I’m looking forward to the 2021-2022 NFL season. We NFL DFS degenerates are all gearing up to get in on some of the exciting daily fantasy sports (DFS) action on DraftKings and FanDuel. When it comes to DFS, the big prize pool, low entry fee tournaments with a million to first are going to get the attention of the majority of players with a dollar and a dream mentality. It is inherently exciting to put down less than $25 with an opportunity to win up to a million and certainly makes a Sunday spent watching NFL RedZone with a cold beer in hand that much more exciting.
However, the vast majority of DFS players that only play these big ‘Milly Maker’ contests find themselves to be unprofitable over the course of an NFL season. There is a reason for this: the top-heavy payout structure and high ‘rake’ (the money the house takes off the top) in these contests makes it all but impossible to make money in the long-term without at least one very high finish position during a season. On top of this, the sheer size of the contests being larger than any other in DFS makes a high finish all the more unlikely. Players find themselves treading water at best and slowly but surely losing money in the long-term.
This is not to say that players should not enter these Milly Maker contests; they are fun and anything can happen, and the vast majority of people playing DFS on any given Sunday do it for the love of the game and the fun of the sweat. It is far more exciting to watch the games with action, and the higher the stakes and the lower the buy-in, the more appealing the contest is going to be to the majority of those playing DFS. However, there are some things we can do to make our NFL season more profitable, which is ultimately more fun than bleeding money away without actual rewards furthering our enjoyment of NFL DFS.
1. If you are going to play the Milly-Maker, play correctly for the contest size and payout structure.
This is one of the most crucial points to discuss when it comes to NFL DFS and one that is severely overlooked by the majority of the player base. If you are playing a huge contest like the Milly Maker, you will not come in first or even close to it with a safe, obvious lineup containing the ‘best plays’.
To beat out well over 100,000 entries in these contests and finish near the top, you are going to need a unique lineup to pass the tens of thousands of entries playing the ‘chalk’ (the obvious best plays on the slate). You will need to consider ownership, and find some of those sub 10% (or ideally sub 5%) owned sleeper picks to leapfrog the field.
In addition, correlation is king in these huge GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) tournament formats. You need to try to hit on the best high-scoring game environments. The fewer things you have to get right in these types of contests, the more likely you are to land on the right combos. This is why you will want to ‘stack’ (play players from the same team/game) more heavily than you might in a smaller tournament. This means pairing your quarterback with at least one, but often 2 pass catchers (wide receiver or tight end works, or even a pass-catching running back).
You will generally want to ‘run it back’ with at least one player from the opposing offense, if not two (this is considered super-stacking and has often worked in Milly-Maker formats when a game goes nuclear). Another stacking technique is to play a secondary stack from your first stack (say two WRs from opposing teams in another game you think will have fireworks), and even adding a third correlation in your lineups (a RB with the defense from the same team is a common one). This way, you aren’t trying to predict the future by picking out a bunch of individual players who you think will do well. Instead, you just have to get two or three game outcomes right, and you can catapult to the top of the leaderboards as every point your players score leads to more points from other players in your lineups.
2. Don’t only play the Milly-Maker; allocate some bankroll to smaller GPPs.
Yes, we all want the chance to take a crack at a million bucks with next to nothing at stake, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Nonetheless, if we want to make some money this football season and even pad our bankrolls so we can afford to put more bullets into the biggest contests, it is prudent to spread out our contest selection. There are tons of smaller field contests on DraftKings and FanDuel with fewer entrants and often fewer total entries allowed per player. Some of these are single entry, some three entry max, and some 20 entry max.
Many of these contests have more flat payout structures, meaning that you don’t have to come in the very top positions for a decent payout. Some also have less rake, particularly as you go up in stakes. It is a wise idea to play some of these contests, and also play them in the most advantageous manner.
By the same token that I mentioned the need to maximize the uniqueness, leverage against high-owned plays, and correlation in your Milly Maker lineups, you’ll want to do a bit of the opposite in smaller field contests. While all the same factors apply, the smaller the field, the less the need to differentiate yourself with mega off-the-board plays and highly correlated lineups.
3. Consider playing 50/50s and Head-to-Heads (cash games).
Playing ‘cash games’ (poker parlance for 50/50s and Head-to-Heads) is not sexy, but it can be a great way to keep your bankroll above water and fund your GPP entries.
Early in the NFL season a lot of newbies will be trying out the waters on DraftKings and Fanduel. You can find some pretty soft-action against unskilled DFS players before a lot of these users run out of money and stop playing for the season. This is particularly true in low-stakes cash games.
Unlike GPP play, you don’t have to try to get off the board to play good cash game lineups; just play the best plays and the rest will take care of itself. You only have to beat one person (head-to-heads) or finish in the top 50% of the field (50/50s), so there is no need to get crazy and unique or go out of your way to seek an extreme correlation between players in your lineups.
Some may also simply find the head-to-head format fun in terms of the direct competition with another player to see who can make the better lineup. There are various DFS sites you can subscribe to with quality player projections and lineup optimizers that will essentially make your cash game lineups for you, requiring minimal effort and more time and money to go after those big tournament prize pools.
4. Track your progress and results and manage your bankroll.
One of the more overlooked aspects of DFS play, particularly among more casual players is to actually track your results and use this to inform your future play for more profitability.
You may find if you track your play that you are very successful in certain types of contests such as three-mans or single entry contests over others. You may do better in smaller field contests with less than 1,000 entries. You may find the opposite. Perhaps you are losing money consistently in the Milly Maker, but doing great in smaller fields or cash games. You may do better on one site versus another due to the nature of the scoring or the user base. Perhaps single game showdown contests are your specialty, or you do better on smaller afternoon only or Sunday-Monday slates. You really won’t be able to analyze this unless you keep track of your play.
By the same token, you’ll want to properly manage your bankroll and not play beyond your means if you want to continue firing bullets at those big prize pools for an eventual big win. The name of the game in DFS is longevity and living to play another day.
5. Play on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
Many DFS players get tied to one site or the other, but it is a good idea to play on both sites, and you can even branch out beyond that to other smaller DFS sites like Yahoo.
You may notice player pricing discrepancies between sites that you can exploit for stronger play. Perhaps one site may have a softer user base of weaker players. Understanding the scoring differences between sites and using them to inform your lineup choices can give you an edge over other users.
You may also find that you simply prefer or do better on one site or another due to the lineup construction format and/or scoring differences.
There are also big differences in buy-ins between sites, with FanDuel generally having a much lower cost per entry on their big Milly Maker GPPs. This may afford you the opportunity to enter more lineups or enter at all depending on your bankroll. Diversifying your action between sites is another way to keep your bankroll alive and experiment with what suits you best as a DFS player.
The casual DFS player has a tendency to totally overlook a good portion of the DraftKings and Fanduel lobbies and immediately gravitate to the sexiest prize pools that are the most difficult to win. However, the ultimate goal in DFS for the casual player is to have fun, and it is clearly much more fun to win money than to lose it.
Whether you are a super serious DFS aficionado or just someone who wants a little skin in the game over beers on a Sunday afternoon, you can give yourself a much better chance of winning a little (or a lot!) of cash through considering and diversifying your contest selection, and playing the right kinds of lineups for the contests you enter on DraftKings and FanDuel this NFL season. Good luck!