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What I’ve Learned About Daily Fantasy in My Year at (FREE)

Nolan Kelly



DFS Daily fantasy strategy

I’ve been writing about Daily Fantasy here at for just under a year, and I thought now might be a good time to take a step back and think about all the things I’ve learned since I began spending time with some of the sharpest minds in DFS.

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I went into this year thinking that the sharps and the pros were better at predicting performance than the rest of us, and what I came to realize is – although that’s true and projections are a big part of their success, there are a number of other factors that go into becoming a successful DFS player.

Here are a few of my takeways.

Max your entries

Awesemo wrote about this in one of his illuminating DFS theory articles, so I won’t go into too much detail. In summary: More lineups are better than fewer lineups. Instead of buying one Milly Maker ticket for $20, buy 20 $1 tickets in another GPP. Strategic advantages include: increased lineup diversification, better bankroll management, avoiding higher stakes players.

Surprisingly, it’s actually more fun to play this way. If you have 150 lineups in a 50 cent PGA tournament, more often than not, you’ve got some live lineups going down the stretch on Sunday afternoon. If you have 20 lineups in a $3 or $4 max, depending on the week, you’re likely only going to have 2-3 lineups with 6/6 golfers through the cut and only a few of those will ever have a shot to win.

Maxing entries also forces you to…

Enter more lower stakes tournaments

This was a difficult change for me to make. I used to say “I’m not getting out of bed for less than 1K,” and wouldn’t play in any tournaments where the prize was any smaller than that. My logic was that DFS is a time-consuming process, and that if I was going to enter tournaments and spend my time on them, I wanted to win bank. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it’s just not optimal, and there can be huge swings between periods when you win large GPPs. It’s a slow bleed, followed by spikes of cash injection, followed by another slow bleed. Entering lower stakes with more lineups provides a more even-keeled, balanced approach and your wallet won’t hurt as much when you go through a rough stretch.

If that’s still not improving your ROI…

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Experiment – don’t be afraid to switch up your process

If you’re having a bad run, or if something isn’t working over the long haul, maybe it’s time to reassess what you’re doing and decide whether or not it’s going to pay dividends in the long run. Caveat: there’s a fine line between failing because of randomness and failing because what you’re doing isn’t working. Awesemo says if you are going to try a new approach, give it at least two weeks before re-assessing.

If you’re thinking about trying a new approach, the best way to get a feel for what to do is to…

Learn from the best daily fantasy players

Download the CSV’s from your contest the previous night and choose a pro to study (DraftKings only – FanDuel doesn’t allow this). Cut and paste 150 lineups from a pro into another Excel sheet and spend 5-10 minutes looking them over. If you’re new to Excel, CTRL-F is your friend. Who was their most owned player? How owned were they? What kind of stacks did they use? And a million more questions. Every night you should take a look at what one of the pros did with their lineups.

Try to check your ego at the door. Recognize there are better players than you out there, and that the best way to get better is to learn as much as possible from them.

Another way to suppress that ego is to…

Enter sports you don’t know anything about (with projections)

I’ve started doing this with’s projections for sports like MMA, NASCAR and NBA – sports I casually follow, but don’t feel like a I know enough about to gain an edge on the field though superior knowledge. Doing this taught me an important lesson: trust the projections. You can tinker and mess around with exposure and randomness as you build, but by and large: trust the projections.

The other night I entered 20 lineups in the $1 Denver vs. San Antonio showdown slate on DK, using only Awesemo’s ranks. I finished tied for first (yeah, large showdown…81 way tie, but still!). And I’ve had similar experiences with Awesemo’s rankings in other sports (see Madness, March). The point isn’t some long-winded, horribly thought out humble brag – but rather to suggest taking a step back sometimes in order to assess how much of your Hot Taeks are narrative driven and how much they’re driven by data. By playing sports where it’s impossible to have Hot Taeks, I can compare and contrast my results. So far, team trust the projections is winning.

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But if you don’t have projections, you’re going to want to…

Get projections

Whether it’s your own model, or you’re going to sign up for a site like Awesemo.comyou have to have access to a good projection system in this day and age. By and large, the people who are winning have access to elite projections. It’s an uphill battle if you don’t have them.

Once you have those projections, there are still edges to be gained…

Don’t play if you’re away from your lineups near lock

Maybe you’ve had different experiences with this, but I can tell you, if I’ve got dinner plans at lock, I cut down my exposure drastically. The degree to which not being around your lineups hurts you varies from sport to sport, but I know that three beers in, I’m going to forget to check on which goalie is starting for the Anaheim Ducks.

And,the best way to gain an edge on the field, and on pros who are no doubt better than us joes is to…

Take advantage of late-breaking lineup information

I cannot count the amount of times I’ve studied a pro’s lineups from the night before and realized that they didn’t alter their lineups to stay up on late-breaking news. In one such instance, well respected DFSer Mirage was leading the usual, large $8 NHL GPP on DK and didn’t switch out a Sharks defender that was scratched late. They went on to lose the GPP by 1.5 points, a lapse that cost them thousands of dollars. The pros are managing a lot of lineups in a lot of sports, so staying on top of news is both difficult and time consuming for them. They simply might not have the time to alter 400 lineups in five minutes, or they maybe be focusing on their higher stakes lineups.

Additionally, the casual player may in fact be three beers deep, or half asleep, and not making the necessary change to their lineups. You can subsidize a lot of those exorbitant rakes just by staying on top of line changes and injury information.

Just a small additional suggestion here, but if you’re on the West Coast, those East Coasters probably aren’t paying too much attention to their lineups at 10:30 PM, when Steph Curry ends up being a late scratch or the San Jose Sharks switch up their lines during the pre-game warm-up. On the East Coast, maybe that golfer WDs while the PSTers are sleeping at 4am, or the EPL team makes a last-minute change to their starting XI. Use your your time zone to your advantage.

That’s all I got, thanks for reading! I’ll add to these as I think of more, so stop on by and check back. Any questions or comments, hit me up on Twitter, @spudkelly

I've been obsessed with fantasy sports since as long as I can remember. Back in 1993, while seated in the last row of Mr. MacMillan's math class, I'm fairly certain a few buddies of mine and I invented daily fantasy sports -- popping down our fivers and using nothing more than a newspaper box score, we'd make our NHL player picks for the night's action. Twenty years later I started out playing DFS on DraftStreet, when three-max tourneys with 490 people were a big deal, and I've been hooked ever since. More than anything, I'm interested in using my technical writing skills to articulate and clarify our content in order to help you become a better fantasy sports players player. Armed with Awesemo's grades and the projections from our experts, we're here to help you take the next step. You can contact me by emailing [email protected].

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