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Lesson 4: Balancing Player Exposures Within a Slate

Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

Interview after $100,000 Win

There are nights when I only play one lineup per site. There are also nights when I play one main lineup (that I enter into cash games and tournaments) and also four or five tournament lineups. If you are looking for the best approach to build 100-plus lineups a night, I’m not going to be the biggest help. However, some of the concepts that I talk about here will apply to everyone.

Being able to balance player exposures within a slate is critical in tournaments and critical to your ability to sustain profitability over the long run. There is a lot that goes into this process, but we have to understand how ownership works and ways we can leverage it to our advantage. In the last lesson, we talked about identifying the good chalk from the bad chalk. If you are able to do this consistently, you will give yourself more opportunities to finish in the top 1% of tournaments because you will see these leverage plays as they present themselves.

The first and most important thing to realize is that player exposures are going to differ for everyone based on personal risk tolerance. In a perfect world where we don’t have to worry about managing a bankroll, we would focus on a core of players in each slate and then rotate a few different plays around them. If and when your core hits and you have it in a number of lineups, you will give yourself a number of different paths to the top of a tournament (and potentially even a few finishes near the top). However, we are all confined by our bankrolls. I’m fairly risk averse, so I don’t really have that “all in on a core” mentality.

The first step is to assess your own risk tolerance. If you play strictly tournaments and you are fine with the big swings in profitability, you should probably focus more on a core and mix in players around them. If you like to dabble in tournaments but you also play cash games and like to keep your head above water when it comes to your bankroll, you may want to spread your exposure out a little more.

Regardless of your risk tolerance, when it comes to managing player exposures, it’s important not to cover all of your bases in tournaments. If you try to take one share of every player, you are likely in for a slow and painful death to your bankroll. If you make five lineups and don’t use a player more than once, odds are that you will have one or two lineups finish inside the cash line and the rest finish outside of the cash line. While you are upping your chances to cash with one lineup, you are lowering your chances to cash with multiple lineups and lowering the number of shots you have at winning a tournament.

When I first started playing more tournaments in DFS, this was my biggest issue. I always wanted to cover my bases, which didn’t allow me to gain leverage on the field. Let’s say that you make four lineups and don’t own a player more than once. This essentially means that you have 25% ownership to every player in your lineups. This isn’t the right way to go about it. We need to make stands on players. If we know that a point guard is going to be 35% owned, we need to make a calculated stand one way or the other. Unless you happen to hit the nuts and bink a tournament, covering your bases will slowly drain your bankroll. It’s certainly not impossible, but there are better ways to approach large-field tournaments.

Another mistake that players make is not recognizing their own time constraints. It doesn’t matter if you do this full time or as a hobby, everyone has time constraints. The key is to know how much time you have to devote to DFS and adjust the number of lineups that you build accordingly. There are too many people that try to jam in a bunch of lineups without giving them the proper attention. As I mentioned in an earlier lesson, you should constantly be tinkering with the different player combinations in order to build lineups that you feel great about from the top to the bottom.

So, to sum it up – my two main pieces of advice so far are as follows:

1. Don’t try to cover your bases by taking one share of every player.
2. Know your time constraints and adjust the number of lineups you build accordingly.

I’m not saying that I’ve solved the best way to manage player exposures in a slate, but it has worked for me over the years. One of my favorite ways to manage player exposures is to hedge between cash games and tournaments. In cash games, we want to make the best team possible, which often leads to chalky plays. In tournaments, we want to give ourselves the best chance of finishing at the top, so we need to create leverage. When I’m massively overweight on a player in cash games, I don’t mind taking a full fade stance (or an underweight stance) on him in tournaments. In general, I’m more willing to do this with mid- to upper-tier players. If there is a value play I feel great about, I’m willing to hit the lock button.

Let’s say I have LeBron James in my main cash game lineup. In tournaments, I don’t mind taking an underweight approach on him because if he has a good game, it’s going to help me in cash games and hurt slightly in tournaments. On the other hand, if he has a bad game and is 40% owned, it will give me a chance to soar up the leaderboards in tournaments. It also still gives me a fighting shot in cash games because James was still 40% owned. Hedging exposure between your cash game and tournament lineups makes a lot of sense.

You can also hedge your player exposures between sites. If you are playing on more than one site (let’s just use FanDuel and DraftKings for example), you can compare player salaries and target them on the site where he is the cheapest. I like to build one FD and one DK cash lineup every night, and if I know that I only want to have 50% exposure to a player, I’ll look for the site where he is the cheapest (relative to the salary cap) and play him there.

When it comes to tournaments, we can actually take the opposite approach. There are a lot of people that hedge their exposure between sites and many of them use the strategy above (targeting a player on the site where he is the cheapest). This naturally lowers his ownership on the site where he is more expensive. In these situations, that player can end up being criminally under-owned just because he is a slightly better play on the other site. Keep an eye out for these situations, as they create unique buy-low opportunities when it comes to ownership in tournaments.

About the Author

  • Derek Farnsworth (Notorious)

  • Derek Farnsworth, aka Notorious, is one of the most recognizable names and faces in all of DFS, thanks in large part to the great advice he gives on a daily basis in RotoGrinders.com’s Grind Down for NBA and MLB as well as the First Look column that gives a preview of the day’s games from a DFS perspective. Before joining the RotoGrinders team, Derek received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah. When he’s not busy providing content, he’s dominating the industry as evidenced by his consistent top rankings in multiple sports. Farnsworth provides expert analysis for RotoGrinders Premium members on a daily basis during the NBA season and has also been nominated for five different Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association (FSWA) awards.

    Interview after $100,000 Win

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