The term “GPP” refers to Guaranteed Prize Pool contests and in the world of DFS slang it refers to top heavy contests in which only a small (5% to 25%) of finishers get paid. These contests can be structured in a top heavy format or a flatter payout structure. In top heavy contests like the DraftKings Millionaire Maker series the top finisher gets an over sized payout as a percentage of the total. In the Millionaire Maker contest 1st place nets a million dollars. That works out to around 40% of the prize pool going directly to the top finisher. In flatter payout GPP’s the top prize tends to float closer to 10% of the total prize pool and the funds are then distributed more evenly across players finishing in the money.
Multi-Entry GPP Strategy
Lets start with the basics. In a GPP we are aiming for a top finish or ideally a 1st place win. Unlike Cash games in GPP being just slightly above average is a losing venture. Still it’s statistically extremely unlikely to simply throw one lineup in a GPP and secure a top finish. It does happen as I can attest when I finished in 2nd place in a FanDuel Fantasy Football Championships Qualifier back in 2014 losing to a player with just 16 total wins and just one lineup entered in the qualifier. That sucked but I digress. GPP’s differ from cash games in that there is a distinct advantage to be gained by scoring well over the mean. Therefore it often makes sense to Multi-Enter these contests in the hopes of putting together a top lineup. I look at each entry as a sort of lotto ticket. The more times you enter the better your chances for a top finish.
How The Pro’s Do It
There are some big name “Pro” DFS’ers that are well known for their prowess at winning GPP contests. How do they do it? Basically it starts with selecting a core group of all in players and building around that. All In’s can be anything from a stud with an excellent match-up that week to the backup running back thrust into a starting role but playing for minimum salary. I tend to look for a combination of value and opportunity in my ALL IN plays.
The next step in building a multi-entry GPP strategy is selecting a number of QB-WR stacks to target. It’s widely understood that there is a positive correlation between QB’s and their WR’s. In essence if I choose a stud WR and he puts up a dud I’m probably not cashing in a GPP. If my stud WR goes off there’s a great chance his QB will be having a good day as well so it makes sense to pair them up. This strategy works even better with lower cost more volatile QB’s that are not likely to be highly owned in the tournament. In week 13 of the 2014 NFL Season, Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went off for 350 Yards and 6 TDs! That same week Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins had 9 receptions for 238 yards and 2 TD’s. Both players were fairly inexpensive and those of us that employed that stack were competing for GPP wins that week.
Here is my personal best lineup from the 2014 season:
In this particular lineup I employed a McCown to Evans stack that worked to perfection. That week I was all in on Nelson, Gronk and C.J. Anderson based on their match-ups. The key to the win was mixing in the Green Bay defense as a contrarian play. Philly had just come off a big win with Sanchez at the helm. Everyone including Vegas thought the Green Bay/Philly game would be close and high scoring fantasy points bonanza. I had a sense that the Sanchez I knew from watching the Jets all these years would rear his ugly head on the road with high expectations. Obviously it worked out and the rest is history. It always helps to nail the Kicker on Fanduel as well.
My point is that normally people would have avoided McCown that week. He had been stinking up the field most of the season and had shit the bed multiple times in favorable situations. I certainly would not have entered this lineup in a cash game.
- The key to winning GPP’s is to deliberately branch away from some of the chalk picks to try and get the edge over the field. Combining an ALL IN strategy with a varied QB-WR stack strategy is ideal.
Now that we picked out 3 or 4 all in plays, combined that with an alternating QB-WR stack, we finalize by picking out a varied set of secondary players to mix and match throughout all of the lineups. I like to use alternate between 3-4 different defenses. I also tend to jump back and forth between high and low priced players at the TE position. There are no hardened rules for this however as every week brings a new set of dynamics to absorb.
Are GPP’s Profitable Long Term?
Now that we’ve covered the basics of building a Multi-Entry GPP strategy the big question is whether it’s worth it to employ this strategy, Obviously the person that wins the Million in the Draftkings Millionaire Maker profited nicely in that contest. In general however, top heavy contests like the Millionaire Maker as well as most of the championship qualifiers are contests where you should go in expecting to lose money. The odds are stacked against everyone but the one player that finishes in first.
Last season I ran an experiment in the Millionaire Maker. I had accumulated a ton of free entry tickets in various qualifiers. When I got to 100 tickets I decided to load up on a Multi-Entry strategy
and enter 100 lineups all in one week to go for the gold. My results were discouraging. In an interesting twist it was one of my better weeks for picks. I wound up placing “in the money” in 39% of my entries. That’s a really solid number for a contest that pays out the top 20% of lineups. Even with that I was down 15% on my entries. When all was said and done I had invested $2700 and netted back $2400. That was with an excellent and completely unsustainable 39% cash rate. Generally, in contests that pay out the top 20% of scores anything over a 20% cash rate is above average. The lesson was that top heavy GPP’s are generally a losing proposition for everyone that doesn’t finish in the top 10. A good comparable would be entering those same lineups in a Quadruple up contest. A Quadruple up contest pays out 4x the entry fee for entries in the top 20% of finishers. Assuming the same 100 entries which returned a 15% net loss in the Millionaire Maker, were used in a Quadruple up contest, and the same ratio of 39% of entries finished in the money the net result would produce just under a 50% gain on investment! The difference is substantial and dramatic.
