PGA DFS: How to Select the Right Contest For You
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PGA DFS is growing by leaps and bounds as people discover how much fun it can and how much money can be won from week to week. However, not all contests are created equal. Selecting the right contests can be the difference between winning and losing money, or even banging your head against the wall.
We’ve put together some important factors to consider as you decide which golf contest to enter.
You’ll need to properly calculate your bankroll before playing PGA DFS. If you don’t manage it properly, then you’ll either (1) run out of money and no longer have fun playing DFS or (2) start using money that you shouldn’t be using — like money that should be going toward car repairs or groceries.
Your bankroll is simply the amount of money you’ll play each week. My suggestion is to decide how many weeks you’ll be playing and divide that evenly into the bankroll you’ve allocated for that DFS sport. Let’s say you have $500 to spend on DFS golf this year and you want to play for at least 10 weeks. You would play only $50 per week in that scenario. If you lose all of it each week, then you will still have enough to play each of those 10 weeks. If you win each week, then you can pocket the profit or put it back into your bankroll, playing more weeks or playing higher stakes. If you are like most, then you will win some and lose some. You will probably be able to stretch out your bankroll to 11 or 12 weeks. The bottom line is to have discipline in this area. This is one of the areas that sinks the majority of DFS players.
Number of Entries
You can go against just one other opponent in a head-to-head contest or go up against hundreds of thousands of other opponents. Generally speaking, the fewer opponents you have to defeat, the greater your chance of winning. The more entries a contest has, the more likely someone else has a great lineup. That said, more entries usually also means a larger prize pool. The general consensus is that one of the easiest ways to build a bankroll in DFS is to play in smaller field contests. The larger field you are going against, the more risk you will often have to take in order to differentiate your lineup to stand out among the crowd.
Type of Entry
Cash games are generally considered a contest that pays out to at least 30 percent of the entrants. Head-to-heads, double-ups, 50-50s, and three-man contests are the most common. These are not contests that have high upside or large payouts. In general, you make less money when you win, but your chances of winning are increased. This can be a great way to build your bankroll. Single-entry tournaments are often lumped in with cash games and treated as bankroll builders, but they are technically not cash games, as they rarely have a 30 percent payout structure.
These are often called guaranteed prize pools (GPPs), but there are different variations. Single-entry tournaments allow DFS players to only enter one lineup into the tournament. Single-entry tournaments tend to level the playing field against DFS players that have achieved a lot of their success when using optimizers or entering lots of lineups. Three-max tournaments limit the players to just three entries. Players will often stick with a core of players and just mix and match them among their three lineups. A 20-max tournament caps the entries to only 20 for a particular tournament. These are popular because you can get a lot of lineup variations without going crazy and playing a bunch of golfers that you have no interest in playing. Your pool of golfers for a 20-max will typically be 18-30 depending on the contest and your level of confidence.
Mass-multi entering (MME) is generally referenced when you are entering lineups in a 150-max tournament. You don’t have to enter the max, but many people do in order to increase their opportunities. However, understand that 150 lineups into a tournament with 100,000 entries doesn’t even scratch the surface for all the possibilities. You still have to pick the right golfers and construct your lineups properly. Some players like to spread out their lineups and get as many pieces of as many golfers as possible. I like to play 150 lineups to get as many of the combinations of my core as possible. This means if my core doesn’t do well, then I will have a bad week, but if my core hits, I will have more chance of one of those lineups being the best and finishing high in the money.
Generally speaking, the higher the entry fee for a contest, the better the DFS players are entered. The main exemption to this is the Milly Maker. Yes, the best DFS players are in the contest, but many other players enter hoping to hit the lottery. As you move up in price range, there will be more “sharps.” This doesn’t mean they can be defeated from week to week, but they normally have a bigger bankroll, a more repeatable process, and use complex optimizers.
Not all contests have the same payout structures. Some are extremely top-heavy like the Milly Maker, where 50 percent of the total prize pool goes to first place. The winner often gets $1 million, but the second-place finisher gets “only” $100,000. Sometimes the 10th-place finisher in these top-heavy contests doesn’t even win back their buy-in amount if they max entered the contest.
Some DFS players like these top-heavy payouts because they are playing to win the lottery. Some other players enjoy more of a flat payout structure. This just means that there is less of a payout discrepancy between the finishing places. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have different tournaments that appeal to different players. There is something for everyone, but you should realize that not every contest is created equal. You also might want to consider how many places are being paid out. Tournaments typically payout to 15-25 percent of the entries. The higher percentage of entries paid out usually means that there is less money at the top (flatter payouts).
Rake is the fee that a site charges to enter a contest. You don’t see this on the front end. If a contest costs $10 to enter, then you pay $10. But if there are 100 people in that contest, the prize pool isn’t going to be $1,000. A percentage of the entry fees will be kept by the site. This is usually between 10-15 percent, meaning that the prize pool would be $850-900. There is nothing we can do about this but, we can keep it in mind, adjusting our game accordingly.
Not all $1 contests on DraftKings have the same rake. Make sure that you calculate this if you are deciding between contests. The lower the percentage of rake, the easier it will be to cash in the contest. It also matters for 50/50s and double-ups. Let’s say you are in a $1 double-up with 100 entries. If the rake is 10%, that means the prize pool is $90. In order to double-up, only 45 players will double-up their initial $1.
Why are you playing? DFS golf can be extremely fun. I would argue that it’s the best sport to play because you get four days of having an opportunity for your guys to come through. With the addition of Showdown contests, that adds even more opportunity for a DFS player to have fun (and win money). There are price points for any level of player and bankroll. If you want to be entertained and have a little extra skin in the game, then putting a few bucks on six golfers and then following them can be extremely fun. It can make that TV golf on a Sunday afternoon take on new meaning.
If profit is your goal, then there is plenty of opportunity for that in DFS golf. There are plenty of ways to make money or build your bankroll. The profit can go back into your bankroll so that you can enter larger contests or take shots at bigger prize payouts. You can also take the profit out of your account to give you (or your family) additional vacation money or increase your standard of living if you are so lucky. The bottom line is that you have to know why you are playing PGA DFS and what your goals are. That will keep you focused when you face dips, droughts, or temptations. It’s easy to add more money to your account, get frustrated by the variance, or click on a button so staying focused on your goals can be beneficial.
Know your strengths and weaknesses as a DFS player. Even if you make money, you shouldn’t necessarily be so quick to move up in stakes. There is a lot to be said for crushing the level where you currently reside. Just because you are hammering the 150-max $0.50 contest doesn’t mean that you are ready to enter 150 lineups into the Milly Maker. While you shouldn’t be afraid to dip your toes in the water, you don’t always have to dive feet-first into a contest that might be not fit your skill level or risk tolerance.
Everyone wants to test themselves against the best, but it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Continue to improve and grow as a player. Look at the lineups of winners at the higher levels. Instead of putting all of your bankroll at risk to “take your shot,” continue to win and build up your bankroll where you are at while being strategic about moving up in stakes.
Jamy Bechler is a regular contributor to FantasyPros for NBA, NFL, and PGA. You can follow him on his DFS twitter @WinningDFS101. When he is not playing DFS, Jamy is an author, host of the “Success is a Choice” podcast, and a leadership consultant, working with businesses and teams across the country (including the NBA). Even though he offers his advice on players and contests, after additional information and consideration, he may end up using different players and strategies than what he recommended in this article.