Fantasy 101: Bankroll Management/Game Selection for DFS
For anyone new to daily fantasy, there is one important question that you should ask yourself: why am I playing? Some play daily fantasy for entertainment, while others have hopes of making a long-term profit. Some simply enjoy the thrill of chasing big prizes, much like playing the lottery. Each reason for playing DFS will have different strategies for bankroll management and game selection. If you revisit this question often and adjust your play style accordingly, you will have a much more enjoyable and successful daily fantasy experience.
Another important part of MLB DFS is setting a reasonable schedule for yourself. The MLB regular season is a grind, starting in March and lasting until the end of September. If you start out the season playing every day, you may very well burn yourself out, or worse, empty your bankroll before the All-Star break. Laying out a realistic schedule should improve your results and maximize your enjoyment of daily fantasy.
Below are some different play styles to help with your bankroll management and game selection. Finding which category fits you best is an important first step in planning for the upcoming daily fantasy season. If there are any terms that you are unfamiliar with, see our DFS Glossary.
Playing DFS for Fun
Most new daily fantasy players won’t enjoy losing large amounts of money over the course of the season, so playing for fun requires a fairly conservative strategy. If money isn’t really an issue for you, then you likely fall into one of the categories I’ll cover later. But most new daily fantasy players are likely playing for fun. The following two proposals will provide entertaining, low-risk ways to play daily fantasy.
Does playing in large tournaments with big top prizes sound like fun? Are you ok with losing more often than you win, in hopes of bigger payouts when you do win? Then playing in tournaments, or GPPs, is likely your preferred game type. Below is a plan for a year of enjoyable GPP play.
Deposit: $50. If you can do more that’s great, and you can certainly deposit less. But this seems like a good start for a new player; around the cost of a video game.
Schedule: An MLB season has about 27 weekends in the schedule, which helps give you an idea of how to pace your bankroll for the season. You could play a GPP with a $1 entry fee every Saturday of the MLB season, and even if you lost every single week, you would still have $23 left at the end of the year, assuming a $50 deposit. But you can see how quickly you can go broke when you enter higher cost tournaments, as losing a $5 tournament every week would erase a $50 bankroll well before the all-star break. Hopefully you won’t be losing every week, but the nature of tournaments means it is entirely possible for you to go five or ten tournaments between wins, if not more. This is why bankroll management is so important.
Game Selection: DraftKings’ 2019 Opening Day slate of tournaments gives you a good idea of the types of games that will run throughout the year. The MLB $2K Daily Dollar (Single Entry) is a good place to start, as each player can only enter one lineup into the contest. While the top prize of $150 pales in comparison to the $1500 top prize of the MLB $25K Mini-Max (150 Max Entry), you will have a much more reasonable chance of winning the Daily Dollar than you will the Mini-Max. You will be competing against 2,378 other lineups in the Daily Dollar, while the Mini-Max will pit you against 29,726 other lineups. If you want to be especially conservative, you can enter the Beginner and Casual $1 entry contests. You will be competing for a much smaller top prize, but experienced players will be excluded from the contest, allowing you to test out your skills against easier competition.
Conclusion: Pick a $1 tournament that you will enjoy the most, and play one a week. I recommend the Daily Dollar or similar single entry tournaments. If you win and your bankroll grows, you can consider playing more often or for higher stakes. But don’t enter tournaments with an entry fee more than 2-5% of your bankroll. Don’t forget to look for free tournaments that feature prizes, as they will occasionally pop up throughout the season.
Do you hate losing? Do you get frustrated and quickly lose interest when you do? Then cash games are likely the game type for you. Cash games are contests where around half the field wins, though the payout is smaller than a tournament. You are essentially trying to win small amounts of money as often as possible. You won’t get rich quick, but you will have a lineup to build and root for and will win more often than you would playing tournaments.
Deposit: $50. Though if there is a strategy best suited for someone who wants to risk even less money, this would be the one.
Schedule: Cash games should be easier to win, so hopefully you won’t experience the losing streaks that you would in tournaments. But extended losing streaks are still possible, so being conservative is a good idea. Over the 27 weeks of the MLB season, decide how often you would like to play. If you want to play once a week, you could enter a $2 50/50 each week; you would have to lose 25 straight weeks to run out of money this year with a $50 deposit. If you prefer to play more than once a week, try a $1 50/50 two or three times a week. Just make sure to scale back if you start on a cold streak and see your bankroll dwindle quickly.
Game Selection: You won’t need to worry too much about which games you are entering if you are playing cash games. Just go to the Contest Lobby and search for 50/50’s and double-ups with your preferred entry fee. Cash games with large numbers of opponents will have a more predictable score needed to finish in the top half. Cash games with smaller numbers of opponents will have more variance, so you could find yourself in an especially hard or an especially easy contest. There are game selection strategies that are more advanced where you try to find the contests with less experienced players and enter them. But for new players, don’t put too much thought into that for now.
Conclusion: Start out slow, playing $1-$3 a week in your choice of 50/50’s and double-ups. There are even beginner and casual cash games that you can take advantage of. If you have early success and your bankroll grows, you can consider risking up to 10% of your bankroll a week, but scale back quickly if your luck changes.
Playing DFS for the Thrill
If you aren’t on a tight budget and you want to have some fun chasing big payouts, then this is the section for you. There’s nothing wrong with this play style, and while it may not be a winning strategy in the long run, there are plenty of conservative players who lose money as well. If you are honest with yourself and can afford the losses, this is a fun way to play daily fantasy. Be responsible and don’t risk money that you can’t afford to lose.
Deposit: $100-$500. The amount will be totally different depending on the person. If you want to be able to enter the biggest tournaments, like the MLB $400K Season Opener [$100K to 1st], you will probably need $500 or more to do it right.
Schedule: Enter contests on days where you will be watching baseball so you can experience the excitement of following your players live. Don’t forget to use some caution so you don’t run out of money too early in the season. Remember, there are 27 weekends in the season, so spread out your entries in order to keep your bankroll throughout the year.
Game Selection: DFS players looking for a thrill aren’t playing to grind out small profits, so look for contests that feature large prizes for first place. The MLB $150K Four-Seamer [20 Entry Max] has a reasonable $4 entry fee and a $10,000 prize for first place. As mentioned above, the $400k Season Opener is a good option for those with big bankrolls. It’s not a tournament that I would recommend for new players, but for those who can lose a $500 deposit without it affecting their finances, this is an option.
Conclusion: Look for tournaments with big first place prizes and play lineups with big upside. Even with this riskier strategy, don’t enter tournaments with entry fees exceeding 5% of your bankroll.
Playing DFS for Profit
Bankroll management and game selection strategy for players looking to make a profit deserves a deep dive that isn’t appropriate for a Fantasy 101 article. Attempting to make a serious profit in daily fantasy can be a huge time commitment, much like picking up a second job. Most new players aren’t ready for this type of investment, but for those who are, keep checking the DFS section of Pitcher List throughout the year. In addition to covering the daily slate of games, we will be writing daily pieces taking a deeper dive into a variety of DFS topics.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t risk more than 10% of your bankroll in a day while playing cash games, and don’t risk more than 2.5% of your bankroll while playing GPPs. Also, make sure to take advantage of every free-roll that offers a prize, and play as many beginner and casual games as possible while you are still eligible. Following guidelines in the “Playing DFS for Fun” section is actually a solid starting point, though a larger deposit is recommended.
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)