Last season, I kicked off writing The Daily Grind to discuss all the happenings in Daily Fantasy Sports on a weekly basis. Little did I know how DFS would explode onto the scene, dominate and practically revolutionize fantasy sports as we once knew it. Big money has come into Daily Fantasy, both from investors wanting their share of this booming market and also from DFS sites trying to attract even more players with gigantic Guaranteed Prize Pool contests. Millions of dollars were exchanged over the summer, and even more millionaires are just waiting to be crowned this coming football season.
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jeff Pasquino, and I have been a Footballguy for 10 years now and a fantasy sports player for much longer than that. I have had more than my fair share of success at fantasy, and I had started to think that there was not too much left to learn when it came to fantasy leagues. To say I was wrong in that thought is a major understatement. A few years ago I started to dabble in DFS with FanDuel and DraftKings, but I stepped up my involvement last year and really sank my teeth into this Brave New World if daily sports contests, playing on many different sites and in numerous contests. I went from a DFS dabbler to a serious player in less than 12 months, made it to my first live final, participated in writing two e-books for Footballguys and now I can be heard weekly on the DraftKings hour with John Lee and host Cecil Lammey. I have learned an incredible amount over the past year about DFS and I am here to share as much as I can about daily football. The Daily Grind will be my voice to help you through the constantly changing DFS landscape as I highlight important news, free articles, resources, potential overlay situations, great contests to play and more every week. The emphasis here will be first to cover the four sites that we partnered with this year (FanDuel, DraftKings, FantasyAces and FantasyScore), but I will still discuss major news and contests beyond those sites when applicable.
It has been quite a while since we last talked about DFS, and a lot has happened in 2015 already. Let’s do a quick recap before we start talking about the coming season.
2015 DFS Major Happenings
So much has happened since the Patriots edged the Seahawks last February. DraftKings had an on-again, off-again relationship with Disney and ESPN (Disney owns ESPN) that finally resulted in a monstrous $300M advertising deal between the two sports entities. Both FanDuel and DraftKings locked up new investments this summer that cemented their places atop the DFS world and defined both companies as worth more than $1 Billion each. DraftKings saw how much the marketplace was maturing, and they started to reflect that in their new ad campaigns, leaving the “winning shiploads of money” ads in the dust. It appeared that both sites would be the two major sites in play for DFS, with several others like FantasyAces and FantasyScore vying for third.
And then it all changed – again.
With all of this money on the table, several other companies wanted to get into the mix. First Amaya (known for their ownership of PokerStars) announced that they would be getting into DFS this year, and then went on to acquire one of the smaller DFS sites, Victiv, tu use as their platform to expedite their entry into the ever-growing DFS space under a newly branded StarsDraft site. Not to be outdone, Yahoo! made a similar announcement that they too would enter the daily space, kicking off daily baseball contests this past summer as a warmup for the NFL season, where they showed that they are ready to put up big dollars as soon as Week 1 with a $1M GPP contest right out of the gate. In a surprise to many who track the DFS industry, CBS launched another DFS contest site as well, branding it under the SportsLine name, making the DFS space even more crowded. It should have been expected, as with any new and emerging market, competition comes as people want to get their fair share.
Finally, August came and FanDuel announced their big GPP, a $5 Million Contest for NFL Week 1 (and a $1 Million first place prize), which blew away all the records set last year for GPPs. DraftKings responded back quickly to set another record with their $10 Million Contest, including a $2 Million first place prize and second place still gets a cool million bucks. The announcement of both contests and the release of their pricing for NFL Week 1 almost a month in advance of the games gave us something to talk about for a good amount of the summer, so I am grateful to both sites and happy that they opened up the fantasy season so early. I talked about both sites pricings for early bargains when they were released and two episodes of The Audible capture those thoughts. Most of all, I am looking at both multi-million dollar contests right now (mid-day Tuesday) with less than a week to go until kickoff on Sunday and both contests are under 30% full, so we could be looking at quite the overlay situation come Sunday morning.
With so much interest in daily fantasy contests from both a growth and a revenue perspective, this is going to be a very interesting and dynamic environment for quite a while. As always, stay tuned right here and to Footballguys' DFS coverage, which is bigger and better than ever. Speaking of which...
