Cash Games

Cracking DraftKings: Cash Games (From Chapter 2)

Cash Games

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. Every winner earns 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.

DraftKings hosts three kinds of cash games: 50/50s, Double Ups, andhead-to-headcontests.

1. 50/50 CONTESTS

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 DraftKings‘ commission. DraftKings‘ commission varies from contest to contest, but if it‘s 10%, you'll 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 DFS players can scoop all of your action, making it easier to avoid one-on-one action against the sharks. You only have to beat half the field, so play it safe by rostering consistent, low- risk players.

DraftKings offers hundreds of 50/50 contests each week of the NFL season. From $0.25 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.


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 that less than half of the field wins. For example, if DraftKings‘ commission is 10%, 45 winners will double their money in a 100-player contest.  

DraftKings typically associates Double Up contests as similar to 50/50s, so their Double Ups are listed in their 50/50 section even though Double Ups offer a slightly higher payout (doubling your entry fee instead of 80% potential profit in a 50/50).

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.


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

A head-to-head player can window-shop the available listings. After a while, you will recognize the usernames of themost successful players. Before that, you can Google the username of your prospective opponent to check whether he's a well-known pro. Either way, you want to avoid giving action to the top DFS players. Even if you are just as good as they are, you will both lose against each other, on average, after accounting for the site's commission. Try to play against opponents that haven't established reputations as tough competitors.

As an alternative to joining a contest that is already listed in the lobby, you can create your own head-to-head contest. If you do so, you should take advantage of two features that DraftKings offers. First, go to the "My Accounts" section and block up to three usernames so that they will not be able to join any head-to-head contests you create. (This feature does not apply to contests with a buy-in of $216 or greater.) Second, limit the number of times any specific DFS manager can accept your challenges by using the limit selector on the Create Head-to-Head Challenge popup. For example, if you create five contests and set the limiter to one, all five contests will be against different opponents. This will prevent a single pro from scooping up all of your action.

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. That 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. 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 40-60%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 morehead-to-headcontests. 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. 

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