Starting the DFS Journey: A Beginner's Guide

"To live is to write." These are words I live by. If I didn't have sports in my life I would certainly go insane. DFS to me is cathartic. It provides the same thrill as fantasy sports has given me for the past 15 years or so. Unfortunately DFS is also a brutal environment. This is what the beginner must learn first, just as I have learned. I consider myself a very good fantasy football player. In my yahoo pro league (which is for money) I currently have a roster consisting of Andy Dalton, Drew Brees, Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, DeAndre Hopkins, O'Dell Beckham Jr, Larry Fitzgerald, Allen Robinson, and Antonio Gates. I feel good about my chances of winning the top prize there.

First of all, there are correlations between fantasy sports and DFS. If you're a good fantasy player it means you understand research. Your initial roster is a product of that research. Your final roster is a product of how well you adapt to a highly volatile environment. If you dropped Devonta Freeman after Tevin Coleman started in Week 1, you have my condolences.

Let's talk about how seasonal fantasy can help in you in DFS. First, if you study opponents defensive rankings weekly while setting your lineup, you're on the right track. Usually you only do this when trying to decide between 2 or maybe 3 options at one position while the rest of your roster remains relatively locked in. In DFS, you're suddenly deciding between 20-30 options at EVERY position. This can be overwhelming at first, so it is important to understand the nuances of DFS.

First there are cash games and there are GPPs. Cash games are where you go H2H, or 50/50, Double-Up, etc. GPPs are the tournament games such as Millionaire Maker, in which the pay-outs are skewed significantly for the top 1%. It is very important to understand that there are differences between how you construct your lineups for cash games, and how you do for GPPs.

In a cash game, you are not trying to hit a home run. You're hoping to make solid contact and get on base. You want to choose a lineup consisting of low-floor players. Low-floor means a player who generally will produce a certain number of points. Antonio Brown is an example of a low-floor player. When Ben Roethlisberger is playing QB for the Steelers, Antonio Brown will generally have a floor of 5 catches for 50 yards. Why? Because when Roethlisberger starts, Brown has put up at least 5/50 in 33 consecutive games.

In a GPPs, you need to be able to hit a grand slam twice in the same inning to win the top prize. How on Earth can we do this? We'll explore more about that later. For now, just know that with a GPP lineup, you need to select volatile players. Players with low ownership percentages and high-ceilings based on a number of factors. You need to understand what is known as "contrarian" philosophy. We will delve more into that later.

Secondly, seasonal fantasy gives you an understanding of how the season is going. Which players have risen in value? Which players have fallen off the cliff? If you drafted Peyton Manning you understand how value can change dramatically. Think of this like an old investing maxim: Past performance does not guarantee future results.

The sage fantasy player may have been able to analyze the Denver QB and not draft him this year. Why? There were warning signs of Peyton's demise. The last half of his season last year was atrocious. A coaching change meant a new offensive philosophy. He's nearly 40 years old and at some point, your body just can't do it anymore.

Understanding that past performance doesn't guarantee future results is a critical part of both SFS and DFS. In DFS, we can simply not play Peyton Manning anymore. In SFS, we have to dump him quickly and hopefully find Andy Dalton or Blake Bortles off the waiver wire. This is where SFS and DFS start to deviate. SFS is a long term commitment. We have to live with the initial decisions we made. DFS is a day-trading environment. We get in, we get out, and then we do it all over again the next day.

So what did I learn? When I first started DFS I was full of myself. My inflated ego was working against me. I thought my advanced knowledge and analytic skill in selecting fantasy players would easily allow me to finish in the top half of 50/50s and the money would come rolling in. I was dead wrong. I won my fair share, but I also lost and found myself with a big fat 0 bankroll. The lesson is that SFS prowess does not translate to DFS. You will find yourself the fish before you know it. My fish lineups cost me money, but taught me valuable lesson.

"Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker." - Mike McDermott Rounders

So my friends, the first lesson of DFS? Humility. Embrace that you are a novice. Understand your competition. Never assume you know a fraction of what they do. Educate yourself. This is game of knowledge and analytics above all else.

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Derek Finley

Existing in a world of psychotic monkeys. Writing about sports for passion. Thirsting for knowledge and beer.