DFS for Dummies, PART IV: Growing Your Bankroll

To be a winner, you have to keep the money you win.

This series of articles entitled “DFS for Dummies” details what I learned over the course of the previous 24 months while playing daily fantasy.  I will outline the habits and strategic thinking of successful daily players to help you make your learning curve far less expensive and much quicker than mine.  The series is broken down into 4 smaller articles to keep things focused and to allow the reader to refer back to them as the DFS season progresses; this is the fourth and final installment of the larger series.

PART IV:  BANKROLL MANAGEMENT

If you’ve hung around this long, it must mean that you’ve liked what you’ve read thus far.  Maybe you learned something about researching games or you now appreciate the concept of value with respect to daily or maybe you just liked all the snazzy spreadsheets that have accompanied the articles to this juncture?  Whatever it was that brought you back, it’s now time to teach you how to keep the money that you win...after all, isn't that why you wanted to learn how to become a better daily player?  Far too many daily players put together a few successful weeks or bink a big GPP, only to give it all back shortly thereafter.  Don’t be that guy.

First, it is worth noting that FootballGuy Steve Buzzard has already published an entire, math-driven article on Bankroll Management that details exactly how you can determine your game distribution based on your winning percentage(s) and your current bankroll; you can find that excellent “Kelly Criterion” article here: http://subscribers.footballguys.com/apps/article.php?article=14Buzzard_DFS_Bankroll.  That said, this is “DFS for Dummies” and we are assuming you, the reader, want entry-level information until you become more comfortable in the daily space...so we are going to keep it simple for the moment and give you a simple, but proven formula to keep that money in your account and make it multiply.

And one last thing:  It should go without saying, but to practice solid bankroll management, one must first become a winning player.  It is absolutely worthless to employ these strategies without first ensuring that you have learned and put into practice the first 3 sections of this series; once your cash game winning percentage is (roughly) above 50%, these principles apply.

LIMITING EXPOSURE

The power of math is that it does not lie…when numbers are put to paper and math is leveraged, there is no denying the outcome.  Ask 100 people to answer the question “What is 2 x 2?” and they will all tell you the answer is “4” (we hope).  In the daily space, one of the absolute biggest mistakes a beginning player can make is to not employ some level of bankroll management; in my “Daily Interview” series with some of the biggest names in the industry (Dinkpiece, PrimeTime420, Stlcardinals84, Al_Smizzle, etc.), bankroll management was the near-unanimous response when asked about mistakes that new daily players routinely make.  The key is to avoid too much exposure on any Sunday slate; by limiting the total percentage of your bankroll in play at one time, it is near-impossible to bust.  The table below outlines what happens to your bankroll over the course of a 17-week season, if you were to lose every game; the likelihood of losing every game is null, but the point of the chart is to highlight how quickly a few losing weeks will liquidate your entire bankroll if you are overexposed (too much money in play).  Even playing only 20% of your bankroll for 3 weeks in a row could result in having less than 50% of what you originally started with in less than a month.  The red highlighting indicates at which week(s) the bankroll drops below the 50% line:

RISK TOLERANCE

When beginning to enter contests, the first thing any daily player should do is to ask themselves “How much money am I willing to lose this week?”  The answer to that question will come in one of three flavors: 1) a little, 2) about half of what I have in my account, and 3) I honestly do not care if I lose everything.  If you answered “a little,” you are a “conservative” daily gamer...if you are willing to lose half, you are a “moderate” daily gamer...and if you are willing to put it all on the line, you are a “risky” daily gamer.  99% of daily players will fall into one of these categories and there is no shame in being lumped into any of them; different lifestyles give rise to different playing styles.  Some individuals have expendable incomes and view their daily games as a form of entertainment that may reap a big payday through a GPP (risky gamer), while others are playing with a fixed amount of money that needs to last the entire season (conservative gamer).  Whichever category you fall, there is a way to manage your bankroll for maximum return on investment.

In Part III of “DFS for Dummies,” we outlined why it is bad practice to exclusively enter 50/50 contests or H2H contests; the former exposes you to excessive volatility, whereas the latter limits your upside.  Thus, a combination of these game types is necessary to ensure that you are constantly improving your bankroll.  GPP’s should only account for a very small percentage of your action in any given week, simply because cashing in those events is so infrequent.  The chart below provides a rough overview of how one should distribute their play on any given Sunday, according to their risk tolerance, as defined above. 

