I will be the first to admit that I am boring, just like playing DFS cash games is. I did not buy a cool new sports car with my big basketball DFS winnings in 2015. I opted for a sensible four-door SUV with a third-row seat so I can fit my kids and all their stuff. I did not retrofit my living room into the ultimate man cave with four 60-inch televisions after a big MLB DFS night. I opted for one big 70-inch flat screen in my living room with the profits I ground out in DFS baseball over the summer of 2017. Grinding out profits is not as sexy as a splashy $100,000 screenshot, but I can assure you, the money is still green. They will accept it at your local car dealership or Best Buy. No one ever asks you how it ended up in your bank account, as long as the debit card transaction clears.
My favorite character in the movie Rounders was not Mike McD (Matt Damon) or his sometimes sidekick Worm (Edward Norton). It was Joey Knish (John Turturro), the underground poker legend. The guy who hadn’t had to work a day in his life for 20 years. The guy who did not play to chase some pipe dream of sitting at the World Series of Poker next to Johnny Chan. The guy who played because he had to pay his rent and support his kids. The guy who flat out said he just plays for the money. He tried to teach Mike the ropes of a playbook he put together from his own bad beats, and that is what I am going to do here. Hopefully, you guys are smarter than Mikey and actually take the advice.
Benny’s Cash Game Playbook
Rule #1 – Single Entry
Unless you are trying to put a very large amount of money in play, you should be able to get your cash in single entry games. The sheer number of single entry games offered on any main slate for NFL football is enough for the bankrolls that 95% of us are putting in play. For opening weekend, the DK lobby currently has single entry double ups from the $250 price point all the way down to $2 with multiple different pool sizes at each level. You can easily have over $1000 in double ups down without a single dollar being in a multi-entry pool. This does not even factor in all the 50/50s and Head-to-Head action you can get that are also limited to single entry. Those tournament types start at the $5000+ level and go all the way on down. Any sized bankroll can be accommodated here.
Rule #2 – The Bigger the Better
When it comes to these single entry pools, the bigger the pool size the better. Cream rises to the top. The larger the field, the less variance matters and the more skill takes over. You can have a big scoring lineup that loses to two other big scoring lineups in a four-man tournament, but that same big scoring lineup might easily clear the cash line in a tournament with 100’s of entries. To put it simply, luck matters less as the fields get larger.
Rule #3 – Enter Early
The Single Entry Tournaments often fill before kickoff and you are unlikely to get a new one that is anywhere near the size of the first one the site had listed. If you want to be in the biggest pools, then you have to enter them during the week. I often build a dummy lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday and put it in as a placeholder for Sunday games. This way, when I sit down to finalize my team on Saturday night after taking in all the available and breaking information, I can just settle on a final team and already have it in the best spots to yield a profit. If you wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning to start joining the contests you want to be in, you may find that they are no longer available. Now you are stuck settling for less advantageous small pools or playing a smaller portion of your bankroll than you intended.
Rule #4 – Be Smart about your Head-to-Head opponents
This rule has a couple of different parts to it.
- Get to know who the good players are and avoid them. Bragging rights for beating one of the top DFS minds in the industry does not help you pay the bills at the end of the month. You get paid the same amount of money for taking down a novice player in a $100 H2H as you do from beating a well known DFS pro.
- I prefer to be the one picking out my opponents rather than the one leaving games out there for others to pick up. This way you are able to control who you play against and at what price point. This rule goes hand in hand with the one above, as you have very little control over your opponent when you are the one posting games for others to pick up.
On DraftKings, you have more control over potential opponents than you do on FanDuel. DraftKings allows you to block certain users, and this is something I highly recommend you do. During football season, you may lock horns with a good player who beats you and notice that guy picks up your games if you post them again the next week. He’s keeping track of what he feels are weak opponents and is trying to make sure he gets action against them, week after week. Some of the top players, especially at the higher buy-in levels, keep track of things like this so they can pick on the guys they consider weak players. To go full circle with the Rounders references, good players are not exactly playing together, but they aren’t playing against each other either. It makes no sense for me to bang heads with another top player and finish the season 8-9 or 9-8 against them. When you factor in the rake, the only one making money off that kind of exchange is the site collecting the rake on us trading money back and forth.
