All the similarities between DFS and online poker!
For some reason, there has been a correlation between former successful poker players becoming successful DFS players. Now with the lack of sports being played due to the coronavirus, we do not have many DFS games and some of us DFS players might want to consider jumping into online poker. If you are wondering where to play, my guy Jesse Waller wrote an in-depth article on all your options: Online Poker in the USA: Where Should You Be Playing?
Both poker and DFS are far from identical; in fact, there are plenty of differences. That said, there are also a lot of similarities between the two. For starters, both games involve skill and luck. While it is considered gambling, the skill aspect of both of these games cannot go overlooked. When you take a look at some of the best poker players and DFS players, there is no denying their skills. In fact, not only are they skilled, but they are able to put themselves in the best situations to benefit from the luck aspect. Whether it is getting your chips in as a huge favorite in a poker game or fading bad chalk in DFS, the top players usually figure out how to take advantage of these situations and cash in on them.
That is not the only similarity between the two, as a matter of fact, there are multiple things that are very alike between the two games. Let’s dive into it and breakdown how both DFS and online poker are similar.
Let’s face it, not everyone can enter 150 lineups in DFS and win long term. I myself am not a max entry person, but I am very close to some who do max enter and let me tell you, it’s not fucking easy. I have seen people tweet out “if I had the bankroll to max enter, I’d win too,” and that is so far from the truth. The same can be said about poker. You can have a huge bankroll and you can enter as many tournaments as you want, and yes you will get lucky and win at times, but over a long period of time, chances are your bankroll will not survive if you are not good. There is a reason why some of the sharks in the poker world rush to a poker table when a wealthy businessman or businesswoman who wants to play cards at a casino, sits at the table. At the end of the day, skill is needed to win.
In DFS we use projections, optimizers, and sports knowledge to make the best decision. Some people place more emphasis on trusting the projections, while others use what they know to make the best possible decision. Some players hand-build lineups, while others elect to use optimizers to create lineups for them. Both involve a great skill and whichever way you go about it is up to you, but at the end of the day, there are strategies involved in both processes that require a lot of skill. You must account for many things when creating lineups. Whether it’s matchup, price, expected ownership, a player’s ceiling vs. his floor, etc., all of these factors have to be taken into account to make the best choice possible. This action is repeated until you have filled up your lineup.
In poker, we use betting patterns, tells (if you are playing live), and math (in multiple ways) to make most of our decisions. As poker players, you must account for hand ranges during specific situations, the percentage that you are ahead or trailing in a hand after putting your opponent on a range of hands, pot odds to make the call, stack sizes, and how often your hand wins in this spot. While so many other factors play a role, these are a lot of the things that cross your mind on any given hand that you are playing in. Understanding when the right time to put your chips in play and when to fold your hand to wait for a better spot is huge. Between tells, betting patterns, and all the math that is considered during a hand, you should be able to come up with the best decision.
In both games, there is strategy that takes place to come up with the best possible decision and a big part of that is math-based. In other words, is the juice worth the squeeze? Whether it is determining if the highest priced running back has the ability to return value and hit 5X-6X when compared to his salary, or if your open-ended straight draws will hit and win often enough against your opponents’ range, and if so, is it worth the chips you have to risk to continue with your draw?
Even though it is not exactly the same concept, the thought process is similar, hence why some really good poker players have turned into some really good DFS players.
Aside from the skill part, the next most important thing has to be bankroll management for both games. At the end of the day, if you run out of money to play with, you will not be able to play. Both in DFS and poker, applying proper bankroll management is key to longevity and success. In DFS, most players have the bar set at playing no more than 20 percent of your bankroll on average. That is usually split in a 70/30, 80/20, and for some 90/10 between cash games and tournaments. The dynamics of this could change depending on the week, but that is just an average. I actually wrote an in-depth article last August on bankroll management in DFS that you can check out here.
