How I Learned to Stop Sucking at DFS and love Mark Cuban

Admittance is the First Step

I'm not a person who likes to give up on something. When I started doing this blog a few months ago, the goal was simply to track my progress and see what I've learned along the way and if it helped me become a better (profitable) DFS player.

Well I've come to the conclusion that I am not a good tournament player. A 33% win rate on tourneys is not good enough to cash. The allure of DFS is that it enhances your sports viewing experience. Last night I was watching a Sixers-Magic game to see how Aaron Gordon was doing. DFS is the ultimate male fantasy: being good enough to actually make money doing something you already love doing.

The problem is separating the business side of DFS from the entertainment value. We know that professional grinders treat DFS like a full-time job. The guys who churn out million dollar profits have to put in the man hours. That means 60+ hour weeks and a relentless mentality. DFS is an investment game. It's 90% analytics, 10% gut feel (not scientific, just an estimate).

My problem is I don't have the time (or money) to start playing seriously on that level. I know how to enter 50 lineups at once. I know how to differentiate lineups and use scripts and models to find the plays. But that doesn't mean I've spent 8 hours breaking down every single game for tonight's NBA slate.

Conclusion? I suck. So do I give up? No. I regroup and come up with a more focused approach.

Analyze Yourself, Prepare a Strategy

So what can a regular dude like me with limited resources and time do to stay afloat in shark-infested waters? The first thing is: Analyze yourself.

For me, that meant looking at my track record over the past year. It was worse than I thought. Not a lot of profit anywhere. So I looked at the breakdown and focused on the games where I was actually profitable, or at least over a 50% win rate. For me, it is not GPPs. It is the low-stakes, low-return games. $1 50/50s, $1 double-ups. If this is the place where I'm strongest, then if my goal is to make money, it makes sense for me to focus all my time on the games that give me the best chance to win.

The next step is: Consider Your Motivation

What kind of DFS player am I? Understand your limitations. Do you really think you have a chance to win $100,000 on a given night in a tournament with 50,000 entries? Do the math. Let's say that tournament has a 50 entry max limit. Let's say 100 "professionals" are staking 50 entries in that tournament (5,000 pro entries). You're throwing in 1 lineup against 50,000 thinking you have just as good of a chance as anyone else. The truth is, if you're staking your 1 lineup against 5,000 pro entries. Your odds of actually taking down the GPP are virtually zero. Nevermind the 45,000 other entries. You've got a serious mountain to climb even at 1 versus 100 pro entries. The odds are stacked against you.

This is where machismo and male hubris will come in and scoff in the face of certain doom. You're Han Solo cooling telling C-3P0 "Never tell me the odds." Great. You're a genuine badass. You're James Dean. Well Han Solo only navigated that asteroid field because it was a movie, and James Dead died in a car accident.

So why do we keep chasing that great white buffalo? The allure of that top prize. "If I just win that $100,000, my life would be significantly better, right?" Maybe, maybe not.

And For That Reason, I'm In

Mark Cuban has been a hot name in the DFS industry lately ever since he invested in Fantasy Labs. If you don't know about FantasyLabs, you're not reading the right information. Their player models, news, and general design make them arguably head and shoulders above all other DFS subscription models in the game. Why is it a big deal that Mark Cuban invested in FantasyLabs? Well, you may be familiar with a little television show called "Shark Tank" in which prospective entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a group of big-time investors including Cuban himself.

So what does it really mean that Cuban decided to invest in a DFS analytics site? He understands the profit potential there. First, FantasyLabs is a subscription model, which is one of the best business models out there. They charge $59 a month for access to their product. Second, Cuban understands that there is residual value to his own investment as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. A new market of DFS players means a lot more attention and money spent on the NBA product.

The NBA doesn't pull in as much money as the NFL, and one of the reasons for that is it hasn't ever had the "follow your players" appeal that the NFL created with the rise of fantasy football. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner has not only come out in favor of DFS, but also in legalized gambling in general. Silver is sharp enough to know that enhancing the NBA product through traditional betting, or DFS means a lot more interest in NBA games. Why? Because the NBA is generally considered the favorite game for the casual DFS player. We know this because it has lower variance, as I explained in my previous article. You have a better chance of succeeding in NBA DFS than in NFL DFS.

So while a lot of DFS players get discouraged by losing all their money trying to play their favorite sport (NFL) they suddenly become NBA converts when they realize that not only is it more profitable, but that the games are actually very entertaining. Mark Cuban is a savvy investor. He sees the profit potential not only for himself as a DFS investor, but as a whole for the NBA. Should both industries continue to flourish, he makes even more money.

So why would Mark Cuban jump on the DFS bandwagon now, despite the recent controversy and pending legal battles over it's legality? Simple. Even if DFS becomes illegal in the United States, there are other countries in which the laws are different.

England, for instance has a fairly large market of American sports enthusiasts and also embraces gambling, and although NBA games generally come on between midnight and 4 AM in the UK, it presents a new market entirely should the US bring down the hammer. DraftKings is already in final stages of their UK launch. The NFL has been infiltrating the English market for years with games in London. Cuban understands this global nature of business means opportunity is not restricted. If DraftKings shifts its model to England an other countries that look more favorably upon DFS, there is still potential for growth on a global scale.

Consider also the ramifications of incorporating soccer into the DFS game. Soccer is a global game whose fans dwarf the fans of any other sport in the world by an enormous margin. Converting a mere 1% of soccer fans in the world into perpetual DFS players would mean substantial profit.

Money Isn't Everything?

Another interesting Cuban tidbit: He was recently asked to give advice to whoever won the big billion-dollar Powerball jackpot. He had one piece of advice that stuck with me. He said "Suddenly being a billionaire won't make you happy. If you were unhappy when you were poor, you're going to be unhappy when you're worth a billion."

The point is, think about why you keep throwing money into high-prize GPPs. Are you unhappy with your financial situation? Do something about it. Go back to school. Find your true calling. Do what it takes to make yourself happy about your life. Money doesn't solve your problems. Not having to worry about the bill collectors and credit cards would make your life less stressful, but making a lot of money isn't a recipe for happiness. Just ask the 44% of lottery winners who blew through their entire fortunes within 5 years.

I'm not here to be a life coach or offer you financial advice. I'm happily married with two kids. My wife and I earn a modest living. We're not poor, but we're not comfortable either. See I'm not here to solicit you anything. The DFS writers out there (and some of them are very good) are all biased in some aspect because they're being paid to tout their site. I'm not touting some DFS site that will make you a better player. I'm not a very good DFS player. That is why I started writing about my journey. So I can understand my thoughts and analyze them for my own benefit. If you get anything out of it, that's also great, but this is also for my own growth.

So I suck, now what?

So let's outline your goals when it comes to DFS. Most people want to make money, but is that really true? Do you want to make money? Then why are you throwing money away every day? Face the harsh reality. Know your limitations. Know when you've been beat. You're a small fish in a large pond. You're a lowly day-trader competing against Hedge Funds.

So last night after I analyzed my strengths and weaknesses, I came to the conclusion that I'm a low stakes player and I need to stick to that or I'll continue to lose.

So I went back to my roots, and I entered the low stakes 50/50s. And you know what? I finally got back on the winning path.

I won $1.60 last night.


  • DF

Derek Finley

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