Playing daily fantasy sports (DFS) is all about having fun while making money. In order to ensure both of those things, it is important to practice proper bankroll management. Proper bankroll management gives players the chance to be profitable over the long run while simultaneously preventing short term hiccups from derailing you. Here's a list of tips that I think new and experienced players should follow, at least until you develop something you are comfortable with.
1. Don't play for more money than you are comfortable losing, and in particular, be conservative with your first deposit (However, always try to get the full first time deposit bonus even if you don't plan on playing with that much money. The worst case scenario is the bonus money sits in your pending bonus account at no detriment to you). DFS is a game of a skill. However, with any game of skill comes a learning curve, so I don't suggest going all out on your first deposit. Put in a small first deposit and become familiar with the site you are playing on, and as you learn the nuances of DFS you can invest a bit more. Also, remember the fun aspect of fantasy sports. DFS is a great new way to play the fantasy sports games we love, but it will quickly turn away from fun if you are reckless.
2. Set yourself up to win over the long run. Again, DFS is a game of skill, so being observant, using smart strategies and of course reading the FIX ;) should net you positive winnings over the long run. Knowing you can win over the long run, it makes no sense to allow a cold streak to bankrupt your bankroll. Cold streaks will happen as a result of random variation; the key is to not overextend yourself on a given night. This will allow you to brush off a few losing nights in a row, and before you know it you will be back to winning. Nothing is worse than knowing you can win consistently over time only to have yourself run out of money because of a few bad breaks. I've found 10% of your bankroll to be a good amount to play on a given event (one day of baseball, one NFL weekend, one PGA Tournament, etc.). For those with smaller initial bankrolls that want to try to expand more quickly, I think a 10-15% range is acceptable. For those with already established, bigger bankrolls, I think a more conservative 5-10% in play per event makes sense.
3. Stay true to your percentages. If you have a starting bankroll of $200 and are committed to playing 10% a night, you will start out playing $20 a night. However, if you aren't doing well and your bankroll drops to $100, you have to keep in mind the amount you are playing each night is percentage based, not a fixed amount. If you continue to play $20 a night, you are overexposing yourself, in my opinion. It works the same way the other way. If you build your bankroll from $200 to $400, you should be playing $40 per event (10% of $400), not sticking with $20 per event. Otherwise, you are being overly conservative and restricting your profit potential.
4. Play less, never more. Some people play more or less each night based on how they "feel" about their teams on that particular day. Being very math conscious and sabremetrically inclined, I have a problem with this. I think when people "love" their teams on a particular day, their chances of success probably are not that much greater than on a normal day. After all, maybe you "love" your team that day because salaries are a bit easier for whatever reason, in which case all your opponents will be "loving" their teams as well. Advantage neutralized. I think it is best never to overexpose yourself. If you love your team on a particular day and are playing 10-15% of your bankroll on average, then play 15%. Don't exceed that number. That's when bad decisions start to happen. I've seen it before. You love your team. You play 25%. You lose. You are mad that you lost more than usual on a day and try to win it back the next day. You lose. Just like that your bankroll, which you've worked hard to build, has been reduced in half all because you "loved" your team. Conversely, if you are unable to come up with a team that you like on a particular day, feel free just to not play on that day or play at a reduced percentage. It would be interesting to track, but my speculation is that people who dislike their teams on a particular day probably lose more than they normally would. Meanwhile, people who love their teams on a particular day probably don't win at a much higher rate than they normally would. Thus, feel free to play below your determined percentage on a given event, but never exceed that. This is a good time to point out that all sites offer free games, and it's a smart idea to take advantage of these free games to see if you can come up with a team you like prior to entering money games.
5. Choose the correct games. While playing a smart percentage of your bank each night is a start towards becoming a disciplined DFS player, the other part of doing so is choosing how you allocate that percentage. (If you read this and find you are not familiar with the types of games I am talking about, please read Drew Dinkmeyer's article explaining the various DFS games you can play.) I don't have a hard and fast rule about what percentage of your investment on a particular event should be double ups/heads up games, what should be large field GPP (guaranteed prize pool) tournaments and what should be something in between (3-mans, 6-mans). In general, I think you should always set yourself up so that if you win all of your double up and head to head games on a particular event you are profitable even if you lose all of your other games. I also think you should play at least some games, whether it be 3-mans, 6-mans or large field tournaments, that allow you to more than double your money. Once in a while, you are going to have a really high score, and you will want to be rewarded for that. Setting yourself up so that winning double ups and heads up games allows you to be profitable gives you consistency. Making sure you enter some higher upside games gives you the chance to build your bankroll at a faster rate. Again, I will use an example of someone with a starting bankroll of $200 that is playing 10-15% of their bankroll on a particular event. If I am that person and want to play MLB games on a Thursday night, I will probably sign up for something like this: an $11 double up, a $5 head to head game and a $5 3-man or large field tournament. If I had to put percentages on it, I would say to play 70-90% double ups/heads up games, with the remaining 10-30% on games that offer more profit potential (3-mans, 6-mans, 10-mans, large field tournaments). I wouldn't play more than 10-20% a night on large field GPP tournaments that leave you with a low probability of cashing.
6. Don't get blinded by a potential big payout - play within your means. A lot of DFS sites have big tournaments with huge grand prizes, and it's tough to resist throwing your hat in the ring. By all means I think people should be playing these qualifiers as long as it doesn't stretch the way they are already playing. If you can play 10-15% of your bank on a night with 75% of it being double ups and head to head games, feel free to replace your 3-man or large field tournament with a qualifier entry. However, if you have a $200 bankroll, you shouldn't be entering a $55 qualifying event. Not only are you overexposed, playing double your 10-15%, but it isn't even a contest in which you are likely to cash since the prize payouts are top heavy and there are a lot of contestants. Sure, it would be awesome if you won, but that's the type of thinking that will get you in trouble. Instead, play the cheaper qualifier tournaments and play some cheaper satellite leagues where you can win an entry into the more expensive qualifiers. As you smartly and consistently build your bankroll, you will end up with a lot more chances to get a big win than if you chase a big win when your bankroll can't handle it.
7. Always make use of deposit bonuses and rewards points. By clicking on any of the daily fantasy links you see on this site and even below this article, you are eligible for a first time deposit bonus on the respective site. Sometimes sites also offer bonuses to existing players at the start of a fresh sports season. You should always be taking advantage of these bonuses. On most sites, you do not directly get the bonus, rather it is listed as a pending bonus that releases as you play. Don't let that deter you; it's still free money. One of the best ways to "beat the rake" so to speak on DFS sites is to take advantage of these bonuses that are more or less rake reductions. Another way to do this is by utilizing rewards points. Almost all DFS sites offer some sort of rewards points or rake back program. Make sure you don't forget about these points, as they can be used for entries into games and are a good way to help you expand your bankroll.
I think these are a good set of guidelines for anyone who hopes to be a DFS grinder. The key to becoming a winning DFS player is to develop consistency while still allowing yourself to get a big win here and there. It's also important to not become overly emotional as there are sure to be highs and lows, and I think using these guidelines or even just meshing these guidelines with your personal DFS goals will help you to set yourself up to be successful over the long haul.