While winning a big prize is certainly attractive, the best way to learn the ropes in daily fantasy is in lower risk formats we refer to as “Cash Games”: Head-to-head and 50/50s (or Double Ups). If you are playing to make money over the longterm, you will want to dedicate about 80% of your entry fees to Cash Games.
Head-to-Head: As the name implies, in Head-to-Head it’s just you against one other opponent. You’ll fight for the other’s entry fee (minus site fees).
50/50s (or Double Ups): A newer format that has become a staple of daily fantasy sites in the States are 50/50s or Double Ups where there are numerous entrants who form a mini league. At the end of the contest the top half of the league will double their money. For example:
-10 entrants commit £10 each = £100 pot
-Site fees (usualy 10%) leaves pot of £90
-Top 5 teams all win £18 (stake plus £8 profit)
-It is irrelevant whether you finish 1st or 5th in this instance.
What Is the Basic Strategy for Cash Games?
Cash Games differ from Upside Leagues in that you don’t have to beat all of your opponents, therefore your team selections don’t need to carry as much risk. Generally you will be willing to play more obvious choices in H2H or 50/50 matches because the goal is to not make mistakes. Let’s say Diego Costa has missed a couple of weeks due to injury and is now undervalued for a home match against a team with with a weak defence. Everyone, including your mother, would know that Costa would be a great choice. In an upside league, you may choose another player because Costa would not help you differentiate yourself from the pack. But in a H2H match, if you believe he will play well, you will select him and probably cancel out your opponent who should make the same choice. The goal is to be better than your opponent in a H2H, or to beat half the field in a 50/50. To accomplish this regularly it is beneficial to be more risk averse.
Who Should I Play in H2H?
In poker, choosing what table you play at, and your opponents, can be as important as playing your cards the proper way. Selecting your games in daily fantasy football is no different. As Mike McDermott says in the classic poker movie Rounders, “If in 15 minutes of sitting down at a table you can’t tell who the sucker is – you are the sucker.”
This applies to daily fantasy because you will need to avoid the regular players, or sharks, as much as possible in the early going, and frankly, indefinitely. If you are playing H2H games you are presuming that your skill level gives you an edge over your opponents. If that is the case, you will want a variety of opponents, and would prefer they were inferior or less experienced than you. This can be easier said than done. Once sites make the information available we will allow you to see which opponents have had success on the various sites and which you should avoid if possible. For sites that allow you to see your opponent prior to entering, you will want to quickly learn which opponents to avoid.
The better strategy is to “post” or “float” games in the contest lobby by joining leagues marked 0/2, meaning there is nobody else in them. There is a small chance that sharks will fill the slot but it is more likely you will get other comparably skilled or experienced players. The more experienced players may attack your games early on if they don’t recognize your name but typically will back off once you establish a reputation for putting together solid teams.
What is the Difference Between H2H and 50/50s?
When it comes to picking your team, you should typically use the same team in both H2H leagues and 50/50s. But there is one notable difference to consider and that is the variety of outcomes that can come with each format.
Let’s say you joined 1 H2H league and one 50/50. You use the same team for both, and you score 85 points. Across the site 85 points is slightly above average for that weekend. In your H2H league you could face anyone from the top scoring team to the bottom scoring team, so that one contest will depend on the performance of one opponent. In the 50/50 league you face 9 other opponents and need to beat 5 of them, so your 85 points will more likely win the contest than not. In later strategy articles we will explain how this shifts as you add more contests in each format.
If you are playing to make this a profitable hobby, or a burgeoning career, Cash Games will be the heart of your strategy. Selecting a team with a high probability of being above average is the goal, there is no need to take big risks. With careful opponent selection and a healthy mix of H2H and 50/50s you’ll be on your way to churning out daily profits.