In poker, this varies a bit. For instance, if you are grinding tournaments, I would try to keep it between 10-15 percent of your bankroll in play on any given day, leaning more towards the 10 percent. In cash games, I would be more willing to play between 20-25 percent of my bankroll on any given day. It is not a must, but it is certainly something I would not mind doing. This is all dependent on how risk-averse you are and whether the game you are jumping into is beatable or tougher than you are used to. Always assess the situation before deciding on how much you are willing to put at stake.
I’ll jump into more detail as to the difference between cash games and tournaments in both poker and DFS next, but what you need to know here is the importance of practicing proper bankroll management in both games and how that is an important component in being successful at each.
In both DFS and poker, there are cash games and tournaments. While cash games in DFS and cash games in poker are two different beasts, when it comes to tournaments they are very alike. That said, game selection is important when it comes to both and understanding what type of player you are applies in both as well.
Let’s start with cash games in DFS. Cash games offer the highest probability to cash on any given week because most of the time you have to beat out just 50 percent of the field. Therefore, you are pretty much guaranteed to double up your investment so long as you beat out half of the field. Pretty straight forward if you ask me. This is why in cash games, you want consistency, high floors, and high-volume players. In addition, you want to take advantage of price discrepancies. For instance, a backup running back that will be getting a spot start due to an injury and is expected to get the bulk of the carries, but is priced as a backup running back, this is someone who will likely have high ownership in cash games and rightfully so. Since you only have to beat out half of the opposition, you want to be as conservative as possible and taking risks is unnecessary. Ownership percentage should not be a determining factor when constructing your cash game lineups. You want the best optimal lineup with the highest floor. Steering away from volatile players is the way to go. Cash games are much lower in variance than tournaments in DFS.
Cash games in poker are very different than it is in DFS. For starters, 50 percent of the players at the table are not guaranteed to double their investment. In poker, depending on stakes, you have a minimum and maximum amount you are able to buy in for. The chips in play are actually money; whereas in tournaments, they are just units. In a cash table, if you have $10,000 in chips, that equals $10,000 in cash and at any given moment, your entire stack (money) can be in play, assuming you are playing no limit. That said, in cash games, you can get up and stop playing at any given moment. Therefore, if you double up your buy-in after playing just 10 hands and want to get up, you can. If you see you are running like pure dog shit or lose focus and do not want to play anymore, you can stop playing and cut your losses to a minimum. This is why taking on too much risk is not necessary in cash games. Don’t get me wrong, your stack will be put in play in certain situations that are just too good to pass up on, but unlike in tournaments, you are not in a race against time and blinds increasing, so you are able to patiently wait for good spots to exploit. In addition, in poker cash games, you do not necessarily have to lose your entire buy-in before being able to get up from your table and cash out. Like in DFS, poker cash games are less volatile than tournaments.
In DFS, there are several types of tournaments to choose from, whether it be single entry, 3-max, 150-max, large field, or smaller fields, the end goal for each of them is the same, and that is finish in first place. A minimum cash is fine, but that is not the reason you register into a GPP, and the same can be said about poker tournaments. Regardless of what type of DFS tournament, there is one constant for each of them and that is the salary cap you have. Using the salary cap wisely and rostering the right players is the name of the game here. How you go about it is the strategy part of the game we discussed above. Typically DFS guaranteed prize pools (GPP’s) are top-heavy and only about 20 percent of the field cash. These are much more volatile due to your chances of making money being less than they are in cash games. This is why the approach for tournaments in DFS is totally different than it is in cash games.
