Exploiting Daily Fantasy Football for Fun and Profit

Daily Fantasy Football has exploded in popularity since 2015. Here’s a guide to navigate the murky waters towards treasure island.

In this article we will go over the different strategies to profit in daily fantasy football. We will mainly be focusing on Fanduel, although draft kings and others are not too different.

Problem Overview

In daily fantasy football the goal is to maximize the amount of points your drafted team scores. You start off with a 60,000 point “salary” to draft players. Each player is given a particular salary based on how well Fanduel believes they will perform. The formula to find how players score points are available on Fanduel here. There are hundreds of thousand of possible combinations of teams. Our goal is to find the best team for the week.

The different contests on Fanduel can be broken down into two categories. It’s important we make this distinction early on so we can build a strategy around each one of these games.

Cash Games

Contests that are considered cash games are head to heads, multipliers and double ups. Essentially these games around 50% of all participants get double their money back. These type of contests are key at building up your account at a decent rate. Most of these are single entry but there are hundreds of these contests at a given time so it’s possible to run multiple Head to Heads and multiple Double Ups to build a decent account. If you were to take $50 and do cash games with a 60% win rate in 18 weeks you could clear over $100k.

Tournament Games

These are the biggest drawing events of all Daily Fantasy Football. Every week a millionaire is made in these contests. They’re heavily weighted towards the top positions. For example, Fanduel runs a single weekly contest with a $7 buy in. First place wins a million dollars. The difficulty about these contests is that the amount of entrants is much larger, it is multiple entry and the prizes are only awarded to the top 20%

Strategy

There are methods that we can leverage across both game types. We will now describe these methods then move onto fine grained strategies for an individual game type.

Stacking

There’s a high correlation between a QB and his teams top Receivers and Running Backs. This strategy involves finding a high performing QB and picking his top teammates. This is huge because if a QB throws a touch down to his WR1 that are both on your team that is 10.5 points not including the yards! That could be the difference between a $100 prize and a $1000 prize.

Maximizing Over Under

In fantasy, points on the scoreboard equal points for your fantasy team. The Over/Under is the combined score of both teams in a game. This is usually a Vegas Casino metric and is pretty accurate on how many total points both NFL teams will score in their game. The goal here is to find players with a Higher Over/Under because this means there is a higher chance a lot of points will scored in that game. For example you would want to pick Matt Ryan at QB if his over under is high because he is more likely to throw more touchdowns.

Maximizing Spread

The Spread is another Vegas Casino statistic used for wagering on games. This statistic is a “handicap”. For example if New England is playing Kansas City and the Spread is NE — 13.5. New England is likely to score more points than Kansas City because if the score is 0–0 the Vegas Spread essentially equates it to -13.5–0.

Maximizing High Carry Running Backs

Another good statistic on picking Running backs is getting Running Backs with a high average carry. The Running Backs with the higher carries will have more opportunities to get more yards and get more fantasy points.

Maximizing High Reception Receivers

Some receivers are so good they get the ball more than others. Here is a statistic that is good to maximize because a Wide Receiver with a higher average reception is getting the ball more and also getting .5 for every reception.

Maximizing Money Line

When betting on the score of a game straight up with no spread there is a money line. For example say we’re still betting on the New England vs Kansas City game and the money line is -200 New England and + 200 Kansas, this means that if you bet on New England you’d have to bet $200 to win 100 dollars if the Patriots win, and if you put $100 on Kansas you’d win $200 if they won.

Minimizing Volatility

There are so many factors that affect a players performance it is hard to consistently play well in the NFL. We use the Volatility metric which is a rolling measurement of the variance of a players fantasy points. We want to pick the players with the lowest volatility because they’re more consistent to the projections.

Cash Game Strategy

With Cash Games you don’t need an amazing lineup or even a great lineup you just need a good lineup. This means to win this type of contest we are shooting for a 120 on Fanduel. The goal here is to maximize the floor of all players to give us the highest chance of scoring above the floor. This strategy is much safer and will help us achieve the goal of reaching 120.

By maximizing the players who have the highest floor the chance of the players performing below their floor is very low. This increases the probability that we will have a winning team and get enough to double our money.

Tournament Game Strategy

Target goal of fantasy points to win a tournament is 180. Tournaments are tough. But the upside in playing tournament games are huge! In Tournaments you go for the Hail Mary, and try to maximize the players ceiling, the reason for this is we want the most possible points. The players with the higher ceilings may not live up to that expectation but we know they’re capable of it. Most tournaments are multi-entry sometimes up to 200 entries per contest. Keep in mind that one successful lineup can make up for all the losing ones, 10x. If we put in a hundred different $7 entries that is a $700 cost at the tournament but with prizes of up to $1,000,000 it makes sense to maximize the amount of entries to put in a contest.

Conclusion

There are a lot of variables when trying to optimize lineups, no one technique is the silver bullet. There are many different strategies to try, and there are many different ways to play a particular contest to win money. One of the best techniques it to try all techniques since the cost is so small. The small cost makes daily fantasy sports a fun and profitable way to apply data science and make football Sundays that much better.

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