- Top Heavy GPP’s including promotional contests and most Qualifiers are generally a bad investment. Enter these with eyes wide open, understand that these contests are -EV and make sure to only use a small ratio of your entry bankroll on these types of contests.
When payouts are flatter it is a different story. In typical GPP’s which pay around 10% of the prize pool to 1st place and spread the wealth more evenly among the rest of the “in the money” lineups there is a much better expected return on investment. Generally a finish in the top 1% of entrants returns a ratio of 10x the entry fee or greater in contests with a flatter payout. These types of GPP’s are preferable. I would also lump Quadruple Up and Quintuple Up contests in to this category.
- GPP’s with flatter payout structures are generally a better investment. They still can have great prizes at the top end but allow for better bankroll management over the long term.
Exceptions – Overlay
There are exceptions to every rule and in the case of GPP’s and profitability the primary exception is overlay. Overlay is when a guaranteed contest does not fill. This creates situations with above average expected returns. Lets look at a typical example of a contest which pays out the top 20% of finishers. If that contest was just 80% filled it would actually pay out the top 25% of scores. Over time these opportunities produce much more profitable results.
As Daily Fantasy Sports has gained in popularity over the past few years hunting for overlay has become a more difficult proposition. Still the opportunities are out there. I’ve found that Thursday through Monday contests have the best odds of decent overlay. Outside of the Fantasy Football realm there tends to be fantastic overlay opportunities in the secondary sports.
- Overlay is the key factor in skewing the odds in favor of the player and producing +EV results. Look for it always in all ways. I tend to log on to the sites in the closing minutes before lineup lock and dump any and all lineups I’ve created in to contests with 10% or more overlay.
The Verdict On GPP’s
One item I left out of the above analysis was the fun factor. Most of us don’t do DFS as our primary source of income. We play it because it’s fun and exciting. Much like buying a lotto ticket we enter GPP’s with the dream of placing first and winning a big chunk of cash. Some contests have gotten big enough that its safe to say the top prizes often represent life changing amounts of money. I firmly believe that over time throwing enough darts in these types of contests will produce results. My 2nd place finish in the FDFFC Qualifier in 2014, losing to a newer player with just 16 wins to their name is proof positive that these contests are winnable for anyone. Still we need to balance out the fun factor of GPP’s with the misery factor of adding money to our bankrolls. Proper bankroll management discipline means keeping these entries to a small percentage of action in a typical week. The basic rule of thumb is using an 80/20 ratio of Cash to GPP entries. That ratio is great but I’d add that the 80/20 ratio should be considered a minimum for bankroll management purposes. 90/10 would be even better over the long term.
- If your goal is to maintain a smooth and growing bankroll stick with a minimum 80/20 ratio of Cash to GPP in your entries. Raising the ratio up to 90/10 is even better when possible.
Draftkings Late Swap Addendum
DraftKings is unique in that they allow for late swaps and allows for a flex position. This should be factored in when putting lineups together. Whenever possible one should place players playing in late games (Sunday/Monday Night) in the flex to allow for additional diversification. Picture the following scenario – You’ve put 100 lineups in a GPP. Going in to Sunday or Monday Night you notice that 6 or 7 of your lineups are all sitting at a similar high quality score with a good chance for a top finish. All of those lineups have the same one, two or three players yet to play. It makes sense to go in and diversify further at that point even if in some cases that means leaving a large chunk of salary on the table. Say for example Green Bay was playing on Monday Night. One of your ALL IN plays that week was Jordy Nelson. Nelson is therefore featured in all 7 of your solid lineups going in to Monday Night. If you purposefully placed your Monday Night players in the flex, you would have the option to swap Nelson out for an RB like Lacy or the lower priced Randal Cobb. This is the type of advanced strategical lineup construction methodology that can easily mean the difference between a top 10 cash or not.
- The goal in GPP’s is to get a top finish. In Late Swap sites like Draftkings, advanced players will increase their odds by diversifying their top scoring lineups further going in to the Sunday and Monday Night games.
It’s important to strike a balance between the excitement of Multi-Entering GPP contests and grinding out wins in cash games. Even the best players have off days and a GPP only strategy will wipe out a bankroll quickly during a bad streak. Sticking with a proper ratio of cash to GPP should smooth things out over the medium term while you wait for a top 10 GPP finish. Build lineups around a few core all in plays then mix and match the rest. If your ALL IN plays work you should turn a nice profit for the week. Remember to be patient as the odds of actually winning a contest with thousands of entries is extremely small. Remember this hobby is about fun and excitement. There’s nothing like the thrill of being in the mix to win a GPP and sweating out the last game of the slate. Win or lose, the thrill is what its all about.
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