NFL New England Patriots QB Tom Brady

The Battle Plan for NFL DFS Noobies

If you’re an NFL DFS noobie, you’ll notice that you don’t get an instruction manual when you make your first deposit on FanDuel or DraftKings.  You will (probably) not win $1,000,000 during your first venture into a GPP.  You will probably lose most of your first deposit and never see the bonus you’re promised when you register for the first time.

I’m sorry for the negativity, but I wanted to be real with you.  Just know that it doesn’t have to be this way.  There is a way for new players to maximize their fun and bankrolls every NFL Sunday that isn’t such a grind.  Regardless of how much money you have to get started, you can win and you can be profitable right out of the gates.  Here’s how:

1. Play 50/50s. Seriously.

If you’re the kind of person who isn’t here to build a bankroll over time in order to take bigger shots, you can probably stop reading.  There is zero instant gratification in playing 50/50s.  You enter, you finish in the top half of the field, and you win $0.80 on the dollar.  It’s the least exciting game available to you in either site’s lobby, but it will go the longest way in helping you understand the key concepts of lineup building and bankroll management.  50/50s allow you to play the guys everyone else is playing without major punishment.  This is where you want to play that near minimum priced running back thrust into the starting lineup.  This is where you want to play the double digit home favorite team defense.  This is where you would play any quarterback facing the Saints last year.  Understanding who is the chalk and building a lineup around that chalk is the key to success in 50/50s, and because this style of game pays out the highest percentage of the field, it is worthwhile to sink the majority of your early investment into this style of play.

2. I like Head to Heads, but wait until you’re comfortable with the game.

Head to Heads (H2Hs) are a good way to diversify your shares.  If you have a bad week in 50/50 play, you can still recoup losses by entering yourself in a fair number of H2Hs.  Remember, when you’re having a bad week, there are usually other players doing just the same thing.  I dove into H2H play more seriously after about Week 9, when I was really comfortable with my lineup building process and how I was spreading out my bankroll.  Don’t overextend yourself to get extra action, but H2Hs are a great way to get even more exposure to how other people build lineups.

3. Play Double Ups, but don’t make it the foundation of your play.

I like large field double ups.  Please know, however, that less than 50% of the field gets paid out in these events.  This isn’t like a 50/50 where 50/100 players get paid.  Typically, 40-45% of players will get paid out in these double up events, which allows the sites to pay you double what you invest.  Double ups are similar to 50/50s in that you’re in good shape to play the chalk, but you do need upside to safely cash, so rosters will be constructed differently.  Cash lines fluctuate weekly in the NFL, so if you’re a “one lineup” kind of player looking to play double ups, you’ll either have to be willing to take on more upside to slightly differentiate yourself or be willing to play less double up volume.

4. Make a budget and stick to it!

It may seem stupid to actually have to read this, but this is crucial to long term success in Daily Fantasy Sports.  I have long subscribed to the 20% rule, in that 20% of my bankroll is on the line every week in the NFL.  I don’t play 20% per slate, meaning if I want to enter Thursday lock contests, Sunday Early Only, or Prime Time in a given week, it all comes from the same 20%.  Now, you don’t have to use the exact percentage.  You might be more comfortable at 15% or you might have your eye on a specific event that takes you to 25%.  Whatever you’re comfortable risking should be consistent week in and week out.  I would break the percentage up in the following way: 70% 50/50s & H2Hs, 15% Double Ups & other multipliers, and 15% GPP.  This way, if you build one great lineup, but it’s not big enough to cash in a GPP, you’ll be covering your own action through cash play.  We all want to be the guy on TV holding up the big check and the championship belt, but if you don’t come out ahead more often than not, you will never have that shot.  It’s OK to win a little.

5. Understand the chalk EVERY WEEK

Todd Gurley at home against Cleveland off of a bye week.  Any quarterback against the Saints.  Tight ends against the Raiders.  Whether these situations hit every week or not, you have to gain an understanding of where the industry’s head is at.  Gurley was owned in over 85% of lineups in 50/50s the week he predictably went off against the Browns.  With the exception of three weeks, every quarterback who faced the Saints threw for multiple touchdown passes.  An opposing tight end scored a touchdown in eight of the first nine games against the Raiders.  These sorts of trends help identify where the public is most likely to be every week and will help you decide who you absolutely should be playing in 50/50s and who you can be fading in GPPs.

6. Have fun. It is a game after all.

I don’t like losing money either, but if you are only focused on dollars and cents every week, the game you love watching isn’t going to be much fun.  I love football, and watching it for nine hours every Sunday becomes a real chore when you’re losing.  That’s why you should never play more than you can afford to lose.  Losing a $5 H2H shouldn’t be the end of the world.

7. BONUS: EXPLOIT SOFT WEEK 1 FIELDS

Week 1 in the NFL is always the softest week of the season for a few reasons.  First off, the DFS sites are putting on their biggest contests of the year to attract new players and there is routinely a large amount of overlay.  Overlay is the amount of money sites have to put up to cover their guaranteed prize pools.  Because these large field events sometimes remain unfilled, the value of an individual entry increases.  Secondly, this is the week where the casual player dips his toes in the water, and the cumulative experience of the players in the field will never be lower.  You can build safer lineups in Week 1 because everyone is playing a guessing game when it comes to how teams will operate to start the season.  Attack matchups in Week 1 and build a lineup with more balance.

The most important thing to remember is that profit is profit.  If you survive a week and only make a couple bucks, celebrate!  If you hit a $5 buy in GPP for $100, celebrate!  It took me a long time to realize that my profitable season last year was indeed a positive because I kept staring at what could have been.  You will struggle at times, just like everyone else will.