Soccer and NBA - Experiment for the Casuals

As a recap of the 2020-21 soccer season alongside the NBA regular season, this blog is predicated on a season-long experiment on balancing cash games with guaranteed prize pool (GPP) contests with the goal of producing a positive return on investment (ROI).

Which sports were chosen?

Being in the DFS landscape for a while, always remaining as a casual player, you start to expand what you play not only in terms of entry fees, but also different sports and game types. My primary focus is always on soccer contests but this season I extrapolated a bit further into NBA, which is my second favorite sport from a DFS perspective. So my challenge was to see how I would perform throughout a whole season in both these sports playing a mix of cash and GPP games. Moreover, this experiment only encompassed a selection of small entry fees.

What approach was taken?

For soccer contests, I did a hybrid mix of classic contests as well as showdown contests. I am certainly not a fan of showdown game types but with my knowledge being higher than the average person in this sport, I had no reason not to. The next step was deciding on how to split my entries into cash versus GPP contests. The way I see it is that cash games are at the very least suppose to hedge your GPP entries. In other words, even if you lose a GPP that pays out under 20% of the field top, you can probably regain that entry through a finish in half (50%) of the field in a cash contest. Therefore, the goal was either to profit or at the very least break even and reduce the risk of losing money on each day throughout the season.

The same was done for NBA contests – though I did not venture into showdown modes as that is definitely not one of my strengths.

Note: Classic contests were only played if the slate consisted of 3 games or more.

Which contests were used for this experiment?

In order to proceed with this experiment, evidently a risk-averse approach was taken especially when a whole season will grow your entry fees to over $1,000 amongst each sport you choose to play. Therefore, this meant playing small amounts each day and testing this out in different smaller-sized contests. To ensure sustainability over the term of the season in making sure this experiment could be fully completed, I would play two $1 50/50’s/double-ups (roughly within a 20-man contest size) and add a $1 GPP entry. As a newbie in the NBA landscape, this translated to a $1 50/50’s/double-ups (roughly within a 20-man contest) and two quarter jukebox entries. This was entered per every applicable slate.

Note: This approach was not solidified early on as I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle it. Therefore, early on in the season for both sports, there was still some variability and inconsistency in my approach which certainly held me back from further potential profits.

How did you analyze the results?

DraftKings has a feature where you can download a csv file of all your history of contests played. If you’re good at using Excel, you can then use that software to create your own pivot tables and organize information in the way you want. This is what I did based on the start of each sport season and grouped them into the categories which will be seen below.

The results

2020-21 Soccer Season (all leagues)

The first thing you notice is that even playing small amounts every day as a casual, you can rack up quite the amount of entry fees at the end of it all. That is why I encourage all casual players to start off slow and learn the game before you begin dishing out larger entries as that is a recipe for a short-term life in the DFS world.

The performance was positively healthy with an ROI at the end of the day landing on 32%. If we break it down, you can see in which types of contests and game types, a higher level of performance was achieved. Classic 50/50’s and double-ups were quite strong, keep in mind sometimes these 50/50 contests do not always pay out double the amount you put in (ie. a $1 entry fee in a 20-man contest would only pay you out $1.80). When looking at GPP’s, you can see the ROI dropping but that was expected. In the end, profit was still made and going back to my hedging approach, even if I lost that day on a GPP slate, the 50/50 or double-up contest I would enter into would make up for that loss.

As for showdown slates, it was an even higher ROI of 35%. The one GPP slate entered was the free UCL final contest between Manchester City and Chelsea where, thanks to Mahrez, placed me in 11th place and added to my overall profit on the season. You can also analyze your average scores and average place you ranked throughout the year. This is a telling figure of what you should aim for when building your lineups. Realistically, if your line can’t reach these totals and then some as a top-up, you may need to reconsider your approach.

2020-21 NBA Season

Similar effects to NBA contests occurred as well. A strong ROI of 44% in classic 50/50’s and double-ups with a slightly smaller ROI of 28% in GPP’s. Once again, the performance was positive in all aspects which is a strong sign that the approach being taken is producing good results. With this being my first-time of consistently playing NBA contests day-in and day-out, this experiment was certainly worthwhile.

What can be taken from this small experiment?

For one, this tests your knowledge against the DFS field which allows you to formulate a perspective of where your IQ truly stands. It also doesn’t make you break the bank by limiting yourself to small entry fees, which in the long-run will grow to be quite substantial. Additionally, it will highlight to you in which areas you are strong in (ie. cash versus GPP formats) but also provide a sense of what your average scores are in the long-run to identify ways that will enable you to increase that total as you continue playing daily fantasy sports.

This again is for the casual base, and those newbies emerging into the DFS world.

Next steps?

If you take part in something of this nature, your next steps should always be to improve on your previous goals. If you succeed, you progress to the next goal. If you fail, you go back to point zero and recalibrate your approach in order to succeed in your second attempt. It is just like a video game, where you progress through each level after successful completion of it. And if you don’t succeed, you start again.

Based on the results I put forth, such future goals for a casual would be to increase the ante a bit in terms of entry fees. Therefore, if you can make a stable and positive ROI in smaller entry fees, it is probably time to take the next step and venture into higher double-ups or GPP contests, still maintaining the same standard of hedging those GPP plays with cash games. Another alternative could be multi-entering more times in smaller contests.

Secondly, it would be to expand into other sports or other types of contests. For example, I have incorporated this experimental approach to the 2021 MLB season which I will share my results at season’s end. For the future, I would probably start playing a GPP contest for soccer showdowns given how my cash play allowed me to sustain a profit – therefore, even if I stumble at the start in soccer showdown GPP’s, it will not be a total loss due to the positive ROI in cash games. Furthermore, I would probably venture into NBA showdown contests given that a season-long play-in of NBA classic contests enhanced my knowledge in this area.

It is not an all-in approach; instead, it is picking pockets of where you think you can find success and then expanding into other areas once your comfort level is reached.

Hidden Benefits?

Well, if you play on DraftKings, achievements and crowns are a thing of beauty. They are rewarded to you no matter how big or small of an entry fee you wager. The fact is, playing an entire season of a single sport allows you to rack up a ton of achievements and crowns altogether. This enables you to reach the Platinum and Diamond levels – Black if you do a bit more – and reap the benefits in return. It is essentially free money and the great thing about it is that you do not have to break the bank to meet those individual sports achievement objectives.

Final Thoughts

In the end, if you are just a casual player looking for a distraction in life, DFS is certainly a great tool for that. And if you want to keep this longevity going as a casual without having to deposit funds every single season, an approach like this may just help you out in the beginning. But again, this doesn’t just apply to small entry stakes as this lone experiment highlighted. If you are the casual who enters into higher prized contests, the same approach as depicted here can be taken. Regardless if you are playing the $1, $5, or $25 GPP contest, you can stick to this approach and always hedge with a similar amount in cash games. You play based on your risk tolerance. An approach of this sort just makes you stay responsible in a world that essentially is still of a gambling nature. And analyzing your results is crucial to understanding where your limitations might be.

Best of luck to all! Follow me on twitter @CarlitosWay_DFS.

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