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Whether it’s your first time trying daily fantasy sports or you started way back in the day, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few strong tips to improve your skillset. DFS can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. You can play one sport or eight. There are options to field multiple teams within one sport. And depending on your budget, you can spend $10 or $100.
Take a spin through our daily fantasy tips below to improve your skills and become a winner.
Easy Ways to Improve Your DFS Skills
The annual estimate of how much money American businesses lose on fantasy sports is both a silly and a staggering figure. While the amount probably bears no relation to reality, it’s a clear indication that Americans are crazy about their fantasy sports.
The now-established daily fantasy sports market lets people cash in on their fantasy prowess in a fully-legal format that has caught on in huge numbers and grows every year. The two leading daily fantasy sites, DraftKings and FanDuel, have about 1 million registered users EACH, with about 50,000 player per site per day.
What are some simple things a fantasy owner can do to make it more likely that they’ll win their league? The tips below are designed to help anyone new to fantasy sports get a jump start on their league success, but the information is also good for owners who have played for years and find themselves in a fantasy rut. (Which is very easy to do, and you lose money.)
1. Establish a Routine in DFS
Having a routine of some sort is important for success over the course of a fantasy season. Whether you’re looking to develop a daily fantasy football strategy, or put together winning lineups for another sport, you should have a well-honed approach in mind before the games begin.
Different people will have different routines—some owners set their fantasy basketball lineups for the entire season over the course of a long weekend, making changes live as needed. Other owners will want to adjust lineups on game day only, making choices on the fly. It doesn’t matter what kind of routine an owner establishes as long as they have one.
Why? Complacency is the enemy of fantasy sports. Settling for a poor draft (instead of trading and acquiring your way to a better roster for your fantasy team) might be the most obvious sign of a complacent fantasy owner, but there are others. A routine, regardless of its details, is the best antidote to complacency.
Here are some ideas for establishing a fantasy routine:
- Keep up with the news related to the sport in question. This might mean catching fifteen minutes of SportCenter every day during the season. You can also listen to special TV/radio/YouTube shows that obsess over statistical details. This part is up to each individual owner, but the more work you put in, the more fantasy points you’ll score.
- Set an alert on your phone to check in with your league(s), your players, your rosters, and any proposed trades or league trash talk you have to respond to. We all carry our iPhones and Android tablets with us wherever we go. Use that alarm for something other than a hangover wakeup call.
- Speaking of your phone, use its push feature in combination with different sports-related news and advice apps for a free daily reminder about your daily fantasy players, their teams, or sports news in general. Research the right service for your needs. It will help you get into the necessary routine and make you more knowledgeable about the game at the same time.
2. Think (and Read) Like a Sports Bettor
We’re not saying you have to lay a C-note down on the big game this weekend (although it is an awful lot fun). We’re just saying that fantasy owners looking for a jump start should tap into the massive pool of resources available for sports bettors.
Sports betting strategy is usually written by people who put real money on the line on these wagers regularly. This means that they have an extra incentive to get things right.
Forums, message boards, strategy sites, and even data available through bookmaker apps and websites can all be extremely useful for fantasy owners. Start with a simple sports betting how-to article and move on to more advanced stuff from there. A wealth of information is available to people who place wagers on sporting events. You’ll find that much of it applies directly to fantasy sports strategy.
3. Make Bold Decisions
Some of us take our fantasy ownership very seriously. Whether the prize is bragging rights or cash money, truly dedicated fantasy owners want to win as a point of pride. There is an old saying: “Providence favors the brave.” What does a brave fantasy owner look like?
Different owners use bravery in different ways. For some, it means taking big risks on finding the right mix of lineup decisions during the draft on a roster full of sleeper picks. These guys ignore conventional wisdom in favor of what they identify as “high value” picks. An example would be a fantasy football player selecting a top-rated Team Defense in an early round, or choosing several players from the same game in a daily salary cap tournament. These may be the bold decisions that saves his ass in the playoffs.