FOOTBALLGUYS AND DFS COVERAGE FOR 2015
Footballguys also did not stand still this offseason. I personally cannot believe how far we have come in such a short time, but it speaks volumes about the staff that Footballguys is so fortunate to have at its disposal. Since the Super Bowl, we decided to dedicate a large amount of effort and resources towards covering DFS fantasy football, because that’s what we are all about. We created not just one but two e-books to cover FanDuel (“Cracking FanDuel”) and DraftKings (“Cracking DraftKings”), and we could not be happier with how they turned out. As fellow Footballguy John Lee likes to point out, no matter what skill level you are at, every DFS player can get something from these two books. The basics of DFS NFL contests all the way up to advanced strategies are extensively covered like no one else can so everyone can hit the ground running this season.
But we did not stop there. The Daily Crusher App was invented and released this year by Footballguys so that DFS players can create lineups for cash games and tournaments and also get deep analysis on their rosters, likelihood of winning and exposure to various players. It can also help you to build, manage and customize lineups across several sites plus check news and articles for DFS. Once you start using this, it will be hard to imagine how you ever lived without it. I'm still learning all the different ways to use this great tool both by experimenting with it and with the help of our Daily Crusher Manual and I can already see its immense value to me as both a cash game and GPP player.
There's a ton more coverage we have this season for DFS, too much to outline in this opening of The Daily Grind, but we have a large section devoted to it below. Be sure to read on and see everything we have planned. You'll be amazed at just how much content there is.
DFS PARTNERSHIPS WITH FOOTBALLGUYS
So before I get into all the Week 1 contests and how Footballguys can help you succeed and win more than your fair share this week, let’s talk quickly as to why Footballguys partnered with these four sites in particular. FanDuel and DraftKings were easy decisions as they are clearly the top two places to play DFS contests right now. FantasyAces represents the next best site for two reasons – first, they have several live final events, a rare but highly coveted experience for DFS players. They also offer a unique starting lineup for football that requires both two starting quarterbacks and two flex positions, so this variation also sets them apart. Last but not least is FantasyScore, which offers a weekly draft format either in the form of a scheduled draft or a quick “Draft-and-Go” structure where players can hop in right away and start drafting. All four sites offer unique experiences and a large sampling of what the DFS space has to offer football players.
As stated earlier, I will focus predominantly on these four sites here in The Daily Grind, but I also want to make sure that you as the DFS player does not miss out on large opportunities to earn life-changing money. So whenever a new contest that has a big payout or a large overlay possible each week, I will try and make sure you know it when I know it and can take your shot at winning that big prize, regardless of the site hosting the contest.
SINGLE ENTRY VS. MULTI-ENTRY
A hotly debated topic in DFS circles is whether or not GPPs should allow multi-entry (one player entering more than one lineup in a contest). The discussion points surround the number of entries that should be allowed and also whether or not it is more beneficial to both the player and also the DFS community to use only one lineup per contest. Some of that debate may be decided by FanDuel starting in Week 1, as two large GPPs were introduced for NFL contests. The NFL Week 1 Sunday Squib contest is a single-entry tournament that costs only $1 to play and offers $100,000 in prizes with a $10,000 first place offer. Someone is going to turn one dollar into ten thousand bucks by the end of Monday Night Football. The remarkable part of this contest is that it is open to over 114,000 (nearly 115,000) people and it is already 50% full as of Tuesday. Similarly, the Week 1 Safety is a $2 GPP single-entry tournament at about half of the size (57,471 spots available) and is also about 50% full. These two GPPs will go a long way to determining just how many players are out there on FanDuel and if GPPs can be supported with fewer entries per player.
DraftKings also added a new feature for this year called League Hub. First discussed on the Footballguys DraftKings Blog, DraftKings will offer users of the ESPN season-long fantasy football interface a free service to collect and manage their entry fees for the duration of the 2015 NFL season; at the close of the season, DraftKings will award the payouts to each respective winner, as previously defined by each league's respective League Manager.
This appears to be a boon for DraftKings, who should benefit in multiple fashions. First, they will undoubtedly gain exposure to a season-long demographic that may not yet have tested the daily fantasy sports (DFS) waters; furthermore, because DraftKings can securely handle all monies channeled through the season-long ESPN leagues, winners of their respective leagues may be tempted to churn their winnings through the site.
