Why Daily Fantasy Sports Large Field Tournaments Are a Huge Waste of Time

by Aaron Brooks
on March 20, 2018

Whether it’s the DraftKings Millionaire Maker, the FanDuel Sunday Million or any other huge guaranteed prize pools (GPPs) run by various daily fantasy sites, it doesn’t get much more exciting for gamblers than having a chance to win a life-changing amount of money.

But while those large-field DFS tournaments are tempting, they’re also a huge waste of time for most daily fantasy players. In this article, I’ll list 3 reasons why large tournaments with million-dollar prize pools are so difficult for the average player, and 1 reason why you’re far better off playing other styles of DFS.

1. It’s Difficult To Be Contrarian

In order to have a shot at winning a large-field GPP or at least finishing in the money, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition. Generally speaking, a big day from Mike Trout or LeBron James won’t separate you from the rest of the pack and shoot you to the top of the leaderboard because the majority of teams you’re competing against have those stars in their lineup as well.

You’ve got to be a contrarian, zigging where others zag. That may sound easy enough in theory, but it’s a lot harder to do in principle, especially when you’ve got money on the line. Consistently drafting players with high ceilings but lower floors may seem doable for the short term, but do you have the discipline to keep doing it when you see others regularly finishing ahead of you with teams of high-floor, low-ceiling performers?

If you are able to keep things in perspective and constantly remember that it does you no good to regularly finish in the middle of the pack, you might be able to maintain a contrarian approach and swallow your pride when your balanced team of darkhorses finishes well behind teams that went the obvious route and took a few superstars. Eventually, being contrarian will pay off when the stars that everyone took have a bad night, opening the door for your team of players who nobody else took. But most people don’t have the discipline to get to that point.

2. It’s Also Difficult To Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

As mentioned in the last point, your best chance at finishing at the top of a large-field tournament is by having a drastically different team from everybody else. Instead of going the safe route by drafting consistent and proven performers, you need to be willing to roll the dice for the chance at a huge score.

Besides being contrarian, another way to achieve this is by loading up with players from the same team or game. The theory behind this is simple: when 1 player has a huge game, his teammates usually benefit as well. For example, if Tom Brady throws for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns, at least 1 of his receivers (and possibly more) are going to put up big numbers as well. If Sidney Crosby gets 3 goals and an assist, his linemates will also be collecting points on those markers. If Jose Altuve has 4 hits, the players below him in the lineup will have more RBI opportunities, not to mention the potential for more at-bats.

This “putting all your eggs in one basket” approach conflicts with everything we’ve been taught about investing or even gambling.

Diversifying your risk across multiple markets (like having 10 shares of 10 different stocks) is preferable to loading up with 100 shares of 1 stock because if that 1 stock falls flat on its face, all your money is gone. And on an NFL Sunday, most of us would rather have 5 point spread bets with the hopes of going 3-2 for a profit, rather than putting all of our money that day on 1 game that could easily go either way.

Just like some are able to maintain a contrarian approach even when they aren’t seeing the results, you might be able to consistently put all your eggs in 1 basket and patiently wait for lightning to strike for a huge payoff. However, it’s very difficult for most of us to do.

3. Large-Field Tournaments Require Strong Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is unfortunately an area in which most sports bettors fall short. A lot of us are capable of picking more winners than losers, but lack the discipline to avoid chasing our losses during inevitable cold streaks or pressing by increasing our wagers when things are going well.

Proper bankroll management is absolutely critical when you’re playing a lot of DFS large-field tournaments. Why? Because your odds of winning a large-field GPP or even finishing in the money are so low, simply because there are so many other people to beat. According to a Rotogrinders article that analyzed the payout structures of large events, nearly 40% of the pot for a 2015 DraftKings Millionaire Maker went to 0.01% of the field, and less than 5% of entries won twice the amount of their entry fee.

Even the best DFS players will lose money in large-field tournaments far more than they win. When you’re seeing your bankroll go down all the time, it’s going to be hard to resist spending more money on entries or tournaments simply to win back the money you’ve already lost. And if you’re investing a significant portion of your DFS bankroll in these large-field tournaments (most experts recommend no higher than an 80/20 split between cash games and large tournaments), you’ll run out of money before you’ve got a chance to win a big jackpot.

4. Cash Games Are Much Easier To Win Consistently

Alright, that’s enough negativity about DFS! The fourth and final reason that DFS large-field tournaments are a huge waste of time is that it’s a whole lot easier to make money playing other games.

Cash games such as head-to-heads and 50/50s don’t require you to finish in the top 1% to get paid. In fact, you barely need to win more than 50% of your games in order to make money! Head-to-heads are, as the name suggests, when you’re going 1 on 1 against another opponent, and 50/50s are when the top half of the field wins while the bottom half does not.

The rake that DFS sites charge on these types of contests isn’t much different than the -110 juice that comes with standard point spread and Over/Under bets. That means you only need to win about 55% of your head-to-head and 50/50 contests in order to make money.

Even if you’re still learning how to play DFS or aren’t that great at it yet, the smaller fields and higher chances of winning will make playing cash games a lot more fun.

You don’t need to worry so much about being different from everyone else to have a chance at winning, allowing you to draft the players that you really want to take and simply shoot for a good score each and every night.

You’re also not going to go through the prolonged losing streaks that even the best DFS players inevitably experience playing large-field GPPs, which will be a lot easier on both your bankroll and your peace of mind.

Conclusion

It’s nearly impossible to resist the opportunity of potentially winning 1 million dollars in one day of playing DFS, especially with entry fees as low as a few bucks.

However, your chances of winning a huge GPP at DraftKings, FanDuel or other DFS sites are about as good as winning the lottery. You don’t have a chance to win if you don’t play, but you’re also facing nearly impossible odds with so many other competitors to beat out.

Although there are occasionally overlays in GPPs (when the guaranteed prize pool exceeds the amount of entry fees collected, giving you a better chance than usual of finishing in the money), I believe playing DFS large-field tournaments are generally a waste of time.

Unless you’re willing to think completely differently from the rest of the field as a contrarian, aren’t averse to stacking your lineup with players from the same team and have the bankroll and discipline to tolerate a low winning percentage, playing cash games is a much wiser use of your DFS time and money.

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