Another kind of brave owner will immediately mine the free agents left over after the draft to grab high-value players. This applies during the regular season, too, post-draft.
So how does a person learn to make bold decisions? Like anything else, it takes practice. Make bold decisions in your everyday life. Try the new Thai restaurant on the corner, buy a bold-colored shirt and wear it to work, rent a sports car for the weekend, whatever it takes to practice boldness. It will result in a surefire way to earn a pay off (at some point) in your fantasy career.
4. Learn to Find Your Own Draft Sleepers
All fantasy sports, from golf to NASCAR and everything in between, have one thing in common. Success in all of them depends heavily on a good draft. Recognizing the best-value player on the board means more than picking the guy with the most-familiar name, particularly after the first round or two.
Statistically speaking, a sleeper is any player with a higher fantasy value than his average draft position indicates. A sleeper is basically an under-valued product. Identifying under-valued products is the mainstay of investors, realtors, salesmen, and (yes) fantasy owners. Here’s a quick guide to finding them.
- Look for players in a more opportune position in their real-world lineup.These may be guys that changed teams or a solid sixth-man who finds himself in a starting role on an NBA team. A sleeper could be a rookie running back backing up a star with a long history of injury. Basically, look for a player who has (or may soon have) increased responsibility.
- Look for veterans preparing for new contracts. This is another good piece of advice that works pretty much across-the-board for fantasy sports. It’s a shame, but there is a clear trend among veterans to turn in solid fantasy numbers during seasons before they’re due for a new contract. When trying to put together an optimal NFL DFS lineup, for example, give some consideration to players in their last NFL season on their current contract.
- Look for late-season studs. In fantasy sports, a stud is any player putting up big fantasy numbers. In most fantasy sports, the playoffs involve a limited number of teams during the last few weeks of a season. That means fewer fantasy owners paying attention to late-season stat jumps and heroics. This type of sleeper is commonly found in basketball, a sport in which players often take a year or more to blossom, and doing so at the end of the season.
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Tips to Win at DFS
Next up, a strategy guide on how to take the “W” in fantasy sports cash games and tournaments.
As daily fantasy sports (DFS) grows larger each passing day, more and more players are registering for contests for the first time. Depending on your site of choice and the sport you’re playing, the strategy you use for each contest and site will vary. That being said, there are basic tips for players to remember no matter what sport or type of contest (cash or tournament) they’re playing.
Here is some basic, hard-won knowledge that is worth passing on. These five tips should help you make better DFS picks and win at DFS in the long term and become profitable.
1. Embrace Variance
It’s no coincidence that many of the top DFS players are former poker players or poker professionals. Variance is the difference between the expected result and the actual result. Poker players understand variance, or put in laymen’s terms, luck.
For instance, if a Texas Hold’em player holds AA and his opponent re-raises all-in with KK, the player holding AA is around an 80% favorite to win the hand. That means 20% of the time he’s not going to win, and the player with KK will scoop up the pot.
That 20% is a percentage that can’t be discounted. One out of five times, the player with a superior hand will lose. In the long run, though, the player holding AA is going to win the vast majority of times. The 20% of hands where KK ends up taking down the pot are variance.
The parallel to DFS in the above example is simple. If a player continually puts out strong lineups (better than his opponents), he will profit. However, like poker there’s going to be plenty of variance. Those who play DFS every day experience losing streaks or stretches of break even, along with the joy of winning.
Understanding variance and realizing that losing days are a part of becoming a profitable player is crucial. There are going to be bad runs and tough breaks, but that’s just the nature of the beast. In the end, if you’re putting out a better lineup than your opponents, day in and day out, the money will come your way.
2. Adopt a Bankroll Strategy
This is another area where DFS parallels back to poker almost perfectly. It’s also one of the aspects that players struggle with the most.
Bankroll management is essential to long-term success. As DFS players, we can’t control the variance of daily fantasy sports, but when it comes to how much we put into play each day, we have ultimate control.
