DFS Roundtable: Bankroll Management

Several DFS staffers offer their insight on how to successfully manage your DFS bankroll.

What's your bankroll management strategy heading into the season?

James Brimacombe: With DFS growing as a whole you have to really study up on what type of contests are giving you the most bang for your buck, knowing the rake, and your history with the types of contests you’re entering. The goal is to make a profit over the course of the NFL season, so you can’t just go all in every single week.

Bankroll management is one of the hardest areas of DFS for me personally. Since I feel I always have all the answers and best plays every week, I’m tempted to max out on cash games and GPPs. But in reality, even when you pick the players with the best matchups, all it takes is one injury to ruin your entire week. You have to be smart with how you allocate your bankroll so you can live to play again and give yourself a shot at winning big money each week without having to reload your DFS accounts.

I tend to be more loose with my bankroll management and play 25% of my bankroll weekly. Typically, I play 2-3 cash lineups and enter a lot of the 100-man 50/50 style games at the $1 and $2 entry fees. About 80% of my action is on those types of cash game contests, with the remaining 20% in GPPs. I usually enter all the single entry contests from $1-$25, as well as most 3-5 entry max contests. And just because you never know, I’ll throw a single entry into the site’s biggest GPP of the week (Millionaire Maker on DraftKings or the Sunday Million on FanDuel). The top-heavy aspect of those contests make it hard to gain a profit, but it’s fun having a single bullet to fire towards a life changing pay day. I also like to enter satellites where I can win tickets to next week's bigger GPPs, as I’ve found the competition in those to be softer.

David Dodds:

  • Play very small the first 4 weeks of the NFL season. We think we all have a beat on the offenses and defenses, but things rarely happen the way we thought they would. So much of the edge in DFS is knowing how offenses will attempt to exploit an opponent's defense. We may think Team X has a weak CB on the left side, but his offseason studying tape and working to improve his speed end up telling a different story when the games play.
  • Avoid the qualifiers, Sunday Millions, Millionaire Maker, etc. These are moon-shots and clearly awesome if you hit for $250K on your $12 entry. For most people though, these are bankroll drainers.
  • Understand the rake in the games you do play. A game with a 10% rake you have to win 55% of the time just to break-even. At 15%, you must win 57.5% of the time to break even. Search out contests that come as close to 0% rake as possible (overlays, our FBG/FanDuel Championship, etc)

Devin Knotts: I think the biggest thing before setting your bankroll management strategy is to establish what your goals are for the season. There are plenty of people who play just to try to qualify for a live event or win a huge prize in a large GPP. These tournaments can be very rewarding, but understand that the likelihood of winning is lower, so in that scenario, I would divide my bankroll into 17 and play the same amount each week.

For me, I play about 90% cash games and throw 1-3 lineups in a GPP each week. I play 10-15% of my bankroll in a given week and try not to be be inconsistent week-to-week with the amount I have at stake (although it is hard after a few straight winning weeks). It seems to rarely work when you have a few good weeks in a row and decide to put a higher percentage of your bankroll on the line. Variance has its way of catching up to you the second you decide to change your strategy and you can wipe out weeks of profits.

Chris Feery: I generally have no more than 10% of my total bankroll in play in a given week. Breaking it down even further, I tend to focus on GPP play for the main slates, while I’ll do a pretty even mix of cash games and GPPs for the smaller slates (i.e. 1 pm and 4 pm only). This approach may not work best for everyone, but my style of play translates better to GPPs. Therein lies the caveat for overall bankroll management: find what works for you and stick to the plan like glue.

I differ from David in that I’ll be a little more aggressive in the early part of the season. I’ll scale back in the middle portion, and then ramp things back up in the latter part of the season. The early and latter parts of the season have been the most fruitful for me historically.

Early in the year, I’m fresh off doing a ton of homework during the preseason. By the time Week 1 kicks off, I have a solid understanding of each team in the league from multiple perspectives. I have clarity on which offenses should be dangerous this year, as well as which defenses to target. I’m schooled up on the depth charts and rotations, so I have a good handle on where this year’s targets and touches are going. My knowledge and confidence carry me through the first few weeks of the season before I run into ‘correction time.’

Things change fast. Injuries, depth chart shifts, and surprising teams - both up and down - lead to unexpected results. I tend to have a rocky stretch in October, which could be a flaw in my overall approach. It’s something I’m zeroing in on correcting for this season, as it may just be a case of being over reliant on the previous year’s data and not shifting to the new information at hand quickly enough.

