Several years ago, DraftKings and FanDuel bombarded TV and YouTube viewers with the promise of winning big through daily fantasy football. Numerous fans came rushing to these sites with visions of crushing football contests.
But as John Oliver pointed out through an infamous skit, the average beer-drinking, pork rind-eating fans weren’t winning. Instead, stats geeks who spent hours creating algorithms were the ones profiting.
The notion that anybody can win in daily fantasy football (DFF) eventually disappeared. It was replaced by the cold reality that only the best and hardest-working earn profits.
You may be discouraged by this reality. But as you’ll find out below, the chances of beating DFF are still alive today.
Why Is Daily Fantasy Football Beatable?
Many forms of gambling feature a house edge. For example, casinos hold a house advantage in every game they offer. Lotteries only pay out around half of their ticket sales.
DFF and other daily fantasy sports (DFS) are among the few types of gambling that can actually be beaten in the long run. The reason why is because they pit you against other players, not a house edge.
Make no mistake, the house is still earning their cut.
DFF sites take an average of 10% from contest buy-ins.
For example, they usually tack on an extra $10 to a $100 buy-in ($100 + $10).
But even with these extra fees included, you can still win in daily fantasy football. You simply have to be good enough to consistently beat your opponents and the associated fees.
Here’s an example on how you can win profits through DFF:
- You spend $11,000 in buy-ins ($1k in house fees).
- You have an ROI of 15%.
- 11,000 x 1.15 = $12,650
- 12,650 – 11,000 = $1,650 profit
This scenario makes beating DFF seem simple enough. However, the problem is that the competition is fairly intense.
You aren’t the only one with knowledge that daily fantasy is beatable.
Many other gamblers know this and are willing to study strategy to improve their odds.
Nevertheless, you can see that DFF offers favorable prospects. You just need to arm yourself with the skills to become successful.
DFS Is (Wrongly) Compared to Online Poker
Exactly one decade before daily fantasy football boomed in the mid-2010s, online poker experienced a rapid popularity increase.
The boom would eventually end for internet poker due to certain legal events.
But this period still showed the immense popularity of online skill-based gambling.
Much like DFF, online poker can also deliver long-term winnings. This aspect has helped make internet poker very popular among the masses. Thanks to the similarities between online poker and DFF, it’s no surprise the two games are often compared.
In theory, DFF works much like poker tournaments. Both involve skill, take around 10% fees from buy-ins, and can offer large prizes to tourney winners.
However, poker tournaments and DFF differ in one major way.
Professional daily fantasy players aren’t limited by stakes.
In online poker, pro players don’t bother with low-stakes tournaments. They’d waste their time by playing all of the hands associated with $1 and $5 tournaments.
DFF pros, on the other hand, don’t have to spend much time at all to play the lowest limits. Instead, they can simply create a single lineup (or more) and enter it in a game within seconds.
They don’t need to take any action after entering a lineup. Therefore, a professional can quickly play lots of contests ranging from $1 to $5,000 stakes. Not all DFF pros care about games with buy-ins worth less than $10. But unlike with online poker, they can theoretically play the cheapest contests without sacrificing much time.
Therefore, amateurs aren’t even safe in $1 games. Contrast this to online poker, where a $1 tournament player can be fairly confident they’re not facing serious grinders.
What’s the Reality of Beating DFF?
The truth of the matter is that winning in daily fantasy football is very difficult, even at the lowest stakes. You first need to learn basic strategy, such as how to create lineups, bankroll management, and assigning proper value to players.
From here, you must put work into learning advanced concepts that can separate you from the pack. Finally, you’ll need to spend hours every week carefully drafting lineups that are capable of scoring big.
A chief problem is that you can’t expect any safe havens while learning the ropes.
After all, any skilled player can enter the cheapest contests with the click of a button.
Even when you do get good enough to beat DFF, you’ll have to re-learn certain concepts the following year. After all, things change from one NFL season to the next in terms of players and value picks.
Daily fantasy football isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme that advertisements from several years ago portrayed it to be. But again, you can still win money if you spend enough time developing your skills.
Winning in DFF Doesn’t Come Quickly or Easily
Many daily fantasy players dive into NFL contests full of vigor. They may consult strategy articles/videos, carefully map out a bankroll management plan, and have the intent to steadily improve.
But as Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
DFF delivers plenty of financial punches, especially in the beginning. Chances are, you’ll be a losing player for quite some time before fully developing into a winner.
In the end, winning in DFF is about resolve as much as it is about learning strategy. You need to stick with daily fantasy, put time into it, and be patient.
Game Selection and Bankroll Management Are Key
Many daily fantasy players make the common mistake of solely focusing on guaranteed prize pool (GPP) tournaments. They love the thought of winning a big first-place prize for a relatively small entry fee.
The problem with this tactic, though, is that it leads to high variance. Only between 5% and 10% of the field cashes in GPPs. Even if you’re one of the world’s best DFF players, you won’t cash in a large percentage of GPPs. Therefore, you’ll need serious luck or a large bankroll to absorb losses until you earn payouts.
Rather than going the hard route, you should consider focusing on “cash games.” 50/50, double-up, and head-to-head contests all fall into the cash games category.
The benefit to cash contests is that they give you roughly a 50% chance of winning.
Even if you’re a really bad DFF player, you can at least count on winning between 40% and 45% of your games.
This higher win rate allows you to better sustain your bankroll and stay in the game longer. As long as you’re continually improving, you can count on a higher win rate later. Of course, you can still consider taking shots at larger GPPs. But these tournaments should only comprise a small percentage of your entries.
As for bankroll management, a good rule of thumb is to play stakes that give you at least 100 buy-ins. if you focus on contests with $11 buy-ins, for example, then you should have a minimum of $1,100.
Assuming you decide to focus exclusively on GPPs for some reason, then you’ll want even more buy-ins to survive the variance. The key is that you have enough money to get past any potential downswings for whatever contests you play.
The illusion that daily fantasy football is easy to beat has been exposed. Most players who came in during the mid-2010s boom quickly found out that DFF is tougher than the commercials made it out to be.
Some of these same gamblers quickly lost their money and exited daily fantasy for good. Many others have hung around as recreational players and have few illusions of winning big.
But regardless of what happened in the past, daily fantasy football is still beatable.
It just requires far more skills than the average fan possesses.
Watching the NFL and drafting your favorite players is fun. Spending hours assessing players’ value and drafting lineups isn’t fun.
Most sports fans don’t want to feel like they’re working just to play DFF. Of course, they’re more than entitled to treat daily fantasy as pure entertainment.
But if you want to win, then you’ll need to go where other fantasy players won’t. Furthermore, you also have to accept that you might not see profits for a few years. Waiting forever to be a winner doesn’t satisfy most people’s visions of being a DFF pro. However, it’s a cold reality if you want to be among the small percentage of winners.