If you’re a profitable player, the worst thing that can happen to you is to be out of action. How can a potentially profitable player lose his bankroll? It’s certainly possible if he fails to exercise proper bankroll management.
Many players exercise no bankroll management whatsoever. It might be obvious to some, but putting half your bankroll into play on any given day is a terrible idea. In many cases, they manage their bankrolls so poorly that they don’t even give themselves a chance to know if they could be profitable long term.
How much of your bankroll should you use each day? That depends on how risk-averse you are and what type of contests you’re playing. Most top DFS players agree that putting more than 10% of your bankroll in play each day is too risky. Meaning, anything higher than that and your risk of ruin is too high.
Figuring out the best bankroll strategy for your personal goals and game types is vital. Most importantly, you need a viable bankroll management plan, and you need to stick to it.
3. Listen to Vegas
In daily fantasy, there are many tools at your disposal when it comes to evaluating players and their salaries. Perhaps more important than any other statistic or tool are sports betting odds.
Oddsmakers aren’t always right, but they have a better bead on the outcome of sporting events compared to anyone else, including the so-called “experts” in the sports media or the public’s perception of a game. It doesn’t matter which sport you’re playing, betting odds should be something you look at every day. They should be a crucial part of your daily research.
Point spreads and totals can tell you a lot about how a game might play out. The higher the Vegas total, the more points likely to be scored in that game. Since our fantasy lineups are based on scoring, regardless of which sport you’re playing, we should be looking to target games with high totals.
We can dig even deeper with player and team propositions. These won’t be available for every sport or game, but they are especially popular markets for NFL bettors. A typical player proposition might be the passing yards of a quarterback or the number of points plus assists in a basketball game.
Some value Vegas’opinion so much in their analysis that they almost always look to target players that the oddsmakers are counting on to score points. This isn’t to say that you should always shy away from a player if the odds suggest that there won’t be many points scored in the game. There are other factors besides Vegas’ opinion, but it’s an excellent starting point to building your rosters.
4. Play Lower Buy-ins in Head-to-Head and 50/50 Leagues
One aspect that makes DFS appealing to the masses is the availability of multiple league types at several buy-in levels. Players can register in contests as small as $0.25 and play as high as $1,000. They can play a contest where you just have to finish in the top 50% of the league or beat a single opponent, but can also play in leagues with thousands of players vying for big money prizes.
As in poker, the higher the stakes, the better the players. For that reason, I recommend sticking with the lower buy-ins when you’re starting out.
The players at these levels are much worse than those at higher limits. The more leagues you enter, the more chances you have to win against a different set of opponents. It makes little sense to buy into a $50 league when you can buy into five $10 leagues or 20 $5 leagues. Spreading your bankroll out across multiple lower buy-in leagues will reduce your risk and will help you avoid stiffer competition.
Head-to-head and 50/50 leagues are boring compared to the massive prize pools of some of the larger tournaments, but these leagues are the lifeblood of daily fantasy for experienced players. They’re an excellent way to rake in profits without the scores needed to win a major tournament.
For these leagues, players should be focusing on maximizing their floor of points while forgoing some upside. They’re not flashy but profiting in these contests is half the battle when it comes to becoming a winner at DFS.
5. Maximize Your Bonuses
Every site will offer players a deposit bonus when they first sign-up. In addition, they may also offer reload bonuses at certain times of the year. It’s absolutely critical to take advantage of these promotions. These sites are giving away free money.
DFS is a duel against other players or managers, but each player also has another enemy, the rake. Most contests are raked at about 10%, which means players are losing $10 for every $100 they put into play. If you’re playing a lot, the amount of rake paid can easily drift into the thousands of dollars. Seasoned daily fantasy veterans who play for high stakes are easily paying tens of thousands a year in rake.
This is why it’s so important to take advantage of deposit and reload bonuses. These bonuses will help offset the significant amount of money lost to the rake fees. If possible, deposit the amount needed to get the maximum bonus. For instance, if a site is offering a 100% deposit bonus up to $600, do your best to deposit $600.