Hybrid Contests

Cracking DraftKings: Hybrid Contests (From Chapter 2)

Hybrid Contests

By John Lee and Jeff Pasquino 


Most of DFS focuses on cash games and tournaments, but there are a few other types of contests that are hybrids of those two classifications. Multipliers, leagues, and satellites have unique setups that combine elements from the cash game and tournament worlds.

Depending on howtop-heavythe payout structure is, you'll have to blend cash game and tournament strategy to increase your odds of winning.

1. Multipliers

We already discussed one type of multiplier contest, the Double Up cash game. DraftKings also hosts triple-up contests and either 5x or 10x booster games that are the equivalent of a mini-GPP - where the winning rosters will be paid out in multiples of theirbuy-infor that particular game (i.e., 5x or 10x). In a triple-up, the top 30% of the field will triple their money, making 200% profit. In a 5x booster, roughly the top 18% of the competitors will win five times their entry fee, yielding a 400% profit. The 10x booster is much more difficult to win (less than 10% will do so), but the victors will receive 1,000% on their initial buy-in. These game sets are often referred to as hybrids because they tend to have a level payout like a cash game, albeit to only a few entrants (similar to a GPP).

The higher denomination booster games are intriguing because of the extreme payout to the winner, but take caution: If you finish 2nd in a 10-man 10x booster game (~10th percentile), you win nothing. For this reason, your exposure to these types of games should be somewhat limited; be sure to enter the same roster into a few GPP‘s to ensure that if you are just outside of the pay line for a 10x hybrid, you will still win something in the GPP‘s (by virtue of your 10th percentile finish).

2. Leagues

DraftKings runs leagues with defined numbers of players, although the numbers seem to change from year to year based on the growth of the industry. Generally, one can count on leagues ranging from 3 entries up to 100. At first glance, leagues appear to be quite similar to tournaments, but they do not meet the tournament definition we outlined in the previous section because their prize pools aren't guaranteed. If they do not fill, they are cancelled, and everyone has their entry fee fully refunded.

Leagues don't have a level payout structure, but the payouts in larger contests are sometimes steeply tiered. Most often, the prize structure is a bit top-heavy, even compared to some tournaments. Leagues are quasi, non-guaranteed tournaments designed for a much smaller field. Because of the top-heavy payout structure of leagues, your exposure should be limited to a few percent of your total bankroll in any given week.

Interestingly, you can create custom public or private leagues with anywhere from 3 to 100 players, so a group of friends, family, and/or colleagues could play a private league contest hosted by DraftKings with all the features of a game created by DraftKings‘ staff. This function is achieved via the Create a Contest tab in the DraftKings‘ lobby; payouts are determined by the contest creator and can range from "winner takes all" to a cash game-like payout (50/50). It is worth noting that you can choose between creating a private league (by invitation only) or a public league that appears in the DraftKings‘ lobby.

3. Satellites

A satellite contest, or "satty" as it‘s called in theindustry, is a special kind of hybrid contest that usually requires a tournament-style approach to winning, but the strategy can vary a great deal from contest to contest. Understanding how to play satellites is one of the more important tools to have in your DFS tool belt because it‘s one of the better value propositions, especially for beginners.

Satellites originally became popular in the poker world when buy-ins for certain tournaments were prohibitively high. As a solution to allow lower-bankrolled players to enter those high-dollar tournaments, casinos — and later, online sites — offered satellite tournaments whereby the prize for winning was not a cash prize, but instead an entry into a high-dollar tournament.

Satellites are guaranteed and usually have a top-heavy payout, like tournaments, but they typically have a level payout, like cash games. The level payout comes in the form of the top finishers each winning a ticket for the same, higher-priced tournament.

DraftKings offers numerous satellites every week of the NFL season and they can generally be found under the Qualifiers tab on the DraftKings homepage. These contests offer significant upside at minimal risk. For example, if a person cannot afford to enter a $100 tournament, they can enter a 10-person satellite for $11 and hope to win their entry into the more expensive contest. If that person wins the satellite, he could turn the subsequent high-dollar entry into tens of thousands of dollars by performing well in the $100-entry-fee tournament without risking more than the original $11.

During the NFL season, there are a variety of satellites for every game slate. Due to the weekly nature of the NFL season, generally one is playing for a ticket into the following week‘s contest. For example, if you were to win a satty ticket into the Millionaire Maker during Week #7, you could not use said ticket until Week #8. DraftKings has one of the better ticket systems in the industry because you can always know exactly how many tickets you have won by clicking on the bell icon to the left of your username on the homepage; just click on the "View Tickets" tab and the page will tell you how many tickets you currently possess. Another way of knowing if you have a ticket into a contest is to look for an orange ticket to the right of any entry fee on the DraftKings homepage; if you enter such a contest, DraftKings will prompt you and ask if you would like to use your ticket to avoid the entry fee being deducted from your balance.

These contests have an incredibly broad range of winning percentages. You could try to finish inside the top 1% of a ~230-person contest to turn your $2 into a $200 ticket, or you could beat just 65% of the field in a $10 contest to win a $27 ticket. These extremes call for very different strategies, and this table represents just a small sample of how satellites are set up. Be sure that you understand the payout structure before crafting your lineup.

Satellites almost always allow multiple entries, and the sharks use this option liberally. In most tournaments, people will enter a variety of lineups into the same contest, but when entering satellites, it can be more beneficial to use a multi-entry strategy known as running a train. This means putting together a single roster that you like and entering it multiple times into the same satellite contest.  The theory behind this practice is that you can secure a large quantity of entries into a big tournament at a reduced price if that single roster does well in the satellite.  For example, if you enter a 10-team train into a satellite that pays to the 200th position, and your entry finishes 150th, then your 10 teams would finish 151st, 152nd, and so on to the 159th position, thereby securing 10 seats in the subsequent tournament. Running a train is somewhat risky because it represents an all-or-nothing approach to securing entries into a more expensive tournament, but along with that risk comes immense upside. From a bankroll management perspective, satellites should be grouped with tournaments, and you should limit your exposure to satellites to less than 20 percent of your bankroll.

While running a train is an effective strategy for accumulating entries via satellites, it‘s a terrible practice for top-heavy, non-level payout structures. Why? The likelihood of finishing in the top 10 of a giant tournament is extremely low — less than 0.05% in mostcases — and submitting multiple entries with the same roster gives you the same odds of winning as entering a single roster with those same players. If the winner takes home more than 20% of the prize pool, there simply isn't enough left for the otherhigh-level finishers to substantiate running trains into that type of contest.

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