In this chart, you will notice that level of risk tolerance (conservative, moderate, risky) allows for a different amount of bankroll in play on any given weekend.  Conservative gamers will rarely put more than 12% of their entire bankroll into play, whereas risky daily guys have been known to play every dollar (aka 100%) of their bankroll on a Sunday.  The key, however, is to ensure that you have proper distribution of your monies into different game sets; the conservative type plays very few GPP's (sometimes not at all), but instead focuses on cash games (see chart for relative distribution).  The risky player is seeking upside, so there is more money allocated to GPP’s and the percentage of money in cash games is skewed more heavily to 50/50 games.  Of course, the moderate player is somewhere in between these other two types, with the goal being to maximize upside without risking excessive damage to his bankroll.

Using this chart as a guideline, we will apply these recommended percentages to a new player with an imaginary $1000 bankroll.  If that player would describe himself as a ‘moderate’ player, he would put about 20% of his bankroll ($200) into play on a Sunday.  The distribution of games would call for ~ $100 into H2H games, ~ $70 into 50/50 games, and ~ $30 into GPP’s.  In the subsequent table, you will observe that each game distribution is further broken down into dollar levels; for example, the recommended distribution is 4 x $10 games, 4 x $5 games, and 5 x $2 games because the theory is that the level of competition will improve as you increase the stakes and you want to establish your own level of profitability at each level.  If you discover, after ~ 3-4 weeks, that you are winning at 70% in the $10 games, you should try your hand at the $25 level (and so forth).  The message is that limiting the amount of your bankroll that is in play and subsequently distributing that game play over multiple game types across different entry levels should provide sufficient protection against massive losses, while still providing upside for increasing your bottom line.  See below for an overview of a player with a $1000 bankroll (the percentages from the previous table apply for whatever amount you might like to try):

MULTIPLE LINEUPS:  CASH GAMES

If you are reading analytically, you have probably realized that we are trying to impress upon you that you want to devote a substantial portion of your ‘in play’ bankroll to winnable games (i.e., cash games).  There is, however, still risk associated with this type of game:  What would have happened if you rostered Eddie Lacy in Week #2 last year against a weak Washington defense in all of your cash lineups?  You would have been rewarded with exactly 1.0 point because Lacy was concussed on his first carry of the game (James Starks, Lacy’s replacement, finished the day with ~ 25 points)!  If you had Lacy in all of your cash lineups, you were in a bad spot against your daily opponents who did not roster him and potentially headed for a losing week because of one injury to one player.  The way to circumvent this type of scenario is to compose more than one cash lineup and distribute those lineups across the cash games described above.  However, never compose more than 3 cash lineups; if we assume that there are optimal plays for each position (this is true), then making out multiple lineups with different players will actually result in sub-optimal lineups due to replacing suboptimal players into certain positions.  This insurance policy guards against freak injuries and unexpected poor performances, but it also limits upside when your original projections were accurate.

If you are new to the daily arena, it is probably wise to take a hybrid approach, whereby you put together two cash lineups with overlapping players that you have just love for that week; after your core team is assembled, you can slot in guys who you like at the remaining positions.  Taking such an approach will ensure that you are not crippled when a player goes down with an unexpected injury or if you manage to roster a dud for that week.  Here is an example strategy for Week #1 of 2014, whereby several core players stay in both lineups (Ball, Maclin, Edelman, Thomas, etc.), while a few others are replaced (Stafford/Cutler, McCoy/Spiller, etc.) to increase player diversity (*please note that I am not advocating entering these lineups into cash games; they are presented merely for illustration purposes!).

Simply put, daily fantasy is exciting.  That level of enjoyment is increased exponentially when your bankroll begins to leverage itself and weekly monetary gains mirror other people’s paychecks .  Practicing good bankroll management strategies, combined with winning roster construction techniques, can help you achieve sustained success in daily fantasy—good luck!

RECAP

  • Limit exposure.  By joining too many contests, you expose yourself to potentially crippling weeks when players underperform due to variance and/or injury.
  • Determine level of risk tolerance.  Assessing what you are willing to risk will dictate how you distribute your game play from week to week.
  • Distribute game sets.  Regardless of risk tolerance level, distribute your game types to decrease bankroll volatility.
  • Consider multiple lineups.  For cash games, conservative and moderate players may want to build 2 different rosters centered around a value-based core group of players.


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