DFS and the Quest for Profitability

As of last week I am profitable as a DFS player since NFL/NBA started. I have switched my focus mostly to tournaments, which is a strategy that involves higher variance. The risk/reward benefit is obvious in GPPs vs cash games.

That isn't to say that I don't still play cash games. If you are a GPP player, it makes sense to enter your best lineups wherever applicable. Last week I entered 6 GPPs and 1 double up and cashed in all 7 with a single lineup.

What I've Learned

Cash games require astute attention to detail in order to analyze value. GPPs only require unique lineup construction (commonly referred to as contrarian strategy). It is easy to be contrarian, but much more difficult to be a successful contrarian. What is the difference? Knowledge.

If you have knowledge, you would know that playing Colin Kaepernick in a frigid environment at 1% ownership is a very bad idea. Why? Kaepernick has small hands and it is a proven fact that QBs with small hands perform progressively worse as the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees. On the other hand, a contrarian player with no knowledge will look at Kaepernick's history and draw a conclusion that the risk/reward makes him a good GPP target.

Losing: Get Used to It

Being contrarian in GPPs means you will lose more often than you win. The path to profitability requires an iron will to stick to your guns even when results don't pan out. Research is a suggestion, not a blueprint. You may roster a $5000 TE who receives 8 targets but only musters 8 points out of it. In theory you correctly identified opportunity, but results did not match up. Don't count that as a loss, chalk that up to variance that is NFL football.

Losing 4 weeks in a row may cost you a few hundred bucks, but one winning week can net you thousands. This is the path to profitability in GPPs.

Week 14 Lineup Recap

The real blueprint in GPPs is not being contrarian across the board, but analyzing which chalk plays are too good to pass up. Fading the chalk when the play isn't good is smart. Fading the chalk when the play is a virtual lock can be suicide. I didn't play Le'Veon Bell last week and he scored 54 DK points. I still cashed comfortably, but I didn't really have a chance to get into the top 1% where the real money is.

Lineup Construction Process: Eli Manning / ODB stack at lower ownership, Falcons D / Devonta Freeman RB/D stack in an expected blowout. Exploit the Eagles poor pass coverage on deeper routes by playing Pierre Garcon. Exploit the Denver reliance on feeding Sanders versus a poor pass defense. Trust TY Hilton to see plenty of targets against the Texans. Trust Greg Olsen to put up serviceable numbers at lower ownership.

My Eli Manning - Odell Beckham stack was a bust. Odell returned a decent value but Eli was miserably bad. My Freeman / Falcons D stack was a true wash. The Falcons D was the top scoring defense at 4% ownership. Freeman mustered only a couple opportunities and failed to meet his floor in a game where his team put up 42 points.

On the strength of my pick of Carlos Hyde in a cherry matchup versus a terrible Jets Defense I got 30 points at 7.7% ownership. I also correctly identified TY Hilton and Emmanuel Sanders as must-play WRs. Garcon caught a TD pass and produced decent value.

Hyde, Hilton, Sanders and Falcons D provided big performances that bolstered my lineup. Olsen, ODB, and Garcon were serviceable, and Manning and Freeman were busts.

This illustrates how to leverage ownership in GPPs. It is unrealistic to expect 9/9 ceiling hits on your lineup. What I attempted to do with this lineup was exploit matchup deficiencies based on season-long trends. I trust that Denver can't run the ball very well and will throw to Emmanuel Sanders at least 10 times, and Sanders should be able to hit value easily against a poor Titans secondary.

Despite the failures of this lineup, I still turned $85 into $230 for a profit of $145 on the day.

If Eli Manning had put up 16 points, and Freeman had at least put up 10, I would have had a total 196 and won a lot more. Conversely, if Sanders, Hilton, and Garcon didn't catch TD passes, my total would have been 18 points lower.

I still think about Sam Hinkie and trust the process. My reasoning was sound and I made money. Sure, I'm a little pissed off that Freeman and Eli choked and cost me bigger profits, but I also have to look at the great calls I made by playing Falcons D, Hyde, and my WRs.

Do Your Homework

You can't win at DFS unless you understand the intricate rules of DFS. Chalk. Contrarian. Game Theory. Game Selection. These are things you need to know. You need to follow the people who do win and find out how they do it. Read anything by Jonathan Bales, who is co-founder at FantasyLabs.com. His books will give you considerable food for thought on how to approach lineup construction and how to research.

Good luck friends.

Derek Finley

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