Roto Rounders – Part 1: The Cash Game 

By Joe Viverois, DFW Writer @JVRotoWhale 

Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.
Mike McDermott, Rounders (1998)

You know it’s true. Every year, at countless drafts across the country, there’s THAT guy: Boisterous rants, a facade of overconfidence,Capture and a request to look off your draft materials because he failed to prepare. And then, he drafts Seattle’s defense in the 4th round. Heads up pick, Bro. The world of daily fantasy sports can be a sea of shark infested waters, and this series is going to enable you to better navigate those waters (and possibly pocket a bit of change while you’re at it). This is aimed at beginners, let me know in the comments or on Twitter @JVRotoWhale if any of you are looking for more advanced DFS strategies.

The very first thing that a new DFS player should learn and be acutely aware of is the type of game that one is playing (assuming that you already understand the scoring system your site is using, here we will use DraftKings exclusively). For the first part of the series, we will discuss “The Cash Game”. Included in cash games are 50/50’s, Head-to-Heads, and Double Ups. The Cash Game will always: 1. Pay less than or equal to double the entry fee 2. Have an evenly paid prize pool. All winners “Cashing” or finishing “in the money” will be paid the same amount, regardless of point total. 3. Pay at least the top 40% of the field. It is important to understand these rules when constructing lineups. Most notably, we should realize that in cash games, it does not matter how MANY points we score, as long as we score enough to be in the top 40% of the field. Thus, it is a game in which the player must approach inherently risk averse, and wary of variance. In DraftKings contests, studies have shown that 150 points will end up in the money approximately 90% of the time. So when we begin to construct our lineups for the week, we must remember that we are not attempting to draft the highest scoring team, but rather a team with the best chance of achieving 150 points. DraftKings has a draft salary cap of $50,000, so (bleep bloop blop bleep bleep: those are math noises) we need every drafted player to score three points per $1,000 of their salary. We now clearly understand what we need from our roster to win. On to one of the most discussed topics in DFS: VALUE.

3xAs noted above, we need what is referred to as 3X value from each player drafted. If we achieve this ROI (Return On Investment) from each player, we will end up in the money 90% of the time. Which is plenty, because in cash games we only need to win 55.6% of the time to grow our bankroll. Personally, I would advise a beginner to stick to either large field single entry 50/50’s or intermediate players to single or multi-entry 50/50’s (the latter of which you should enter the maximum number of lineups allowed). In contrast, though Head-to-Head contests are technically cash games, they are infested with sharks, elite level players posting games of all stakes. I would definitely advise you to research your opponent if you do attempt to play Head-To-Heads. This article will not delve too deeply into lineup construction, there will be a separate article dedicated solely to lineup construction for both cash games and GPPs. However, it is important to understand what our contest requires from our lineup. For example, when considering a player for our lineup, it is useful to take that player’s salary, divide by 1,000 and then multiply by 3 to come up with that player’s 3X value point requirement. Below is an example of some 2015 Week 12 QB options, their salary, and the equation applied to figure their 3X value.

There are many ways to determine whether a player’s salary warrants consideration. After you have determined a player’s 3X value, you can determine actual value by comparing that against a player’s projected point total. Many pros either use their own projections, or an aggregate of projections from select sources and compile them in an Excel spread sheet every week, along with many other vital statistical and analytical components.

Now that we have an idea of how to determine value, we must look at a few other key factors for cash game lineups. Again, lineup construction will be handled in a separate article, we are just briefly reviewing how cash games rosters should be fundamentally approached. Volume is one of the most important factors in a cash game roster. We basically want to pile all the volume we can. Snaps equal, touches, and touches equal points. The players that are consistently involved in the offense will often have higher floors, and thus are preferable in a game type in which we are actively trying to avoid variance. The second factor is consistency. There are different metrics for evaluating consistency. One that I like to use is CBS Sportsline consistency rating, which measures how often a player scores at least his season average, directly ensuing a game that he scored his average points per game going into that week. The nearer a player stays to his mean, the more consistent the player, and thus the most suitable for a cash game lineup.

Volume, consistency, and this somewhat ambiguous definition of value — we are starting to have an idea of how to approach the cash game. However, let’s take a closer look at value. If we simply look at the projected points to salary ratio, we will find that the lower priced players will typically find their way to the top of our value list. The problem with this is that a player with a lower salary, may often come with more risk. This is cash games. We don’t like that. So we do some more math noises (you know the ones) and we get this equation: Projected points raised to the square root of three, divided by salary (and then multiplied by 2,000). This equation applied to all draftable players can be found on FootballGuys Interactive Value Chart every week of the season, and easily transferred to an Excel workbook. This is a tremendous tool for DFS players, and should be utilized especially in weekly cash game preparation.

Not exactly a voluminous tome, but I think we have covered most of the basic steps of approaching cash games and have hopefully made you more confident once the NFL season rolls around. Stay tuned for a rundown of GPP play (the big bucks) and lineup construction.