Five Tips For Increasing Your NFL DFS Profits

By Kyle Dvorchak
Kyle Dvorchak

Winning money in NFL DFS is hard. It’s so hard that nearly all of the money won on DFS sites is collected by just a handful of players. The numbers vary slightly depending on the sport, time of year, contest style and other factors but the top 1 percent of players on DraftKings typically earn just under half of the winnings. Three-quarters of players are losing money on average and a small percentage of players manage to break even but not make any meaningful progress toward being profitable. There are a lot of ways to move up the rungs of DFS profitability, but the low-hanging fruit is a great place to start. Here are five ways to up your DFS game and begin the journey of becoming a winning player.

Track Your Results

DFS gurus were touting different variations of an 80/20 rule for years: play 80 percent of your money in cash games and 20 percent in tournaments. This must have been some sort of ploy by big cash game proponents to keep those lobbies filled because not everyone is destined to participate in Double-Ups with most of their bankroll. Some players may benefit from playing exclusively in Head-to-Heads and find this to be the best way to make money. The point is that there isn’t a rule for the best way to optimize where you’re putting your money down. If there was a rule, it would be to play exclusively in the contests that you’re best at. There’s only one way to find out what you’re good at. You have to track your results. There are sites that will do it for you like You can also do it yourself by downloading your results and seeing where breadwinners are. After a few weeks, or even a few months, readjust where you’re playing based on your profits.

Find Overlay

If you’re playing less than a few hundred dollars on any given slate, most sites are just giving away free money, or at least not taking their cut of your money. Contests that are guaranteed to run have a set prize pool and that gets paid out no matter how many people enter it. That means, minutes before contests lock, you can find contests that are paying out the money of 1,000 entries while you only compete against 800 people. With those numbers, that site is paying you to play DFS. Be sure to pay attention to what type of contest you are finding this overlay in and fit your lineup to that contest. If you choose to play where they give away free money, you can get all of your action down with no rake, and often a bit of a bonus just for showing up where no one else is playing.

Avoid Big Tournaments

This rule may slightly go against the overall premise of the article but hear (read, I guess) me out. It’s not that you can’t be a profitable player in large tournaments. The problem lies with your time horizon to realize that profit. If I told you I’d give you $7 for every time a fair, six-sided die landed on six if you gave me $1 for every non-six outcome, you would be smart to take it. You’re getting slightly better odds on a six being rolled versus non-sixes so you’ll make money playing this game. That’s being profitable. Making $25 when a 20 is rolled on a balanced, 20-sided die if you lose a dollar on all non-20 out - comes is also profitable. What if I rolled up my 500-sided die (the largest possible die with identical sides only goes up to 120 but stick with me) with the same style of payout: $550 on a specific roll, minus-$1 on every other outcome? Given how large and unwieldy this boulder of a die is, we could spend a few days before you ever see your $550. Everyone has a reasonable time horizon for their returns, regardless of their level of profitability. Playing the largest contests on any DFS site is like showing up to the dice game with a house-sized die, only one side of which will pay off in your favor. We’ll spend a lifetime rolling this behemoth before you ever book a win. Take DraftKings’ “Play-Action” contest as an example. They offer it for all 20 main slates in an NFL season (including the postseason) and it typically has more than 500,000 entries. There’s a max of 20 entries per user meaning that if the chance of winning was distributed evenly between all contestants, you would have a .08 percent probability of winning it, entering 20 times every week for a full season. To get your odds of winning even with a coin flip, you’ll need to play for roughly 625 NFL seasons. Because the payout is so disproportionately allocated to first place, you ikely need to win it to pay off your entries in the long-run. Neither you nor I will ever win this contest in our lifetimes. Even if one of us is far better than the average player, meaning we have better odds of winning on each entry, your time horizon for winning will still be so long that you’re unlikely to make a profit playing this contest, even if you are employing strategies that make you a profitable player in theory. If you want to reap the rewards of playing like a winning player, find contests that you have a chance at winning at least once every few years
and not once per Roman Empire.

Explore Different Contest Styles

Most NFL DFS players are accustomed to the classic slate, regardless of what site they play. This is the style of game where you must select a quarterback, some running backs and receivers, a tight end, and a fl ex player. This is the most commonly played style of contest on any site that off ers DFS and is the most similar to traditional fantasy football. That makes it a comfortable jump for season-long players, but the popularity of this contest is also its shortcoming. Because DraftKings and FanDuel off er their largest prize pools for these contests, the best players are playing them as much as possible on every slate. On top of that, they are covered by every content site with a DFS pulse. This is the double-whammy that makes being profi table in NFL Classic contests so hard. The best players are giving it their all while hundreds of thousands of people are viewing useful articles, videos, live streams in preparation for the weekend. With the most profi table DFS players often owning or working for content sites, the average player actively seeking out intelligent content can become some fraction of the best players in the world. Those players are also giving out their projections for players and ownership. This means that anyone following them isn’t going to be making any egregious errors with their play. On the whole, the traditional roster contests are the closest to being solved of any style.

Instead of going to where the best players play and the average players aren’t half bad, consider moving some of your weekly bankroll into more niche contests. Both DraftKings and FanDuel off er a swathe of non-Classic style contests, and there’s a rapidly decreasing amount of content and competent players for those contests the farther down the rabbit hole you go. The largest tournament for a Superfl ex contest on FanDuel may only pay out a few thousand dollars but that also means that it’s not worth the time for a DFS player getting tens of thousands of dollars down each week to learn the optimal strategy for it. Because the overall amount of DFS players participating in these contests is smaller as well, your opponents won’t be working with two articles and a set of projections tailored for the contest sitting in their back pocket. If you’re anything less than a thousand dollars in a weekend, you can maximize the value of that money by dedicating it to something like Superfl ex contests on FanDuel or Tiers contests on DraftKings.

Keep Your stakes Low and pick Your Opponents

Playing in diff erent styles of contests is largely about running away from the best players and an army of knowledgeaverage players. On top of that, you can even do more to select your opponents. If you’re playing the $100 Single Entry on DraftKings, you’re likely to be facing off against most of the world’s best DFS players. If you play well-built lineups for this contest, you might be able to compete and even take the tournament down once every few years. However, your odds of doing so are greatly decreased by the fact that you chose a contest where an incredibly high percentage of your opponents are skilled at building lineups that project well, feature correlation, and are leveraged well to fi nd their way to fi rst place. After DraftKings or FanDuel takes their cut of the prize pool, which is well north of 10 percent, there isn’t much meat left on the bone for you to make a profi t. Instead of trying to get all of your action down on one lineup, look to get that same amount of money down on as many low-dollar contests as you can. Most of the big-name DFS players won’t be in these contests and the menial entry fee will attract more casual players.

DFS is about multiplying the money you put down by the edge you have. The edge is determined by the discrepancy of your skill versus your opponents. Finding weak opponents is just as much of a skill as making the actual lineups is. Most sites will even limit players who have entered or earned enough money to contests beyond a certain entry fee threshold. Any single entry contest is going to limit the number of times a pro can get a lineup into one which makes them desirable as well. If you’re playing cash games, this means you want to get as much volume down in cheap, single-entry contests before you ever move up to larger or more expensive contests. Without choosing a single player or learning one roster construction rule, these fi ve tips will massively improve your ability to make money while playing DFS.