How does League Hub operate? First, the League Manager sets up the league with the number of teams, entry fees, payment deadline, and payout structure. Then, league members are invited to join the league and pay their entry fees (via PayPal). After all members have paid their entry fees, the season is played out and the winners are subsequently awarded their respective prizes based on the preseason league setup. Those monies are deposited directly into a member's DraftKings' account, where they can request a withdrawal shortly thereafter. The benefit to league members is that the monies are harbored by a multi-million dollar business and are likely more secure than with any individual person, not to mention that there are no fees associated with League Hub. There is a potential drawback, however; any individual winning over $600 will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service for tax collection on the winnings, something that is seldom done in leagues operated within friend and/or family networks.
For more details on League Hub, check out the details here.
DFS SITE BREAKDOWNS
I created a brief comparison chart of several DFS sites to cover the roster differences, salary cap budgets and different scoring formats so you can have a quick reference guide and choose which sites you want to play on for DFS fantasy football. Check it out and let me know what changes or additions you would like to see.
Next, our friends over at LegalSportsReport added a great summary of frequently asked questions regarding DFS. From the basics of how and where to play to how much you can win, many of your most common questions and answers are summarized in a brief article. Also included are topics like how much you can win, money considerations (bonuses, deposits, withdrawals) and, of course, the legality of the DFS contests. Be sure to check it out.
When we talk DFS for NFL Week 1, we often look for two things - Overlays and Free Money.
All the DFS sites want to increase traffic, so there are no better options to get people to come and check the sites out than giving away money, either in the form of a free roll (no entry fee) or by having an overlay in a contest (underfilled guaranteed prize pool). So definitely be on the lookout for overlay possibilities. Several freerolls are mentioned below for DraftKings, FantasyAces and FantasyScore, but also be sure to check for Overlays at all of the sites we cover in Week 1 as many overlays are possible.
Footballguys 2015 DFS Coverage DETAILS
If you think Footballguys did a good job in covering DFS last season, wait until you see what is in store for 2015. It is so big that I cannot possibly call it all out here, so let me start by just pointing you towards the summary page for our preseason (and Week 1 soon) DFS content:
The first thing you have to notice is the extent of coverage. As a brief summary, we have:
Two e-books for both DraftKings (Cracking DraftKings) and FanDuel (Cracking FanDuel), both available to Insiders for download. That's over 300 pages of DFS specific advice to help you succeed in NFL DFS contests in 2015.
Two blogs, one for FanDuel, one for DraftKings. Two blogs, zero cost. That's right - 100% free. The Footballguys' DFS staff will share thoughts, ideas, highlights and insights to help you along the DFS path this season.
But wait - there's more. So. Much. More.
College Football has been added to Footballguys! I could not be happier to point this out. In all of my research on Daily Sports coverage, I have yet to find anything close to what Footballguys is offering for fantasy college coverage. You have to see it to believe it. You will be blown away - and we are just getting started.
In addition to all of this DFS content, we will have dedicated pages each week for the four major sites that Footballguys will be covering extensively this year. A page each for FantasyAces, FantasyScore, DraftKings and FanDuel. Here is just one for FanDuel as an example, and a brief summary of what is to come for both DraftKings and FantasyAces.
And we didn't stop there. Each week we will have two episodes of The Audible, one dedicated to each FanDuel and DraftKings. We already have eight episodes for you to check out and get you ready for the season:
First, the FanDuel team of Alex Miglio and Austin Lee teamed up with Cecil Lammey to break down FanDuel DFS and the FanDuel e-book:
2015 Volume#103a - DFS - Fanduel 101 (#2434) - FanDuel DFS Basics
2015 Volume#104a - DFS - Fanduel 201 (#2435) - FanDuel DFS Advanced Topics
2015 Volume#105a - DFS - Cracking Fanduel (#2436) - Behind the scenes of the FanDuel e-book
The DraftKings team of Jeff Pasquino and John Lee also teamed up with Cecil Lammey to cover DraftKings DFS:
2015 Volume#100a - DFS - Draftkings 101 (#2431) - DraftKings DFS Basics
2015 Volume#101a - DFS - Draftkings 201 (#2432) - DraftKings DFS Advanced Topics
2015 Volume#102a - DFS - Cracking Draftkings (#2433) - Behind the scenes of the DraftKings e-book
In addition, the DFS Podcast teams discussed the Week 1 NFL Player Pricings when they were first released earlier this summer:
There is just so much great DFS content, I would l link them all but it might take me past Opening Night to post them all - so here is one page that has them all listed for you. Enjoy.
