FanDuel Cash Game Strategy

Excerpt from the Footballguys' Cracking FanDuel Book.

By Chad Parsons and Maurile Tremblay

Several types of daily fantasy contests can be broadly classified as cash games. These contests are safer investments and offer lower bankroll volatility than tournaments. All cash games meet the following three criteria:

  1. Each prize is less than or equal to double the entry fee.
  2. The prize pool is level. All winners earn the same prize regardless of whether they have the highest-scoring team or the lowest-scoring team in the payout zone.
  3. More than 40% of the entrants win a prize.

FanDuel hosts four kinds of cash games: 50/50s, Double Ups, head-to-heads, and matrix contests.

2.2.1. 50/50s

50/50 contests are one of the most straightforward offerings in DFS. Regardless of the size of the contest, the teams that score in the top 50% of the field will cash. Winners double their money, minus FanDuel’s commission. FanDuel’s commission varies from contest to contest, but if 10%, you would get $1.80 for winning a 50/50 with a $1 entry fee. Because 50/50 winners typically see a net profit of 80% of their buy-in, they’ll have to win at least 55.6% of the time to grow their bankroll.

50/50 contests offer a variety of competition. No professional high-volume player can scoop all of your action, so it’s easier to avoid one-on-one action against the sharks. Play it safe by rostering consistent, low-risk players.

FanDuel offers hundreds of 50/50 contests each week of the NFL season. From $1 all the way up to high-stakes entry fees, 50/50s can quickly become the staple of a medium- to high-volume DFS cash-game player.

2.2.2. Double Ups

Double Ups are close relatives of 50/50s. While 50/50s offer prizes of less than double a player’s entry fee, Double Ups offer winners 100% returns. The tradeoff is less than half of the field wins. For example, if FanDuel’s commission is 10%, 45 winners will double their money in a 100-player contest.

Because FanDuel typically creates Double Up contests with a higher maximum number of competitors than 50/50s, and because the prize pools in Double Ups are guaranteed, Double Ups are listed in their Tournaments section even though Double Ups don’t have a tournament-style prize structure.

When choosing between similar cash games, play the larger field. While there are bound to be a few more sharks in the water, their presence is more than offset by plenty of new players and weak lineups padding the bottom of the leaderboard.

2.2.3. Head-to-Heads

Head-to-head cash games are basically two-person 50/50 contests. They pit one person against another, and the higher score wins. This simplicity has pros and cons.

A head-to-head player can window-shop the available listings. You can click on player profiles to scout for less-experienced opponents and spread out entries over the course of the week. Alternatively, creating your own head-to-head contests opens you up to a shark scooping up one—or all—of your listings, putting you at a disadvantage out of the gate.

If you are going to enter the same lineup in multiple contests, entering head-to-head contests will reduce your variance (i.e., risk) compared to entering large 50/50s or Double Ups. This is because the score required to win one large 50/50 will generally be very close to the score required to win any other large 50/50. So if you enter the same lineup in multiple large 50/50s, you are likely to either win pretty much all of them or lose pretty much all of them, depending on how many points your team scores. The same is true for Double Ups. But the score required to win different head-to-head matchups may vary greatly because your different opponents will score different numbers of points. So even if your team scores the same number of points in each contest, it is likely that you will win somewhere around, say, 40% or (more hopefully) 60% of your contests, instead of all or nothing.

Assessing the week’s pricing can influence the types of contests a DFS player will enter. If you’re excited about the values of a small list of players, you might consider having less variety in your lineups and entering more head-to-head contests. On the other hand, if you see a lot of values and want to generate a wide variety of lineups, you’ll probably enter more 50/50s and Double Ups.

2.2.4. Head-to-Head Matrix Contests

The head-to-head matrix contests use a format which essentially packages a group of head-to-head contests into one entry. As an example, let’s consider a 21-player head-to-head matrix contest with a $25 entry fee. In this contest, you would be facing 20 unique opponents where the prize structure mimics the payouts you’d receive if you played each of those 20 players in a $1.25 head-to-head contest.

This payout structure softens the blow of a bad showing, but the tradeoff is if you finish in the top half (but not in first place), you will win less than you would have won in a 50/50. Matrices are the conservative, mutual fund investments of the DFS world. They’re the one-stop shop for head-to-head diversity, which can save time better spent building lineups, researching matchups, and mining the best value plays of the week. Matrix contests can be found using FanDuel’s Leagues filter.