If you’re new to daily fantasy sports, it can seem overwhelming at the start. To help you get started on being a more successful DFS player, here’s 5 tips to help you win on FanDuel and DraftKings.
1) Learn the Different Contests Types
If you want to win at daily fantasy, you’re first going to need to understand the different types of contests offered by the sites. Both FanDuel and DraftKings offer two main groups of contests, which the daily fantasy community refer to as “Cash Games” and “GPPs”. There are also other games like satellites and qualifiers. The lineup building strategies for the first two contest types mentioned are very different, so it’s important to understand the differences.
Cash games include Double Ups (50/50s) and Head to Head contests. As the name suggests, in Double Ups roughly half of the field double their money, by finishing in the top half of all entries. The maximum amount you can win in these contests is 2X your buy in, meaning there’s no benefit to finishing in 1st place over finishing in 50,000th place, so long as both places are in the top half of the field.
Head to Head contests, yet again, have a self-explanatory name. In these contests, you’re competing against just one other person and the winner roughly doubles their money. You win by finishing in the top half of the field, however in this instance the field is only 2 players.
Because the goal of both Double Ups and Cash Games is to finish in the top half of the field, strategy for both of these is very similar. In cash games, you need to focus on finding players whose prices are good value and focus on players who put up consistent results. You don’t need to “gamble” on players who you think may put up big numbers, if the value and consistency isn’t there.
To compare value of players and find good value picks, you can compare player pricing with their seasonal fantasy point averages. Players with the highest average fantasy points to salary ratio may be high value options. It’s of course important to consider the player’s match up, current team role, and many other factors when looking for value. If you’re serious about winning money on DraftKings and FanDuel, you may want to invest in a lineup optimizer. These tools identify players’ projected value by accounting for averages, match ups, projected team points, and many other factors. (Lineup Optimizers also do a whole lot more than project value, including allowing you to create up to 100s of lineups in seconds. You can find out more about them throughout this website and there are links to the best DFS optimizer.)
Player consistency is important in cash games, because just one player having a poor performance can be the difference between doubling your money and losing it. While indicators of consistency vary by sport, here are a few tips:
- Running backs are typically more consistent than wide receivers in the NFL, so you’ll often want to prioritize them in cash games.
- Focus on starting players in the NBA, as their minutes are usually more guaranteed than bench players.
- Pay up for pitching in MLB DFS. Pitching is far more consistent than hitting, as pitchers have way more opportunities to score fantasy points throughout the course of a game.
- Focus on batters near the top of the batting order, usually not picking batters past the 5th spot.
In addition to these indicators, there’s a ton of other factors that can lead to players being volatile. Try looking through game logs, or use player consistency ratings found in our recommended tools.
Guaranteed Prize Pool Tournaments (“GPPs”) are contests where normally about 20% of the field cashes, and the higher you finish, the more you win. Examples of these contests include DraftKings Millionaire Maker, where first place can win $1,000,000.
Unlike in cash games, there’s a great deal of incentive to create lineups capable of finishing in the top spots. Your lineup building strategy should take this into account. Focus on players with high upside, as well as some “contrarian picks”.
Upside in players is important, as you’re never going to win a GPP with a lineup of players who put up just an average or good performance. To win a GPP you’ll often need to outscore hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of other entries into the contest. You need a roster of players, where it’s possible multiple players far exceed their average performance.
It’s extra beneficial when the standout players of your lineup have low ownership percentages in the contests. This means that a low number of total entries into the contest included those players. Rostering players who performed well, when not too many other entries in the contest had them, will do a lot to separate you from the competition.
Here’s some tips for finding good GPP picks:
- Find some “next best plays”. While some days in DFS it seems like there’s a clear list of top options, this doesn’t mean tier 2 or tier 3 players don’t have similar upside. These lower tier players will also come with a lower ownership percentage.
- Look for players with slightly sub-par value, but favorable match ups. While a player may be overpriced for his current match up, a good match up can still give a player enough upside to far exceed his value.
- Play “studs” in poor match ups. Stud players are capable of putting up huge performances, no matter what the match up. Consider rostering stars like Steph Curry or Julio Jones, when they have a tough match up. They’ll still give you strong upside, while being much lower owned than normal.
2) Use Vegas Lines
One of the best research tools for daily fantasy sports are Vegas odds and lines. Vegas lines can be used as a projection of how many points teams will score in a game, as well as how close the game will be.
The sports betting market is incredibly efficient, as there’s some very smart people with a lot of money looking to take advantage of any inefficiencies. This makes it a very accurate source for projections.
Spreads can be used to project how close a game will be. Spreads in sports betting indicate how many points a team is favored by. For example, if the Patriots are -3, this means they’re favored by 3 points. Their opponent would then be +3 or 3 point underdogs.
Close games (games with low spreads) are favorable in daily fantasy sports. When games are close and competitive, it makes it more likely that the players you have in your lineups will stay on the field/court. If a game becomes a blowout, your players are likely to leave the field and be replaced with back up players.
Totals (over/under) along with the Spread can be used to project how many points each team will score in a game. The total of a game can be used to project how many total points will be scored by both teams combined. The spread can then be used to project how to divide these projected points by each team.