BIG CONTESTS FOR WEEK 1
Whenever you start to talk about major DFS sites and contests, FanDuel has to be mentioned. From the Week 1 $5 Million Contest where someone will win a million bucks from a $25 entry all the way down to the NFL Sunday Squib, where someone will turn a single dollar into $100,000. That's some amazing possibilities right there, but of course FanDuel keeps on adding to the chances at life-changing money. First, FanDuel partnered with Footballguys to create an exclusive Footballguys-FanDuel Championship with over $40,000 in free prizes where you can turn a double-up entry into a ticket for a Week 11 final where if you can beat Joe Bryant, David Dodds and Sigmund Bloom in the week you can add up to $5,000 to that $20 you won in the $10 double-up. That's pretty sweet right there. And of course you have to take note of the Playboy College Football Championship, where you can earn one of 70 exclusive entries to the PCFC event at the Playboy Mansion on November 21st. Qualifiers will be running all season long at FanDuel, so take some shots at these great tournaments with extra incentives and prizes.
There are always more contests that are popping up each week. Be sure to check out the Footballguys FanDuel Contest Spotight page for more information as we learn about these great contests.
DraftKings outdid themselves this year for Week 1 when they announced that they will not only be giving away a million bucks in Week 1 - the actually will be giving out $10 Million in prizes in a single tournament. To put that in perspective, first place wins $2 Million and second place only gets $1 Million. Not too shabby. But if you do not want to go after the big money in such a large tournament, there are plenty of other options at both lower price points and smaller contestant pools. From the $500K Hail Mary ($12 to enter, $50,000 for first place), the $400K slant ($9, $30,000) and the $1M Play-Action (only $3, $100,000 for first place), there are a ton of choices to pick from for both Sunday and Thursday contests. There's also the $1M Fantasy College Football World Championship, where you can win a trip to a live final on December 5th to Miami, FL along with a shot at $250,000. That's a nice Christmas plan right there.
Last but not least, DraftKings is offering a free contest for $1 Million to new members. If ever there was a reason to try DraftKings, this is it. Give it your best shot!
More DraftKings Contests for Week 1 can be found on the DraftKings Contest Spotight page.
You have to check out what FantasyAces is offering this season. Not only are they going bigger and better for the NFL, but they are also going for a Live Final for College Football!
First, FantasyAces announced the $500,000 NFL Live Final for 2015, which will be in Las Vegas on December 13th. The live final will have 40 entrants competing for a $100,000 grand prize. Qualifiers will run all season long up until the live event, including satellites to get into qualifiers at a discount.
The other major event for FantasyAces is their other live final, the $100,000 College Football Live Final. The live event will take place in Newport Beach, CA on November 21st where 13 finalist will compete for the $100,000 prize pool. The only way to claim a seat to the live final is to win a FACFC qualifier contest, which will be held weekly beginning September 3.
More FantasyAces Contests for Week 1 can be found on the FantasyAces Contest Spotight page.
FantasyScore is also giving out some free money in Week 1. Check out this offer:
Our Week 1 USA TODAY Freeroll has $500 in cash prizes being awarded. It doesn't cost anything to join and you can build your lineup in a matter of minutes -- plus, with our late-swap feature, you can change up your players right up until their games begin. Join the freeroll by creating your free team now.
If you're ready to play in some pay games, we have a deposit match special going on right now. Deposit (as low as $5!) and use the code RELOAD50. We'll immediately match 50% of your deposit up to $250. We accept PayPal and all major credit cards. Make a deposit here.
More FantasyScore Contests for Week 1 can be found on the FantasyScore Contest Spotight page.
YAHOO! FOR FREE CASH
Not to be outdone, Yahoo's giving out big prizes for Week 1 as well. Not only are they giving out $1M in Week 1, but they are also offering significant bonuses for deposits for the new users (which is pretty much everyone at this point). Check out the details, but be sure to also join a Yahoo! league to double the bonus.
Footballguys has you covered here - both in major DFS announcements and the tools you need to build winning lineups.
As an example, here is a fantastic article by BJ VandeWoude about how to manage your DFS Bankroll - a key element for DFS success.
EARLY SEASON DFS STRATEGY: RISK ASSESSMENT
By BJ VandeWoude
Earlier this summer, FootballGuys released two separate E-Books (available FREE to InsiderPro subscribers), entitled “Cracking FanDuel” and “Cracking DraftKings”. These books were a collection of wisdom shared by members of our staff, many of whom were on the ground floor of daily fantasy sports and have experienced a tremendous amount of success. Our intention was to not only shorten the learning curve for those who might be new to DFS, but also share advanced strategies that would help players of all skill levels improve and in turn, become more profitable.