In any event, by anticipating the potential for a rocky stretch, I’m scaling back my play a bit to avoid any serious landmine weeks. In my experience, correction time levels out by mid-November, when it’s pretty clear which teams and players are for real. I’m comfortable scaling back up from there, and hopefully closing out the season with a bang.

Chad Parsons: Great points so far. I agree with James in playing 20-25% of my bankroll weekly but would hedge lower than 15% early in the season. Matchups, regression, and trends are much stronger later in the season, so being more conservative during the relative 'unknown' of the opening weeks is prudent. I like the low entry fees and more head-to-head games as the staple of my game action weekly. The results in head-to-heads are more conservative than in 50/50s, where a baseline score is needed to cash across the contests. In head-to-head contests, you will win some with some low scores and lose a few with high ones.

I generally avoid playing the flashy contests with top-end-centric payouts like the Millionaire Maker and high-leverage qualifiers. My approach to DFS is more of the mutual fund mentality to seek a better return than the stock market on an activity I enjoy, plus centralize the results over four months instead of a year.

John Mamula: Your Bankroll management strategy should depend on your season and weekly DFS goals. Are you trying to grind a weekly profit or are you shooting for the stars? What is your risk tolerance? Are you able to replenish your bankroll if you run through a bad stretch? These are questions you need to ask yourself before putting together a weekly and season long bankroll plan.

Personally, I do not play more than 10% of my bankroll in a given week. Most weeks I will play 5-7% of my bankroll with NFL. I will slightly adjust the amount in play depending on the slate of games. If I believe I have more of an edge, I will increase the percentage I have in play for the given week.

Jason Wood: I understand what Dodds is saying about the first month of the season, but I think of it differently. So many first time players jump into the pool at the start of a new season, it dilutes the talent pool. Briefly. I've found an ability to win dramatically higher percentage of cash games in the first few weeks. But then again, I'm not playing higher stakes so I probably capture the "beginner effect" far more than my more seasoned FBG brethren.

As to bankroll management broadly, Devin said it best...there's no one right answer. It starts by defining what you want out of your DFS experience. Are you allocating a few dollars a week hoping to hit the big GPP but not caring if you have 90%-100% losses otherwise? Are you someone who thinks you can grind a supplemental income for your family and need to protect against losses above all else? How important is ROI? Do you even really care about ROI?

John Mamula: I’m with Jason. Cash games are definitely softer earlier in the season for all major DFS sports (NFL, MLB, and NBA). You have a higher percentage of new players trying out DFS and not many of them remain for the entire season. But variance is also a major factor earlier in the season as David discussed. I plan to build 2-3 cash lineups and spread them across H2H contests and large single-entry 50-50s. This will help to lessen the variance and maintain a solid floor for my cash games early in the season.

Danny Tuccitto: A couple of things I'll be trying to focus on based on the Draftkings tournament research I've been doing this offseason:

  • Echoing David, I'll be paying far more attention to the rake. This should be obvious when you think about it. (I get to keep more of my money! Duh!) Unfortunately, people -- including the prior version of me -- tend not to realize the significant impact it can have on your bottom line.
  • Ditto echoing David on avoiding the gimmicky contests like qualifiers.
  • Also with respect to game selection, I won't be playing many short-slate tournaments. Despite attacking lineup construction and "player universe" strategies from all angles in my analyses, only a handful (out of 100s) were profitable. The Monday-Thursday contests that DK offers are particularly bad for your bottom line. A poker analogy for these short-slate tournaments is "calling for a chop." When you buy in, the variance is such that you're likely to lose. But even if you win, you're likely to split your prize because the smaller roster pool results in only so many (realistic) lineup combinations out there.
  • One might argue these are more strategies for maximizing profit/minimizing loss than for bankroll management per se. But here's the thing. In DFS, as in other economic endeavors, the more money you have, the more money you can make. All of the the above are things that unnecessarily drain bankroll.

The main tip here is to avoid "button-clicking" like the plague. Creating a few lineups and then just mindlessly entering them in tournament after tournament is a sure-fire way to end up with a smaller bankroll than you would have if you were more mindful -- even if you're a profitable player to begin with, perhaps especially if you're profitable.

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