Rule #5 – More Games means less Variance
Three people can play $100 in cash games and have widely different levels of variance in profit or loss, even if they use the exact same lineup. This is a tough concept to understand, but understanding the relationship is key to playing cash games correctly to grind out a profit. One player may have played a single $100 game against an opponent. If he outscores that opponent, he wins $180 for an $80 profit. If he loses, he loses the $100 he wagered. That means his potential outcomes are either $180 or -$100. That’s a difference of $280 from the peak to the valley. That lineup may have been in the top 10% of all lineups in a single entry tournament, but if the other guy’s lineup was in the 9% or better range than you walk away with nothing to show for it. If the second guy had entered that lineup in five $20 tournaments, he may have lost one to a guy with a 9% lineup, but he likely beat the other four guys he faced and was able to cash four lineups for $36 each, or a total of $144 on $100 invested for a $44 profit. He made less money than he would have if he went all in for one $100 roster and won, but he also lowered his potential downside. If he cashed any of these H2H battles, he would not have lost the full $100. Winning three of his five games every week makes him profitable for that week. The third guy may have played 100 $1 tournaments and his top 10% roster probably would win around 90% of those H2Hs for him. By spreading his money out, he was able to get a truer representation of the total population of rosters, meaning he has basically put himself in the largest field of H2H competitors and thus taken much of the variance or bad luck out of opponents having monster days against him. You do not always win 90% of your cash games when that same roster ends up in the top 10% of a double up, but the numbers tend to track pretty close if your pool sample size is large enough. Maybe you win 91% or 85% of your cash games, but it’s usually going to end up close to where that same lineup ended up in a larger field double up or 50/50. When you only have one game vs. one opponent at the top price point or five games at a high price point, there is more of a chance that you just had bad luck and ran into a couple of guys who happened to be the small few with a better lineup than yours.
Rule #6 – Learn to Love the Taste of Good Chalk
Everyone has pet peeves, and mine is when someone tells me they are fading a guy they really like in cash games because of high ownership. That is the stupidest reason in the world to not play someone in cash. In GPPs, I absolutely understand why you would do this, and I do it myself. In cash games, there is zero reason to do so. Notice I said GOOD CHALK here. If you think everyone is playing someone who you do not like, then by all means, do not feel obligated to play him too. What I am talking about is when you know it is a good play and you fade them for no other reason besides ownership. When a minimum priced back steps into a 20-touch role because of an injury that happened or was reported after pricing came out, that guy should be in your lineup. Even if the guy is 60-70% owned, you can knock out enough people to cover the rake just by playing a guy who you have no negative feelings towards in a good spot. Some people call this blocking, but I just call it a winning move. Having this guy at 60-70% ownership may not be the thing that determines whether you win all or most of your cash games on any given week, but not having that guy and watching him do what everyone expected him to do at 70% could be the reason you lose all your games. This site is not like Playboy magazine. You subscribe here to actually read the articles. Those articles will equip you with enough knowledge to make sound decisions on the other roster spots and allow you to beat out the people, who also took that obvious chalk play, at the other 7-8 positions.
Rule #7 – Volume is King
This holds true for NFL DFS as much as it does for baseball and basketball. In baseball, we like guys near the top of the order and on away teams because they have the best chance to see an extra at-bat and score more fantasy points. In basketball, we prefer guys with high minutes per game. The more court time they get, the more likely they are to score fantasy points with positive events. In football, the scoring is tied to yards and touchdowns. The guys who get the most opportunity to pick those up are the ones with the most volume. In cash games, we want as much potential opportunity as possible. This is why my cash game teams tend to be RB heavy in terms of dollars spent. RBs from week to week tend to have the most consistently high number of predictable touches. True three-down backs are the best type of guys to use here. If the team is winning, they get touches in the form of carries late in the game while running out the clock to protect the lead. If their team is losing, the true three-down backs will be the ones grabbing catches out of the backfield as an outlet for the QB while racking up touches that way. In close games, these guys will have a mix of carries and catches but still a huge volume when those two are added together. These are the guys with the safest floors and the highest potential ceilings, so it makes sense to try to have exposure to them week after week.