In DFS tournaments, you tend to focus more on a player’s upside/ceiling potential than his floor. The field size of the tournament plays a role on how much volatility you should be taking on with the players you roster. For instance, in single entry tournaments, I tend to take less risks in my player pool because each player is only allowed just one lineup. Therefore, less risk is needed as chances are, everyone will be as close to the chalk plays as possible with their one buy-in. Ownership still plays a role here, but not as much as a top-heavy large GPP where the difference between first and second place can be upwards of $500,000. In these bigger fields, building lineups with more volatility makes more sense and if there is a player in a very good spot and the entire industry is talking him up, there is merit to fading him in large fields if his ownership is going to be very high. Why, you may be asking? If this particular player does not reach his ceiling or have a huge game, you are already ahead of the pack. In these instances, I try to look for another elite player of the same position in a good, but not as good of a matchup and roster him instead. This player provides me with the same ceiling at a much lower ownership and if he does well, I will move up the standings at a much wider range since not that many people have rostered him. If you are rostering the same players that the consensus is rostering, how will you be able to set yourself aside from the pack? Look at some of the winners on a weekly basis and check out their lineups, you’d be amazed at how being a little different can go a long way.
Much like in DFS, multi-table tournaments are usually structured with top-heavy payouts and normally about 20 percent of the field cashes. A minimum cash is not always a guaranteed double up to your original buy-in, which is why like in DFS, you are playing to win the entire tournament and have to be willing to take more risks. In poker tournaments, everyone buys in for the same amount and starts off with the same amount of chips. So even after two hours of play, if someone has 100,000 in chips and another player has 10,000 in chips, both are invested the same. The difference here is that one has more big blinds than the other and is obviously in a better spot. The goal in poker tournaments is to be the last man standing with all the chips. Blinds begin at a certain level and increase periodically (structures vary), so even though being patient is important, understanding the dynamics of chips stacks is crucial here.
In DFS tournaments, you can multi enter the max allowed, in poker tournaments you can only enter one buy-in at a time, but there are is a re-buy period where you can re-enter the tournament if you bust. You would start with the same starting stack that you did with your initial buy-in.
Volume is something you use in both of these games to account for variance. In DFS and in poker, putting in the volume will get you through the variance long term.
As you can see it is not identical, but the concepts are similar as to what you are aiming for in tournaments, which is to take chances and put yourself in the best situation to win the entire tournament. Calculated risks are huge in tournaments for both games, whether it is choosing a high-ceiling player in bad spot who will be low-owned in DFS or choosing to flip for a huge pot that will put you in a good position to make a deep run in a poker tournament. The thought process is similar, the math taken into account is similar, and the potential outcome of both are similar.
Player vs. Player
One of my favorite things about DFS and poker is the fact that you are not playing against the house, but instead, you are playing against another person. This allows you to test your skills against another person’s skills. While there is skill involved in games such as blackjack and baccarat that are played against the house, there is also much more luck, and playing against the house is usually not a long-term profitable journey for most. After all, there is a reason why Vegas has so many standing casinos. Playing against other players is totally different, however, because as humans we tend to make mistakes and at times let our emotions get in the way of our decision making. This creates opportunities to take advantage of human error and put ourselves in a position to win. Since the house is not banking on beating the player in DFS or poker because they collect their money from rake (I’ll dive into that later), we do not have to worry about the odds being stacked against us like they are with slot machines and other casino games that are pretty much a death trap for our wallets.
We are not playing against the house, but they need to make money somehow, so they charge us rake. In DFS, sites collect rake from all your buy-ins. For instance, let’s say you pay $33 to get into a tournament, $30 might go to the actual pot and $3 is an entry fee that the site charges it’s customers to play the tournament. In poker it works the same for tournaments of any kind – sit n go or multi-table tournament, but when you play cash games in poker, the house usually takes a percentage of the pot being played. The percentage will vary from site to site online or from casino to casino live, and there is usually a cap to how much can be taken from a single hand played, as well as a minimum the pot needs to be before collecting rake.
There are many differences between DFS and poker, so do not take this as an endorsement of being a good DFS player will translate into being a successful poker player, or vice versa. That being said, there are similarities that can help you improve your skills at either game, while making the transition easier from one game to the other.
I am excited to announce that our Elite Sports Betting & Elite Fantasy poker club on PokerStars is now live, and we will be running games with prizes for our subs. For more information, reach out to me on Twitter @Armando_Marsal or Jesse Waller. We will get you squared away.
Stay tuned, this handbook is going to get a LOT bigger in the coming days, weeks, months, and years!