently give you a solid number of points, rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals. It would be nice to load up on all the high dollar players to accomplish this, but your salary cap prohibits that. There are always value players on each slate to play that allow you to get a superstar or two in your lineup. Keep in mind, value opens each day with injury announcements. If a mid to high dollar priced players is out, the back-up is generally low priced and will see an increased number of minutes. This is considered a safe play and, for the most part, should be considered for your cash games.
Reliable, high floor, players will lead to positive cash game results over time. There will be times that a player has a great match-up on paper, but has a horrendous game for one reason or the other. It’s important to look back at these situations and review why you made the decision to play the player. If it made sense, stick with your thinking. As you play you will develop strategies and certain ways you research slates. Sometimes, as in life, the right decision leads to bad results. These bad results don’t always make the decision you made wrong. Stick with your process and grow each day. As a DFS player you will evolve as the night’s slate dictates, but your core research habits and instincts need to stay in place. When I first started playing DFS, I listened to so many shows and read tons of articles. Thinking back, I had a different strategy every night and my results were not good. It was when I built a core of research habits, found a podcast similar to my thinking, and joined a group of like minded players that I began to improve as a DFS player.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope your DFS journey is helped by my experiences. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, experiences, or comments on the above or any of my articles. I’m here to help in any way that I can.
Next time I will dig into bankroll management. I have referenced it many times in my previous articles and at it’s core it is rather straightforward. With DFS however, there are many traps that I want to help you avoid. It is, after all, a form of gambling and the sites main focus is to generate a profit. Stay safe and see you next time.