The Houston Rockets are playing the San Antonio Spurs, with a Over/Under of 213 and the Spurs are 5.5 point favorites (-5.5). The formula for finding how many points each team will score is the following:
(Total/2) + or – (Spread / 2)
So for the Rockets (the 5.5 point underdogs):
(213 / 2) – (5.5 / 2)
106.5 – 2.75
Rockets Team Total= 103.75 Points
For the Spurs (the 5.5 point favorite):
(213 / 2) + (5.5 / 2)
106.5 + 2.75
Spurs Team Total= 109.25
***Tip: Notice the difference in the teams totals is 5.5 points, the same as the spread.
Totals are important for DFS, as the number of points scored in a game directly correlates to the number of fantasy points scored in a game. When points are scored, players score points. It can also indicate the pace at which a game will be played, which means how many opportunities players have, to score fantasy points.
Look for players with high team totals, in games with close spreads.
For Vegas lines and odds, you can check out a sportsbook like pinnacle. (Odds are available for U.S. residents to view, but not bet, without having to create an account.)
3) Learn From the Best DFS Players
If you want to get better at FanDuel and DraftKings contests, then why not learn from what the biggest winners are doing. After lineups are fully locked, see what the best players in DFS went with for their lineups. Try to think about why they went with the picks they did, and what research factors they used to reach these conclusions.
Who should you study?
Here’s a list of DFS players who have been consistently among the top of the DFS Rankings.
- “saahilsud” of RotoQL has long been at the #1 spot.
How can you find these players’ lineups?
For DraftKings contests, you can simply view live contests for any sport and filter for higher buy in contests. You do not need to have entered these contests to view entries into them. By using higher buy ins, with smaller player fields, it will be easier to find the players you want to study.
To go a step further, to find out who’s really winning the most, you could keep track of how many fantasy points players’ lineups are scoring each day and then compare that to the number of fantasy points needed to cash. This is time consuming and unnecessary though, unless you really want specific data.
For FanDuel contests, it’s more difficult as you can’t see live contests that you’re not entered in. If your bankroll allows for it, consider running one lineup into a higher buy in contest to gain information. This should be viewed as an investment in your future as a DFS player.
4) Use Good Bankroll Management and Understand Variance
This is definitely not the sexiest tip, but it’s likely the most important tip for anyone trying to win long term in daily fantasy sports. If you want to have long term success on FanDuel or DraftKings, you’re going to need to practice good bankroll management.
Even the best DFS player have losing days or even prolonged stretches of losing and you won’t be an exception to this. While daily fantasy contests are a game of skill over the long term, there’s “luck” involved on a daily level. You could have the best player projections, but there’s no chance all the players in your roster score exactly as many fantasy points as you project.
In all forms of investing, it’s important to use bankroll management. Whether playing daily fantasy, playing poker, or investing in the stock market, it’s important to not risk too much on any one investment. You should also never risk more money than you’re willing to lose.
Here’s some general daily fantasy bankroll guidelines, if you want to reduce your risk of ruin:
- Never invest more than 10% of your bankroll on any given slate.
- If playing GPPs, never risk more than 5% of your bankroll on any given slate.
- Focus on entering more contests at lower buy ins, rather than entering all of your daily investment into a few higher buy in contests. This will spread out your risks, while putting your lineups against softer competition.
- Monitor how your strategies are working and adjust if things aren’t working out. It is important though, to give strategies a sufficiently long test period.
5) Choose the Contests You Enter Wisely
With so many contests to choose from every day, on both FanDuel and DraftKings, there’s no reason not to be selective of the contests you enter. In this section, we’ll give you tips for choosing the contests with the softest competition.
When you first sign up for both DraftKings and FanDuel, you have the ability to play in “Beginner Contests”. These are contests that only daily fantasy players who are new to the site are able to enter. This is a good way to “get your feet wet” in DFS, against players of the same skill level as you.
As mentioned in step 4, contests with lower buy ins naturally have softer competition. You should maximize your amount of entries into these contests daily, before entering any higher buy in contests. It’s important to note, that players are restricted as to how many times they can enter low buy in contests on both sites, so this limits the number of times professional players can enter these contests, helping to make them softer.
Cash Games vs GPPs
Whether you want to play cash games or GPPs is a matter of personal preference. That being said, it’s likely beneficial for you to play both contest types. This will increase your exposure to players and diversify your risk.
It’s worth noting GPPs are typically softer than cash games. This is because GPPs appeal more to the average recreational player, who wants to win a huge prize. It’s important to remember though that GPPs have a lot more variance than cash games.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings tag players based off their experience level on each site. Look through the field of entries into contests before you enter them, trying to find contests with less experienced players. This is particularly beneficial for selecting Head to Head opponents.
Further Improving Your Daily Fantasy Game
Hopefully you found our 5 tips for how to win at DraftKings and FanDuel helpful. The next steps in improving your game is to further learn how to research and create profitable lineups in DFS.
To help you save time, research more efficiently, and create lineups faster, you may want to try a daily fantasy lineup optimizer tool. You can learn more about these tools and how they can help you win at DFS here.
If I can offer one more tip for free, to answer the most common question of all....
How to Win at Fanduel
To learn how to win at Fanduel, join as many contests as you possibly can, to understand the mechanics of the contests and to understand how other players pick their lineups. You don’t have to pay for all contests, many of them are free to test the waters.