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Early Season DFS Strategy: Self-Assessment and Analysis

I've been asked on several occassions for the skeleton key to DFS success, and the easy answer is, there isn't one.  However, you may be surprised to learn what I consider to be the most beneficial and straight forward way to improving as a player...self-assessment. 

One of my favorite perks that comes along with writing for FootballGuys is the high level of interaction that we receive from subscribers and fans.   Whether it be by Twitter, email or on the forums, the chance to get to speak with the people who read your work, and trust you enough to take your advice is both gratifying and challenging.  The challenging part comes into play when people ask you to help them out with their specific DFS games in mind, as you are dealing with the smallest sample size available (if you are giving lineup advice) or trying to give broad bankroll management recommendations based on a weekly/season total that they are willing to invest.  While it is was frustrating at times not knowing much background information on the people I was interacting with, it led me back down the road of using self-assessment as a tool, something I depended on greatly when I was playing poker for a living.  This exercise was actually very helpful for me because it made me go back to my core principles and re-evaluate my own practices.

Was I sticking to my weekly bankroll management requirements?

What was my cash game to GPP ratio?

What level buy-ins were yielding the highest profits?  The least?

What sites were yielding the highest profits? The least? Was there a pattern relating to scoring systems?

Was I keeping notes at the close of each week and consulting them prior to kickoff the following week?

How strictly was I using game selection to drive my weekly exposure?

Was I evenly spreading out my player exposure amongst each level of buy-ins?

Was I allowing ample time for lineup review prior to kickoff?

These are just some of the questions I had to ask myself.  While I was doing a good job across the board, I certainly found some leaks that needed plugging.  Plugging those leaks helped me a great deal in 2015, and it made me realize how little I read about the administrative side of DFS.  It is not the sexiest or most interesting topic at first glance, but it just might be the most important because the answers to those questions should form the foundation of your DFS strategy. 

Each site you play on offers a scoring system (and roster requirements) that is unique to their brand.  Throughout my fantasy career, I have played in leagues that are standard scoring, ppr, auction, keeper etc.  However, when someone asks me a question (and doesn’t include scoring systems) I will automatically consider it through ppr lenses because that is my preferred scoring system to play in.  When I compared my ROI’s for the different sites I played on, my preference for full ppr scoring systems was clearly reflected in higher profitability.  I have heard it said many times, “I do so well on FanDuel, but I always lose on DraftKings” or vice-versa.  I think many times it is subconscious, but rarely do I hear the scoring systems (and rosters) mentioned as the source of distinction between being profitable and not.  We all have pre-dispositions when it comes to fantasy, and it is important to understand how to leverage those preferences.  But you cannot leverage them unless you know what they are. 

That is where note taking and keeping weekly records can help you immensely.  One of the leaks I plugged in 2015 related to how I was spreading out my weekly player exposure amongst my levels of buy-ins. At the time I was playing $1 GPP’s, all the way up to $100 GPP’s.  I got into a bad habit at the end of the 2014 season, which is to say that I got “lazy” when it came to doing lineup reviews before kickoff.  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but my player exposure was extremely inconsistent.  I would have 20% exposure to a specific player, but 16% of that exposure came at a specific buy-in.  While it makes sense in some cases to vary your player exposure based on risk tolerance and variance, my player exposure had no pattern, nor did I have a game plan as to why they were spread out unevenly.  When you are making 100+ lineups each week (or 20+ lineups), much of your energy is focused on completing those lineups, but how much energy do you spend reviewing them?  Are you including players with high variance in the same lineups, multiple times?  Are you varying your core players throughout your lineups?  The answer to those questions is not as important as the reasoning behind them, with the reasoning being a reflection of your fantasy make-up.

Essentially, your make-up is a combination of your goals and skillsets as a player.  What is your main priority, having fun or being profitable?  Just to be clear, there is no wrong answer.  If your goal is to have fun, then maybe the administrative side of DFS is less of a priority as you want to enjoy the games on Sunday and just have some extra sweats in play.  But if you want to be profitable, you need to have a game-plan and strategy for each week and each season.  What is the total bankroll you have set aside for the season?  Are you an aggressive player with a high risk tolerance? Personally, I am a nit, so I fall more on the cautious/passive side of things.  I have a cap of 5% of my bankroll as my weekly exposure, and I will not play in GPP’s that I do not have at least 200 buy-ins for (100 buy-ins should be the minimum in my opinion).  As I tightened up these restrictions in 2015, I saw my weekly money swings reduced, with a higher yield of profitability.    

The best way to get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses as a player, is to download your tournament/cash game history from each site and put it in an excel spreadsheet.  You can sort by “winnings”, “buy-in”, “start date/time” (Are you killing the Sunday 1PM only tournaments, but dumping back the money on Sunday Night/Monday Night tournaments?) and that will give you a summary of what type of GPP’s or cash games you excel at.  Analyzing your tournament/cash game history is the only true, unbiased way to get a sense of where you stand.  Once you have a good understanding of where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you can now begin to form your weekly strategy and practice solid game selection.  The easy explanation of game selection is that you want to be playing those that yield the highest profit rate, with the lowest level of skill and risk.  I would urge you to look at the size of each tournament you are playing, as the level of risk in a $1, 50,000 person tournament might be higher than that of a $5, 10,000 person tournament.  How could that be?  Well, first off, what percentage of players cash in each tournament?  What is the difference in payouts among the top 10 players, and what is 1st place worth in each respective tournament?  This is related to the concept of “Risk of Ruin”, which is an equation that measures your relative upside vs your chance of going broke.  (For a more detailed explanation, click this link).

If I am asked to give one tip for increasing profits in GPP’s, it is to lessen your weekly exposure and increase your weekly lineups.  Essentially, play more tournaments (at lower levels) for less money.  I don’t think this could ever hurt, but at the same time I acknowledge that there are players out there who do disproportionally better at higher buy-ins.  Their lineup construction may be better suited for GPP’s with less players, therefore they could expect a higher ROI on say, one $27 GPP entry vs 27 $1 GPP entries.  This is most likely a small percentage of players, but unless you really analyze your results, you never know. 

Self-assessment is a task that is best done prior to the season starting, as you want to have your goals and strategy set prior to week 1.  I would then do follow up analysis after each week, making sure that my bankroll management requirements are still correct relative to my overall bankroll, as well as keeping my game selection consistent with my results.  Trust me, I know how tedious a process it can be, but if you want to be profitable, self-assessment and analysis is the key to understanding how to get there.  Think of it as your personal DFS GPS.