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DFS Strategy Tips & Advice: Bankroll Management

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Jul 8, 2020

If you’re playing daily fantasy sports (DFS), that means you’ll be spending some money. DFS contests have a cost attached to each entry, and generally, the higher the entry fee, the higher the potential payout. With cost comes bankroll, and with bankroll comes bankroll management. Today, we’ll explore what bankroll is and how to manage it effectively.

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What is it?

Bankroll is the amount of money you have to spend on DFS contests. In other words, it’s your budget for playing daily fantasy sports contests. You can think of bankroll in a variety of different ways, including daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Using smaller increments of time is usually a more effective way of keeping track of your spending and your earnings. You can also think of bankroll in terms of seasons (I’ll spend $100 throughout the NFL regular season and $100 more throughout the playoffs).

Skill Level & Contest Types

How long have you been playing DFS and how successful are you at it? Skill level should play a roll in how you manage your bankroll, including how much you should spend and which types of contests to target. For beginners, it’s best to start slow and work with a small bankroll and play mostly Cash Games until you’re comfortable enough to start spending more and branching out into guaranteed prize pool (GPP) contests, also known as tournaments. Understanding your skill level and the contest types that best fit that skill level can guide you to invest your money in the best way possible.

Cash Games vs GPPs
Cash Games are comprised of 50/50 contests and Head-to-Head (H2H) contests, and entrants need only to place within the top half of entries to win. Winning entries are paid the same prize, so strategy in these contests favors “chalky” approaches to lineup construction with an emphasis on floor rather than ceiling.  Those contests are safer and offer new DFS players a chance to get acclimated with game play and build their chops. Experienced Player Excluded (EPE) contests are readily available wherever you choose to play DFS, and those contests separate advanced players from beginners to provide a more level playing field. Beginners should utilize Cash Games and EPE contests as the safest bankroll investment.

On the flip side, GPPs are tournaments that pay winning entrants prizes based on finish within the contest in a tiered structure. In Cash Games, winners will usually receive double their money across the board, while in GPPs, first place will win a larger prize than second place, second place will win a larger prize than third place, and so on. Fewer than 50 percent of entrants win in these contests, the biggest prizes are paid out in these contests, and the best DFS players out there are usually invested in GPPs. These contests are better for experienced players.

Look for overlay in GPPs if you want to boost your odds of winning and increase your return on investment. Overlay occurs when a contest doesn’t fill to capacity and the guaranteed prizes that will be paid out are less than the entry fees. If you can find a contest with overlay, you’ll be playing against fewer competitors while going after the same prize, meaning your investment is worth just a little bit more. Check out the draft lobby of your preferred DFS site and keep an eye on contests that aren’t close to filling up.

Cheap Games
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money but want to get as much exposure and build as many different lineups as possible, going cheap is a great option. There are typically at least one or two five, 10, or 25-cent contests running on major DFS sites, and these contests are most often large, multi-entry tournaments. If you only want to spend $2 on a Tuesday night, you can enter 40 different lineups in a five-cent contest rather than getting just one or two entries into a contest that costs a buck or two.

Satellite contests are another option if you’re looking to go cheap. These contests are often offered with five, 10, 25, or 50-cent entry fees and though they are tournaments, they can be a great investment for beginners and seasoned players alike. These types of contests offer tickets to other contests rather than a cash prize. For example, you enter a five-cent satellite contest for NFL DFS and the winning entries all receive free tickets (entries) to a $5 NBA contest the following week. These are most often tournaments, but they are safer plays for beginners. Cash is not awarded immediately, so competition tends to be less fierce, and what better way to save money and manage bankroll than to snag a $5 dollar entry for the cost of only five cents?

No two slates are created equal, and that means the available options in one contest may inspire complete confidence in your lineup-building abilities while the available options in another contest may leave you feeling a bit uneasy. If you feel uncomfortable with the available players and the potential to build a winning lineup, sit the contest out. A good rule of bankroll management is to not throw your money around wildly. You don’t have to enter a contest every single night, especially if the return on investment seems minimal. Making smart investments sometimes means hanging onto your cash.

Stay Disciplined

Despite the fun and popularity of playing DFS, entering these contests is still gambling, and it’s easy to get carried away. Once you set your bankroll, stick to the self-imposed limits and walk away once you’re out of money. It’s important to have a clearly-defined bankroll and stick to it. Think about it like you’re going to the casino on a Saturday night to play penny slots. You bring in $40 dollars and decide that once that money is gone, you won’t withdraw any more from the conveniently-placed ATMs, and you’ll head home. Never spend more than you’re comfortable losing, because no lineup (no matter how well-researched) is foolproof.

You can break down your bankroll any way you choose, but here’s one example to illustrate saving: No more than $5 per night, with a maximum of $35 per week. This leaves you room to save each week and puts a hard cap on potential spending. If you don’t want to enter a contest every night of the week or if you just want to spend a couple bucks here and there, you can finish the week spending less than your bankroll. If you only spend $30 one week, don’t roll the $5 savings into the following week and spend $40. Instead, keep the $5 as a savings and stick to the maximum of $35 each and every week. A DFS bankroll should be treated like a personal budget. You want to set the budget at the maximum amount you’re comfortable spending, but you don’t have to spend the maximum. Saving is fine!

You need to be disciplined with saving, but you should also set some ground rules for cashing out. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not a professional DFS player. And if that’s the case, throwing down some money in DFS contests is a great way to stay involved with the sports you love, play fantasy in a completely different way, and maybe make some extra coin in the process. What’s important is to set rules for what to do when you start making that extra coin. Do you want to let your money ride and keep betting? Or do you want to cash out? And at what point do you want to cash out? Those are all personal decisions, but you should have a plan of attack to address those concerns before making your first entry.

A well thought out strategy is essential for bankroll management. Who could forget the wise words the late, great Kenny Rogers imparted to us, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

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Whether you’re new to daily fantasy golf or a seasoned professional, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Golf Glossary. You can get started with Balanced Lineups vs. Stars and Scrubs or head to more advanced strategy — like How Much Does Event and Course History Matter?  — to learn more.

Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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