In addition to writing for FFToday.com and other mainstream fantasy
football websites over the past 16 years, I have had the pleasure
of acting as the commissioner of a fantasy football league comprised
of friends and family members that started in 2000.
It is a fairly competitive league filled with owners of various
skills levels, ranging from beer drinking buds who love to play
for the camaraderie and live draft festivities, to obsessed fantasy
addicts like myself who take the game a bit too seriously.
Although there is a nice monetary prize given to the winner,
the goal of the league is to get your name engraved next to the
other 15 winners of the illustrious Marshall Faulk award, and
the bragging rights that go along with beating 11 of your fellow
With a collection of competitive NFL fans like this, I assumed
that recruiting my buddies to play in DFS would be an easy task.
After all, who doesn’t like football and a chance to make
But what I found is that most of the guys in my league of record
don’t play daily fantasy because they think it is too complicated,
or they don’t understand the different formats offered by
FanDuel, Draftkings, and other DFS providers.
If you fall into the category of a fantasy football player interested
in DFS, but intimidated by the wide variety of games and contests,
hopefully the following brief explanation of the different types
of contests will give you confidence to give daily fantasy a shot.
I’m confident you will not regret it.
Cash vs. Tournaments: Differences Between
DFS games typically fall into two categories: Cash games and
large GPP tournaments (guaranteed prize pool). Understanding the
difference between the two formats and the different strategies
to use is critical for new DFS players looking to get into the
Cash games are smaller contests with fewer players, like head-to-head
matchups against one single opponent or 50/50 games where roughly
half of the players in a contest receive the same, equal payout.
These games are an excellent place for rookie daily players to
get their feet wet, as they have a higher probability of winning
money due to the smaller pool of opponents. Unfortunately, the
smaller prize pools also equate to smaller payouts compared to
Conversely, large tournaments and GPP games will have a large
prize purse to entice entries, with the top winner receiving a
six to seven figure payout. But only the top 10 to 15 percent
of people win money in these games, and the fact that you are
going against hundreds of thousands of other people means that
you will need to have the perfect lineup to win - which is not
very easy to do.
In investment terms, cash games are like conservative mutual
funds that carry less risk than large tournaments, but also have
less of a chance for a quick payday. You have a higher probability
of making some money with these games, but their smaller payouts
mean you need to be patient and allow your bankroll to grow over
Tournaments are flashy technology stocks that have the small
chance of delivering a huge payday if all of the conditions are
right, but will likely leave the investor penniless and frustrated.
Although these contests can be fun and the thought of earning
a life-changing payout is enticing, the vast majority of players
are simply giving away their money due to the terrible odds of
winning. With long shot odds and a low probability of winning,
it is fairly intuitive that owners participating in GPP games
need to aim for the fences by trying to identify the top breakout
player for each position.
Building a Foundation for Tourneys
A decent percentage of your budget should be used on a stud wide
receiver and running back who have both a high floor and an high
ceiling. I like to refer to these players as foundation players
that the rest of your team will be built upon. In some cases you
may choose to make a quarterback one of your two or three foundation
picks, but only if you identify that QB as the no-doubt top performer
for that week.
After the foundation has been set for your team, the next step
is looking for lower cost skill players who will have breakout
performances based on their matchup, weather, recent performance,
and other variables that I will cover in future articles.
These are home run plays that must hit for you to have a shot
at the big payout, and will be nice compliments to your stud foundation
players. The unfortunate truth is that each of these players will
need to be one of the top three players at their position for
the week for you to have a shot at the top payout.
If one of your home run picks turns out to be a bust you still
might have enough production from the rest of your team to cash
(finish in the top 10 or 15 percent), but the odds of a first
place finish are slim to none.
Building a Foundation for Cash Games
For those owners scared off by my brief synopsis of large tournament
games, perhaps a simple 50/50 contest is more in your risk tolerance
The fact that your competition pool is small, usually 20 to 100
other players, your goal is to put together a lineup that will
place you in the top 50 percent, not one that will beat all players
in your pool. You need a good, strong lineup, but not a risky
one where you are looking for home run plays.
In cash games, I like to identify three to four foundation players
that have high floors, and will likely not deliver a stinker game.
These four players do not need to be the top player in their respective
position, but they need to provide the core basis of point production
that will give you a shot to be in the top 50 percent.
A safe, reliable quarterback play is critical in cash games,
as you will need to have a baseline production level from your
QB. Quarterbacks typically score the most fantasy points each
week, and you will need to build you team upon the assumption
that your competition is also looking from a strong game from
their signal caller.
After the foundation players and quarterback have been selected,
the final step is to round out your team with cheap wide receivers,
running backs, and a tight end. I like to find inexpensive players
who receive multiple targets per game instead of touchdown dependent
players who may give you a goose egg if they fail to catch a TD.
High volume skill position players in cash games will give you
a nice compliment of points to go along with your foundation players,
thus giving you a better chance of beating out half of your competition.
Pick your Poison
Cash game lineups do not need to be risky, sexy lineups that give
you the highest point total in the group. High volume, safe plays
are the way to go in this format. It will take you much longer
to build up a sizable bankroll playing cash games, but the higher
probability of winning and the smaller competition pool make them
Conversely, if you like the thrill of risking a few bucks on
a six figure payout and don’t care about terrible odds,
large tournaments and GPP games are the right option for you.
Regardless of which way you go - I personally play cash games
with a few GPP’s mixed in for fun, I highly recommend giving
daily fantasy a shot. You will not be disappointed.