At least 90% of the analysis you’ll read about NBA DFS discusses picking the right players. Almost all of it will ignore game selection.
The easiest and fastest way to increase your ROI is through game selection. It’s a complicated topic because everyone reading this should have different goals. The overwhelming majority of people should be playing DFS for pure fun. A small percentage can treat DFS as a side job, looking to generate a modest amount of extra income. And a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of the player pool is trying to play for a living.
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I know that everyone wants to take $20 and turn it into $1 million. Most people are perfectly fine with having a negative expectation through the season, exclusively playing the extreme top-heavy massive-field tournaments. And quite frankly there’s nothing wrong with that. Again, most people should be playing for fun.
But this article is for people who are interested in giving themselves a positive expectation each night. That means adding cash games*, smaller field tournaments and spending time each day identifying the contests you want to play. It often ignores the “lottery style” extreme large-field GPPs.
If you want more on game selection, I spent two chapters in my e-book talking about it. In-season subscribers to Establish The Run get the book for free here.
*Cash games refer to any contest in which roughly 50% of the field gets paid out, such as head-to-heads, double ups and 50/50s.
Please note: The contests will change slightly each night, but the general principle behind them is the same.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY $100 IN A NIGHT ON DRAFTKINGS
* 10 different GPP lineups in the $1 And-One for $10 total: This is a preferred low-stakes GPP to target since it’s 20-max, not 150-max. Only building 10 GPP lineups also gives us the option of hand-building them or using an optimizer.
* One GPP lineup in the $20 Buzzer Beater for $20 total: This is a 3-max tournament with only 588 entries. This field size and entry limit is preferred as we give ourselves a realistic shot to get to the top with a very good (but not perfect) lineup. Note that the payouts here are also flattish — it’s $1000 to 1st place, $700 to 2nd, $500 to 3rd and 10th gets $150.
* Use your cash lineup to create sixteen $1 H2H, seven $2 H2H, six $3 H2H and one $5 H2H games for $53 total: Create the head-to-head contests yourself. Be sure to click the box that limits the number of times one person can play against you to one. If you notice any “pros” or good players regularly scooping your games, add them to your block list. You can do this by going to Account Information, Preferences, Head-to-Head Settings. If you don’t “sell” all of your head-to-heads before lock, be sure to cancel them. These low-stakes head-to-head games should be our best action and highest ROI expectation.
Note that if you want to reduce variance, you can play even more head-to-heads instead of double-ups. Head-to-head results aren’t binary, some weeks you’ll win 60% and others 30% and others 90%. Double up results are typically either win them all or lose them all.
Here’s a graph of my H2H results so you can visualize what it looks like to grind a lot of them. These graphs come from RotoTracker, a DFS results tracking platform.
And here are my H2H results by buy-in level so you can get an idea on realistic ROIs.
* Use your cash lineup in the $2, $5 and $10 Single Entry Double Up for $17 total: Anytime we can find large-field cash games that are single entry, they are going to be good games. We should avoid the multi-entry double ups, which allow the best players to put in 150 of their cash lineup and lower our expected value. These single entry fields are around 2,000-4,000 entries and we know there aren’t that many solid cash players in the ecosystem.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY $500 IN A NIGHT ON DRAFTKINGS
* All of the above for $100 total.
* Use the same 10 GPP lineups you used in the $1 And-One and add them to the $4 Four Point Play for $40 total. This is another 20-max tournament with the max 15.82% rake, but it gives us a big ceiling should we run into the nuts – and it also has flat payouts. First place is $15K and 10th is $1500. We now have a total of $5 on each of our 10 lineups for 20-max tournaments.
* Use the same GPP lineup you used in the $20 Buzzer Beater and add it to the $40 Mid Range Jumper for a $40 total. This is a single entry tournament with a reasonable 1,749 entries. It’s a bit more top heavy than we’d like as it’s $10K to 1st place and only $300 to 10th. But we can accept that to give one of our main GPP teams a really big ceiling.
* One new GPP lineup in the $100 Showtime for $100 total. By moving up to the $100 level, we lower the rake from the 15-16% level down to just 9.91%. That is massive. We also find a perfectly fine small field (666 entries) and many of our opponents will simply put their cash lineup in. That creates leverage for us by hand-building a GPP team we like and really attacking that $10K first-place prize.
* Use your cash lineup to create ten $5 and ten $10 head-to-head contests for $150 total. Use the same process described above to register these games. So we now have a total of 50 low-stakes head-to-head games, which will be some of our most +EV action. It also smooths out variance due to the non-binary outcome of high-volume head-to-head action.
* Use your cash lineup in four $5 Triple Ups, two $5 10x Boosters and four $10 Triple Ups for $70 total. While our cash lineup will almost never win a GPP with more than 1,000 entries, it can easily finish as a top-5% lineup in a slate. By entering some of the multiplier contests, we find some softer opponents and also give our cash lineup a bit of a ceiling. In the event we have a strong cash lineup, we’ll make $280 on our $70 investment. Note that in the NBA, it’s more likely than in NFL that a cash-type lineup can get to the top of these multiplier contests. The range of outcomes for players is tighter.