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My Daily Fantasy Sports Testing Phase, ROI Thoughts, Strategy and Horse Racing Parallels

By now you’ve all heard about Daily Fantasy Sports. The business has been growing, and you can’t be a sports fan (or a racing fan) without knowing at least something about the medium. For those unaware, participants draft a one day team (in many sports’) under a salary cap, put up a few dollars (from 25 cents to many thousands) and play other teams. The takeout is between 5% and 10%, with the winners getting the rest. Over 2 billion dollars are expected to be wagered in 2015.

Although I have dabbled at Draftkings and FanDuel (both signup links from me), in November sometime I decided to study the strategy, tools and medium for a test betting phase. Is this beatable?

Since that time I have played almost 1,000 games. I have wagered $13,783.25 so far and have played College Football, the NBA, the NFL, Golf, and Hockey. CFB and the NBA I have barely played (I am not a huge fan, and know little about the players, nor am I interested to learn more), and the PGA is just starting. My $1 ROI's so far by sport are:

College Football: $2.03
NBA: $0.53
NFL: $1.17
NHL: $1.09
PGA Tour: $0.79

Those ROI's include all type of play - big tournaments and head to head or 50/50 games. I have won a few tournaments which skew ROI somewhat. My biggest head to head bets were $100. My biggest tournament entry fee was $27. My average 50/50 game is $50. I am not playing big.

Is this something I believe to be winnable at? I am honestly not sure. As Mike Maloney said once, and it's something I firmly believe: "you have to earn the right to bet big money".

I know I am good with longshot bets for horse racing, because I kept my ROI numbers over a six or seven year period (and going). As well, I believe that if you can't make money betting the horses in the win pool, you won't win at exotics. In my return to thoroughbred racing many years ago now, I bet win for over one year, with barely an exotic (other than the 4% Ellis pick 4, or carryover pools) bet. I don't know much after 1,000 DFS games. I am slightly concerned that my ROI is barely over $1 for head to head and 50/50 games so I will probably stay at this lower level for some time.

Here are a few of my learnings the past two months or so. If you are playing, maybe they will help you, maybe they won't. They are so far my opinion only.

1. Play With a Bankroll - Signup bonuses and the like are great for DFS, but if you don't bet size properly, it's not very wise.  If you are going to play for 25 cents or $2 to get your feet wet to learn, you can do that with a $100 deposit. If you want to play $25 head to head games, it's not. Look to play no more than 10% of your bankroll, and it can last with good play.

2. Use the Tools - Lineup optimizers, websites and twitter are filled with information. It's there for you and it's free. Also pay attention on twitter for late line up injury notes. It's amazing how many people still gravitate to their favorite players, rather than look for optimal players. I used a hockey player who is out of vogue, but a great value pick that was publicized on the websites on the weekend, and he was owned by 0.2% of lineups. There are holes.

3. Value is Value - It does not matter if you are betting a horse race or betting DFS, value is what it is. If a player is listed at $5,600 on draft kings and $4,000 at FanDuel, it's a player that needs to be in your FD lineup. In hockey recently, a very hot Calgary Flames player was stuck at $3,500 at FanDuel, while on a ten game point streak. Despite that, he was still under 20% owned in a lot of daily games.

4. Do What You're Good At - You can download your results in excel. Check them and look for clues. This is exactly what you do with your ADW. It's the same thing.

5. Beware the Variance - $2 games end up being a free for all, where, say 60 points are needed to win. In $5 games, it can be 50 points. In $27 games, 42 can win. If you are betting $2 games with obvious types you need a perfect lineup, or get lucky and that can get old real fast. I throw $2 teams up fully expecting to lose. This is like a big tourney for horse racing. I either want to win or finish last.

6. Don't Let Randomness Ruin Your Day - Crap happens. You will like a team, load them up, and your players don't score. I loaded up on Kings tonight in hockey. They've scored three so far, I don't have a point. There's nothing you can do about it. Just grind, just like you do in horse racing.

7. Obvious Teams? Go big or sit it out - Tonight everyone will be on Blackhawks. There are few games on the sked and it is what it is. The same thing happens in the NBA from time to time. I don't want to guess which Hawks will score, and be like everyone else. I was going to not bet, but instead I bet smaller tonight and took a stand against them. I think the Hawks may score 5 and I will lose. But if they score one, I have a huge chance to cash every team.

DFS, I think, is a threat to racing, because the principles of betting it are similar to horse racing. I don't play poker but I never got into it, and I don't feel there is a parallel to DFS. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I find it time consuming, but fun. However, I don't know if I will stick with it or not. I guess my ROI will tell me what to do.

As noted, if you want to try DK or FanDuel, please use my links: Draftkings here and FanDuel here.  For years I have never referred ADW's even though I was asked. I just figured it was their business. Since these two DFS companies are huge and I have no ties to them, what the heck.

Good luck at the windows and if you try either of them (I prefer Draftkings user interface, but that's my personal preference) please look for me. Maybe we'll play the same game.


Comments

Johnathan Cole said…
Those are some really great tips and experience that you are sharing. I am really new to the whole fantasy sports industry but I have read a little about strategies and tactics on how to play. I found a good book on fantasysportsdaily.com and I started playing but I have never seen such a good article on the topic. Great work! You have some great ROI numbers so keep them up! However you need to spot playing NBA.