DraftKings and FanDuel Tournament (GPP) Strategy: Why Salaries Don’t Matter

If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent this entire morning thinking about what went right and what went wrong with your FanDuel and DraftKings lineups yesterday.

Or, you may basking in the glory of success (you smug bastard!).

I find that it’s easy to go a little overboard drawing new conclusions about Daily Fantasy after only 1 week of contests. For example, one might draw the conclusion that high priced WRs just aren’t worth it (which is 100% false), or that using a wide array of low priced TEs is the way to win (also not true at all). But I did have a realization yesterday about Daily Fantasy GPP strategy, and I think it’s a concept that could change the way you approach tournaments.

The concept is this: Player salaries don’t matter. We should be playing our highest rated players disregarding price.

One thing you’ll notice in big field tournaments like the Sunday Million and the Millionaire Maker, is that the winners are consistently the guys who have the single highest performing player (or combo) of the week in their lineup. This is not unique to this week, you will see this over and over again as the NFL season goes on. Not that I’m making a bold statement here, I think you all agree.

What you’ll also notice is that, some low value players will have quality games every week. It may not be the guy you love (like Davante Adams), but out of the quality low salary options, you’ll always find some guys who will match the output of some of the high salary guys.

The conclusion I draw from this is simple. If we want the best player of the week, and that player’s poor salary value isn’t going to significantly handicap the rest of our lineup, then we absolutely should be using him, and using him a lot. We should maximize the chance of having that top guy, and then hope for good luck with the rest of the players fitting around him.

And the thing is, do we really need that much more luck than another lineup with a top value play?

Think about it this way. Let’s say this week we build one lineup around Andrew Luck ($8,200, poor value and mediocre match-up) and one lineup around Carson Palmer ($6,700, good value and good match-up). I would say that Luck and Palmer have about the same expected output in week 2, just wildly different values (you may disagree, but for the sake of argument let’s assume their outputs are the same). The question is: How often, on average, will the rest of your lineup (RBs, WRs, TEs and defense) in the Palmer lineup perform better than the rest of your Luck lineup?

I think the Palmer lineup will perform better slightly more often, but only slightly. Out of 100 Palmer lineups and 100 Luck lineups, I think we can expect 52-55 Palmer lineups to out-do Luck’s and about 48-45 Luck lineups to out-do Palmer’s. And that may be optimistic. The fact is the difference between many players from week to week just isn’t that much, unless they are very poor plays.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but I have to point out that in week 1, a perfect example of this was Keenan Allen. If you read my pass share/run share analysis early in the week, you saw that I highlighted the Chargers pass game and Allen as a great target, but I was a little shy about using them because no one was especially good value aside from Stevie Johnson. But Allen ended up being the best WR on DraftKings, and even if this were a week where a guy like Dez Bryant or Odell Beckham went off, we could have still easily fit Allen in our lineup with another high salary WR and made a lineup that was in the running for 1st place. The fact is there are always some value options that have the upside to maintain a strong GPP lineup (and this is actually way more true for baseball than football).

In the end, I think a very educated conclusion we can draw from this is that player prices just don’t matter much in large-field, GPP Tournaments. In cash games, we certainly want to just try and fit in the best value we possibly can, but in tournaments, where our only concern is getting the best players of the week, it seems like we can ignore salary and sacrifice very little. It seems a bit counterintuitive, but it’s very correct.

View all posts by Max J Steinberg
Max J Steinberg

About the Author

Max J Steinberg Max Steinberg is a professional poker player and a top Daily Fantasy player who uses his creativity and mathematical abilities he cultivated as a poker player to win money on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He already has several big tournament scores to his name including the Victiv Bowl and countless MLB Monster wins. Follow him on twitter @maxjsteinberg.

3 thoughts on “DraftKings and FanDuel Tournament (GPP) Strategy: Why Salaries Don’t Matter

  1. Clovenhoof

    Excluding the Monday night games, the optimal lineup for Sunday games is the top players at each position, in other words, the salary cap was irrelevant: Palmer, Forte, Ivory, Allen, Hopkins, Wright, Kelce, flexing Eifert, and Panthers, for almost 260 points, coming in at $49,400. That happens a great deal — the salary cap just doesn’t end up mattering.

    But it’s just not that easy. This was a weird, weird weekend, with record-scoring by tight ends and a ridiculous amount of scoring by defenses — 7 out of the 26 teams had 15 points or more. Carson Palmer hasn’t scored 28 points since he was with the Raiders in 2012, and I’m sorry, but if you had Austin Sefarian-Jenkins in your lineup then you were PLAYING DFS FUCKING BINGO!!!! There is no math, no projection system, no nothing that lets you put a second-year TE with a rookie quarterback on a team with two great receivers who were going up against the two worst cornerbacks still in the league.

    It’s easy to overreact after one week. This is a worthwhile subject to study, and it may be a good idea to revisit it in a couple of months.

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