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A Foray into Daily Fantasy Sports: My FanDuel Diary
By Mike Jasko

This year I have found myself without a truly engaging traditional Fantasy Football league. I’m in a couple of random online leagues, but with no money on the line and no one else I know in the league, my level of interest isn’t particularly high. Intrigued by the idea of being able to win money every week, I decided I would look into the world of Daily Fantasy Sports. I decided I would check out FanDuel, mainly because it was the last commercial for any such site I saw before I decided to give this a shot.

The following are my thoughts and experiences as I navigate the world of Daily Fantasy Sports for the first time. Check back for weekly updates, insights, and strategy as I learn the ins and outs of this burgeoning style of fantasy sports.

If you’re like me and have watched a moderate to considerable amount of TV in past couple of months, you’ve undoubtedly been barraged with commercials for so-called “one-day fantasy sports.” Posing as an alternative to the traditional draft-style fantasy leagues that draft in the preseason and last all season long, these websites, of which FanDuel and DraftKings are currently the most popular, offer a variety of contests that are as short in length as one day.

So if you have only every played draft-style fantasy football, the first thing you’ll find about daily fantasy sports is the completely different way that you build your team. Instead of drafting players to distribute them amongst users, Daily Fantasy Sports sites typically employ a salary cap system. Users are given a budget which they must divide amongst their prospective players, with the superstars being the most expensive, and the scrubs being the cheapest. This system also means that you will be competing against users that have some of the same players that are on your team.

There are a variety of contests that you can enter on FanDuel, The contests with the best odds are “head-to-heads” and the similar “50/50”s. Head-to-head contests are similar to traditional draft-style fantasy leagues in that you are facing off against one other user, with the obvious difference being that your teams might share common players. The payoff for winning these contests are slightly less than 100% of what you paid. So if you pay $5 to enter a contest, winning will net you $9. The “50/50” contests have the same odds, but instead of being 1-on-1, you enter a pool of 20 (or many more) users, and you must finish in the top 50% in order in win. This can be helpful

Similar to the 50/50 contests are “Triple Up” and “Quintuple Up” contests. The basic idea is the same, but instead of half of contestants doubling their money, in a “Triple Up” contest, the top third triple their money. Likewise, Quintuple contest winners can multiply their money fivefold by placing in the top fifth of contestants. Each contest has a variety of entry prices, with a variety of contests that you can enter for as low as $1. There are also $5, $10, $25 contests that are popular, as well as contests with even higher entry fees.  There are a variety of other contests and tournaments as well, ones with longer odds but bigger payouts. Expect discussions of those in the coming weeks.

Picking My Team

So for my first contest I decided to enter a $5 “50/50” with 20 entrants. FanDuel appears to have a set roster format for all their contests: QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, Def, K. One thing to remember about FanDuel and other Daily Fantasy Sports sites, is that they price their players based on previous performances, so guys filling in for injured players are going to be particularly affordable. For this reason, I chose Kirk Cousins for my QB at a reasonable rate of $6800 (Elite players at QB, RB & WR are priced at around $9,000).

One of my favorite fantasy guys on my traditional-league team so far this year has been Bengals’ RB Giovani Bernard. Even when he’s not scoring TDs, they throw to him a lot out of the backfield which has allowed him to push 20 fantasy points every week. So I plugged him in for $8500. Next, being very high on both their recent performances, I splurged on Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson. I figured they could both go off for big games in a potential shootout with the Packers facing the Lions at Ford Field. Next I grabbed Martellus Bennett of the Bears, went for the accurate kicking Billy Cundiff of the Browns and chose the Patriots defense since they were set face a woeful Raiders team. Since daily fantasy contests concern themselves only with one particular weeks’ action, looking at match-ups is a much more considerable factor than in your standard draft-style fantasy league.

So that left me with a RB and WR slot to fill, and not a lot left in the bank. For my RB, I borrowed the “handcuffing’ strategy from traditional fantasy football, and chose Bengals’ back-up Jeremy Hill for a low price of $4900. I chose Hill over Darren Spoles and others at that price because I figured he was likely to score any Bengals’ rushing TDs that Gio himself did not score, meaning that I wouldn’t be penalized for any time-sharing in the Bengals backfield. For my final slot I chose WR Kendall Wright from the Titans. I expected Tennessee to lose to Cincy, so if they are trailing, I thought, they will be forced to throw and that could end turn into some fantasy points for Wright.

How’d I Do?

By far, the biggest bust for me of the day ended up being the Packers-Lions match-up, which became a defensive struggle; 11.2 points from Megatron, and a measly 8.4 from Jordy Nelson. I’m still unsure about the efficacy of choosing two players that are facing each other, because there is still the potential for both players to put up huge numbers in a shootout. But in hindsight, divisional match-ups tend to be closely fought, more defensively-minded affairs, so there is that. Obviously you would never select a defense that was going against one of your offensive players, and it stands to reason that you shouldn’t pick a kicker from the same team as your QB or RB (you want Field Goals, not extra points out of your kicker). But there are definitely scenarios in which you could benefit from two high-powered offenses going at it.

Kirk Cousins was a huge payoff for me; his fantasy output was only beaten by Indy’s Andrew Luck. My handcuffing strategy also paid off, Giovani Bernard had a solid but not outstanding fantasy performance, but he did lose a TD to Jeremy Hill, which I did not miss out on by virtue of starting the back-up alongside Gio. Hill actually outperformed Darren Spoles, who was unable match his next-level performance from Week 2. Handcuffing in fantasy isn’t nearly as a great a policy in FanDuel as it is in draft leagues, but in certain situations and with certain backfields (such as the Bengals), it does have the potential to pay dividends, as it did for my this week.

But my poor performances from Megatron and Jordy Nelson left me in 14th place with just Monday night to be played (I needed to finish in the top 10 to win). Fortunately for me, I selected the moderately priced Martellus Bennett, and his two TDs on Monday night put me over the top, finishing me in 9th place and sending me home with a whopping $9. I’m definitely hooked on Daily Fantasy Sports for now, well at least until I lose all my money. Check back each week for FanDuel strategy, as well as potential examination of other platforms for Daily Fantasy Sports.

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