One of my favorite nuances of DFS is the availability of different game types, stratified by the number of opponents or the payout structure, and the various strategies that are encouraged with respect to roster construction and investment.

I have engaged in a round robin style of play up to this point in my DFS-playing career, with shallow dips into multiple types of games: head-to-head, triple ups, GPP's, 50/50's, boosters, and smaller leagues ranging from three to ten players apiece. I played these on a daily basis and at low stakes, basically $5 or $10 games, but spread across the pallet of game types. It was as if my goal was to compile a reasonable sample of data with which to analyze my own trends – and that was part of the original intent – but in doing so I had overlooked other strategic opportunities. Many of the pros will concentrate their funds into a particular type of contest, setting up 50 head-to-head competitions or tossing 100 entries into the big Moonshot tournament on Draft Kings, tailoring their lineups to maximize profit potential in particular games. It's like poker – I was a strong hold 'em player but my best game was seven-card stud – but rather than seek out my strengths I have chosen to play the field.

I wasn't completely blind to what I was doing, and at the core of the approach is an enjoyment of the game and an appreciation of the challenges offered by the various rules and boundaries. That said, the overall goal is to profit on my investment, not to compile data. The stats that I have collected have been surprising, given that I consider myself to be a relatively conservative player who is better suited for low-variance games: my biggest profit centers have been top-heavy contests, including GPP's and 10x boosters, an aspect that takes on additional intrigue when one considers that my top takeaway from one of those contests was a modest $70. The biggest drains on my account have been 10-team leagues and 50/50 tournaments, games that were my bread-and-butter last year, and in fact the 10-team leagues were my top earner in 2014.

Join Doug in playing Baseball Prospectus Beat the Expert League on Draft Kings – click here for tournament lobby.

Details ($3 Entry):

  • Baseball Prospectus Private Daily Fantasy League
  • Starts tonight
  • Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 10: 8 fielders and 2 pitchers
  • Roster Format: 2 pitchers, 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS and 3 OF

Large grains of salt are needed to glean anything from those numbers, as even with nearly a half-season in the books my samples of 60-90 tallies (per game type) are still quite low, underscoring the folly in chasing data collection at my level of investment. My average points per lineup is 103.5 in 2015 and was 104.5 per lineup last season, so I'm down a touch overall, but I would need to know more about this season's context in order to gauge if there's any smoke there, either. I've played roughly even for most of the season, sitting at plus-$2 on my original $500 investment as recently as three weeks ago, but a brutal stretch recently sent me tumbling downward and I'm now staring down the barrel of an all-in. Interestingly, whereas my first-week slump involved a series of shutouts, this most recent dip was more of a slow burn, with a slew of lineups that were just good enough to return partial stacks and over the last three weeks my chips were gradually chopped down to the felt.

Overanalyzing a small sample can be a quick route to a prolonged slump, both in real baseball and in DFS, so a knee-jerk reaction to recent struggles is not prudent. However, my style of play has yielded pretty consistent results, embodying the spirit of a true grinder who puts a lot of time and effort in order to eek out just enough of an advantage to beat the rake. I enjoy the game, so part of this was by design, but the lack of variation in my investment strategy with various lineups and game types has left a lot of strategic elements out of reach, and that is something that I would like to change going forward.

There are different ways to skin the DFS cat, and it might be time to try a few new ones. In particular, I think that the shape of the day's slate and the competition type require different approaches when constructing a lineup, and I think that my time is better spent determining the optimal situation and roster-matching rather than constructing the perfect lineup.

The structure of each contest dictates the most desirable strategy, and in general there are three different game types to take into account at Draft Kings – head-to-head and small leagues (hereto referred to as “Cash Games”), 50/50 tournaments, and GPP's. The five-figure populations of the GPP's and top heavy payouts require a different approach than 50/50 tournaments that simply require a top-half finish, and the GPP strategies overlap with Booster tournies. In general, players tend to “like” the lineups of the Cash games most, with little to consider beyond the players with best value, giving those games the closest feel to seasonal leagues. The 50/50's are deceptive, in that gamers often feel pigeonholed by ownership trends, as you don't want to be the one owner who missed out on the elite arm who put up 50 points, a nearly impossible hole out of which to dig. The GPP and Booster tournaments tend to reward “Leroy” lineups packed with low-owned players who happen to have the day of their lives.

The Arms

Cash Games: I like the rule of using a soft cap of $20k (out of the $50k available) towards my two pitchers. Optimally, I aim for one pitcher in the $10k-$12k range and one in the $8k-$10k range, as the greatest control that one can pretend to exhibit with his DFS lineup is with the guys on the mound.

50/50: If there's an elite pitching option, then you almost have to take it. Everyone else in the league will, and hitting when everyone misses carries little value when first and 40th pay out the same amount of profit.

GPP: The keys here are at the extremes. If you want the shot at snagging a 40-point day from your SP, then you're gonna have to pony up for the opportunity. Beyond the elite, however, there is often a glut of relatively “safe” options that have limited upside and are thus less appealing in the GPP format. Winning players are more likely to gamble on a high-variance player who could get ousted early or randomly put up near-elite numbers for pennies on the dollar.

I prefer days that are likely to have a more spread out ownership, in general, so slates with multiple studs (ie Kersh and King been lined up for awhile) are appealing and days with no aces are even more enticing, but the scheduled days with “obvious” choices are less interesting.

The Bats

The goal is always to get as many points as possible, but the size and shape of opponent population dictates the scope of the “get the most points” endeavor.

Cash Games: I look at splits, opponents, recent trends, etc. Basically everything that's covered on a daily basis here at Fantasy Rounders. The easy route is to take two huge arms and hope that a punt play gets lucky, relying on three-to-four big hitters to go off rather than solid performances all around.

50/50: There are fewer stars n' scrubs lineups here and more of the stability from the standpoint of salary allocation. The top values of the day tend to have high ownership percentages.

GPP: The stars n' scrubs lineups are very popular in GPP tournies, such that the top bats such as Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, etc, tend to have ownership rates in excess of 25 percent despite their prohibitive costs. In order to fit the big thumpers into the lineup, it is common to employ the cheapest players possible, scouring the depths of the pricing sheet at key positions (ie catcher, second base, shortstop) to see who's starting that day (bonus points if hitting at the top of the lineup). I wonder if this is an optimal strategy, however, given the gamer pools in excess of 20,000 people and a ridiculously top-loaded payout structure, as it seems that part of the goal should be to have a unique roster if one really wants to hit it big.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Really great work, Doug. It never occurred to me to track my lineup scores. I spend so much time building lineups, but spend almost no time at all assessing their performances and tracking them afterwards. I've struggled a lot with identifying what game variants best suit me. There are days that a lineup drops 140 in a H2H, and I lose. That's frustrating. The notes on the game types really helps.

As far as tracking your lineups, results, and contests... What does that look like? Are you using spreadsheets? I'd love to see how that sausage is made.

I really enjoy your work. Let me know when you start pushing out a Daily, DFS Podcast.