One of the more interesting topics related to early season strategy, specifically, bankroll management. The central theme in this chapter had to do with the uncertainty that surrounds the first couple weeks of the NFL season, and how that uncertainty increased variance. For context, I’ve listed several memorable quotes from this chapter.
“I believe you should limit your exposure in the early weeks. Wait for defensive strengths and weaknesses to show themselves and provide the data needed to exploit matchup-pricing inequalities. In the first four weeks of the season, I suggest risking only about a quarter of the amount you'd typically wager later in the season. Trends will emerge and you will have ample opportunity to leverage more of your bankroll when your edge is greater.”—David Dodds
“Bankroll management is critical early in the season. Self-restraint can be difficult when you have been waiting eight months for the game you love to get back on the field. But you must avoid digging yourself into a hole or busting your bankroll early. Wait for exploitable trends to emerge before you risk a high percentage of your bankroll.”—James Brimacombe
“DFS takes skill, even in the early weeks. Some people will have a greater expectation than others. However, even if a fantasy owner has a positive expectation in the early weeks, it’s likely to be less positive than in later weeks. Therefore, wagering a lower-than-normal percentage of your bankroll in the early weeks is warranted.”—Maurile Tremblay
As you can see, the consensus among many of our writers was that the first few weeks were landmines, and those landmines were looking to blow up your bankroll. James made an excellent point when he referred to the excitement that surrounds opening weekend. Often times that excitement can bleed into your subconscious and make you want to put more of your bankroll in play. For many of the reasons listed above, the optimal, one size fits all strategy is to limit your exposure in the early weeks and wait for more exploitable situations. With each passing week, sample sizes become bigger and thus, projections become more accurate. If your style of play is anything but super aggressive, I suggest you follow this advice and take a conservative approach for the first few weeks of the NFL season.
But For the Apex Predators of the DFS world, the type of player who doesn’t wait for an opportunity, but rather creates them, the early weeks represent a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of uncertainty. “Contrarian” is a word used to describe plays that go against the grain, or involve a large amount of variance. It can also be applied to strategy though, and in this case, an aggressive approach to weeks 1-3, is certainly contrarian. While many of my counterparts agreed with a conservative and patient early season approach, I am on the other side of the fence and have found the benefits of an assertive strategy outweigh the risk. It is akin to speculation in the stock market, or thriving in chaotic environments. The most important fact to remember is that despite a high amount of variance, you are still competing against other players, and the number of winners is the same in week 1, as it is in week 12. I define aggression as stretching your weekly bankroll limits by increasing the number of entries into your tournament of choice, but not increasing the dollar amount of that buy-in. The idea is to give yourself more opportunities to be successful, and that only happens if you are able to increase the shares you have in player, or increase the players you have shares in.
There are several elements in play that have tilted the wheel for me in favor of early season aggression. The first has to do with the type of contests I apply my aggression to. Even for the biggest risk-takers, I would caution against a high volume of cash games. The key to winning cash games is building balanced rosters that do not employ many risk-reward scenarios. If we know that even the most stable players experience a higher degree of variance in the early weeks as opposed to later in the season, it makes sense to decrease your cash game exposure.
On the flipside, GPP’s are an exercise in risk taking. You cannot win a large field GPP without taking a gamble on players that you perceive will be low owned. With each passing week, it becomes progressively harder to find players that will be both low owned, and outperform their salary by a 4x-6x multiple. In addition, the total score needed to win a GPP increases proportionally as well.
Given these facts:
1.) Other players will be more aggressive as the weeks go on (and sample size increases)
2.) Injuries will shrink the player pool in later weeks
3.) Bye weeks later in the season will also shrink the player pool
You are better off being aggressive with a smaller sample size than you are being aggressive with a large sample size.
The bottom line for me is that if you are not putting 100's of entries into your contest of choice --and others are-- you are better off increasing your entries in weeks where you can match the entries of otherwise aggressive players. In my opinion, the early weeks of the NFL schedule give you that opportunity. The beginning of the season rewards foresight, but it also rewards those who are willing to take risks. There are arguments to be made for both conservative and aggressive strategies, but what it really comes down to is how you categorize yourself as a player. Dan Hindery summed it up very well with the below quote.
“If you are highly analytical and build your lineups based on projections, it makes sense to go light in the first quarter of the season until you have more reliable data. If you are more observational than analytical in your approach, it may be correct to be more aggressive early.”—Dan Hindery