Rule #8 – Volume is also King for WRs
This is especially true on full PPR sites but also makes sense in cash even on a half PPR site like FanDuel. The best example to illustrate this point is the 2017 Miami Dolphins receivers. Jarvis Landry never saw less than seven targets in a game and had at least five catches in each game. His bad games were five catches for 30-40 yards for 8-9 DK points. In his good games, he had 7-8 catches for around 90 yards and found the end zone for 20+ DK points. He had a high floor due to the volume and pretty high ceiling as well. Now, switch gears to his teammate Kenny Stills. Still has a seven catch, 180-yard performance with a TD one week for 30+ DK points, but he also had multiple weeks of 1-2 catches for 30 yards or less for 2-5 DK points. Stills is a down the field receiver whose production is tied to long bomb passes connecting for big gains. This is not something that happens very often in a game, and he may not even catch most, or any, of the long low percentage passes they try. Landry, on the other hand, operates out of the slot, and the reason he has high consistent catches is that he has high probability consistent targets. His ceiling may not be as high as the one we saw with Stills, but on a week-to-week basis, he has a high number of balls always thrown his way and he converts a high percentage of those short passes into positive scoring plays for fantasy. Tournament lineups are where you would rather use a guy like Stills, who has the potential to break a slate and win you all the money when he catches a bunch of those deep balls, but I’ll take Landry over him 10 times out of 10 in cash games due to his safe floor. Guys may or may not turn those targets into production on any given week, but the more volume your receiving core sees, the more chances to make a big scoring play they will have. Over the course of a season, putting yourself in the best volume positions is going to end up with you on the right side of the ledger more often than not.
Rule #9 – QB is normally a place you can save money in Cash Games
Anyone who plays season-long fantasy football has heard of the late round QB theory. The idea behind this theory is quarterbacks tend to have the least amount of outperformance over the middle of the road guy you can choose. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to go chase a top end QB in the early rounds when the advantage on a week to week basis is smaller than it is at other positions from the top guys to the run of the mill option. Unlike draft position in season-long leagues, in DFS, we have a salary cap. Instead of not drafting QB early when you have viable options late, in DFS, we don’t need to spend up on the top stud when we have cheaper options that can come close to that same raw score and do it at a much more cost efficient price. The sites have done a better job of pricing down the high-end QBs and pricing up the cheap options in order to make this edge less than it was in year’s past, but QB is normally the last piece of the lineup I put together because I would much rather give myself better chances to outperform at WR, TE, and RB where the difference between the good options and the middle of the road options tends to yield a wider gap.
Rule #10 – QB Rushing Stats > QB Passing Stats
This one is simple math, but a lot of people forget to do the equations. QB rushing yards are worth 1 point per 10 yards gained. QB passing yards are worth 1 point for every 25 yards gained, so 1 rushing yard = 2.5 passing yards. QB passing touchdowns are worth four points, while QB rushing touchdowns are worth the same six points as when a player at any other position rushes one into the end zone. That means a rushing TD is 1.5 times more valuable than a passing TD. In 2017, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford threw for about 4,500 yards and 30ish touchdowns each. Cam Newton threw for just 3,300 yards and 22 touchdowns, yet, outscored both of them in fantasy points. How did this happen? Well, Stafford and Brady both ran for under 100 total yards in 2017 and neither of them got into the end zone. Cam ran for over 750 yards and got into the end zone with his legs six times. That means he had more than 650 yards rushing over his two peers and an extra six touchdowns with his legs. Those 750 rushing yards at 2.5 passing yard per 1 rushing yard is the equivalent of him throwing for another 1,800+ Yards. Those six rushing touchdowns worth 1.5 times a passing touchdown is the equivalent of an extra 9 passing touchdowns for him. When you convert the rushing stats to the equivalent passing numbers and add them together, it was like Cam threw for 5,100 yards and had the same 30+ total touchdowns: One TD behind Brady and two ahead of Stafford. This is why Tyrod Taylor is such a darling of the DFS crowd. Taylor, Newton and Russell Wilson are the three guys who stood out over there peers in 2017 for carries and yards gained. Those stats provided a nice floor for them to go along with whatever upside they had with their arms. Deshaun Watson only played half a season, but he was on pace to join them as a guy who could run for 500+ yards and get 80 carries if he plays a whole season as well. The floor those guys get from running for 30-40 yards a game and the value of those rushing touchdowns is easy to quantify. 30-40 yards and a rushing TD is equal to 10 fantasy points and that is in addition to anything they do with their arms. Those rushing yards raise a guys floor quickly and that is what you are looking for when trying to figure out how best to allocate your salary cap resources.
To be a good cash game player, you want to concentrate on limiting the number of mistakes you make. Let other people overextend their bankrolls, trying to get rich and chasing – EV live finals appearances. Let them overpay for low volume, high aDOT wide receiver options that see low probability targets. Let them be the guy who faded good plays because of high ownership in a cash game. Let them be the ones trying to squeeze in pocket passers like Brady and Brees for sky-high salaries when you can take cheaper options who have higher floors due to their ability to pick up fantasy points with their legs. Let others take the RBs who are game script dependant and not true every down guys who will see work regardless of the scoreboard or game situation. Learn to love building boring, old cash games lineups and consistently grinding out winning days. I can promise you it is not boring to sweat those games on the 70-inch flat screen that those boring old cash game lineups purchased.