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100 Fantasy Football Tips in 100 Days, Day 56: Creating Optimal DFS Lineups

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I’m doing a bunch of work over at FOX Sports detailing DraftKings strategies. These articles will start off very basic and then get more and more complex as the season rolls along. The latest is on how to structure lineups based on the type of league you’re entering. Here’s a preview on how to play cash games:

PHILOSOPHY IN CASH GAMES

Many players refer to head-to-head and 50/50 contests as ‘cash games’ (and three-man leagues are also often thrown in that mix). Basically, cash games are leagues in which a fairly high percentage of entrants get paid (typically at least one-in-three).

Since there aren’t many users in cash games and you generally don’t need an elite score to win, most experienced DraftKings users like to play it safe. That means creating a “high-floor” lineup—one that might not score at an elite rate, but is very unlikely to tank as well. The focus is simply on attaining a solid score each time out.

Thus, one of your goals in cash games should be risk-minimization. Don’t target high-variance players who are all-or-nothing options; slow and steady wins the race in cash games. Your focus should be on pure value—how a player compares to his salary—and not necessarily his upside.

There are different ways to decrease risk, of course. One is to target high-floor players—those who can give you sustainable production night in and night out. Depending on the sport, you might or might not be able to look at a player’s past stats to determine how risky of a play he is.

It can be difficult to decipher individual volatility, so it makes sense to look for the right types of players. In daily fantasy football, for example, pass-catching running backs are safer than those who don’t catch many passes because the former backs aren’t reliant on a particular game script; they can contribute even when their team is losing, which gives them a higher floor than running backs who don’t catch passes.

Finally, you can increase the safety of your team by pairing players in an optimal way. Certain pairings can increase risk; when you use multiple hitters from the same team in baseball or a quarterback and receiver on the same team in football, for example, you have players whose production is correlated, which can make your lineup more boom-or-bust.

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