Packham’s Punch: Lineup Construction (from a Cash Perspective)

This is a weekly article to discuss my thoughts regarding playing cash games.  Cash games are generally considered to be Head to Head, Double Ups, 50/50’s, Triple-ups, as well as small multi-player (3-20 players) games where your chances of cashing are 33% or higher.  In previous articles we have discussed how to chose your cash game contest as well as how to build that lineup each night.  

This week, I will address a topic that probably haunts each of us.  

How many lineups should I make each day?  And where should I play those lineups?

I’m not sure the average age of our readers but I can remember back to the 80’s and 90’s when our favorite TV shows would basically spend an entire episode of flashbacks and call it an episode.  I remember enjoying watching those episodes (Cosby, Cheers, Family Ties… they all did it) and at the time in my young life I was thinking they were amazing.  Later, I realized the staff was probably off or the writers were stuck for good ideas so they threw the episode together off the editing floor.

Well, this article I’m going to be stealing the ideas of other great DFS players that also happen to belong to the Judge’s Jury.  So, I hope you enjoy the article this week.

Lineup Construction

Personally, I play strictly DK (Mostly, out of time restraints), and as you’ve seen in my previous articles I go through all the necessary steps (Judge’s Pod, Vegas O/U, pace, usage, Implied Point Total, Pricing) prior to putting together my “List” for the day.  I’ll usually also make a dummy lineup, just so I can enter all the contests I want to play that day.

As the day progresses, I will stay tuned to the slack channel and ask questions, I stay tuned to breaking news, I’ll write down pertinent info I come across, and in my brain I start to formulate an idea of a lineup.  

I spend about 90-95% of my lineup construction process building and re-building a cash lineup.  My cash lineup will be composed of good plays that should definitely hit 5 times their value, but I shoot for 5.5x or even 6x.  What does that mean?  If they cost $5,000 they need 25 points for 5X, 27.5 pts for 5.5X or 30pts for 6X.  Pretty basic math really.     

How do I come up with my projected points for the day?  High Research guessing really…

I will use various websites around the industry that are free (I feel like I know enough to not have to pay a subscription) to get their take on a projection.  If I’m really considering a player because they are the right price, position and seem like good value, I’ll start looking at recent numbers, matchup, are they playing in a back to back, or 3 in 4 situation, etc… to see if they fit.

Once I have done this I usually have 3-5 players that seem obvious plays and then about 10-15 that I also really like.  I then put together a cash lineup.  I also will use some of the websites lineup builders plugging in my top 3-5 players and see what they spit out for me although I rarely use what they give.  They just give me ideas of how I may be able to construct it.  I try to move players around to keep the “utility spot” open until the end.  The nice thing about DK is the player position flexibility and the G, F, Utility slots.  It also makes it more challenging.

Once I am finished, I decide the route I want to go for the day.

Single Lineup

Personally, I do not have the stomach to make lineups this way.  I’ve tried but I always seem to either win all or lose all and I don’t tolerate that kind of variance well. However, I got a great take from one of our top players in DG courtroom and a fellow writer on the website… Mgfresh.  Here is his perspective:

“My decision to focus on 1 lineup per night boils down to a few beliefs.

1) By focusing on 1 line up I can:

  • Adjust quickly to late news effectively for all line ups.
  • Plan in advance for injury scenarios and have contingent lineups ready to go.
  • Potentially re-work full lineups vs just player swapping when late news comes.  I usually find I like a completely different lineup as value opens up, more than the old one with a player swap.

2) I believe the diversification benefits from playing multiple line ups in a single night are over stated and do not increase long-term returns, because:

  • You must either pivot off your favorite place which makes your nights when it you get it “right” much less probable.

OR

  • You have a lot of overlap in your lineups which means you are still subject to lose in all contests if a CORE player underperformed.

3) In order to win in the long-term (focusing on tournaments) I need to cash ~40% of the time with a few BIG wins.  With over 150 nights of NBA games each year I believe devoting all energy or best thinking into ONE lineup per night avoids unforced errors from juggling multiple lineups and maximizes my winning percentage and returns with plenty of slates for diversification.

Note: The hardest part of implementing this strategy is managing emotions.  When a player gets hurt or has a bad night, it would be nice to have lineups without them.  However, I have benefited as much from avoiding injuries as I have been hurt by having them.  Still a very frustrating thing that happens when you are all in on 8-9 guys.”

Thanks again MG Fresh for that take.

3-lineups

There is a very profitable DFS player in the industry, Al Zeidenfeld, who is involved with ESPN, DK Playbook, etc… who pushes the 3 lineup theory and I’ve found it is most successful to me as well.  He recommends:

  1. Cash lineup:  Similar to how I just explained above… You build the safest and highest floor lineup with the best available players.
  2. League Lineup:  Start with the same cash lineup… then pivot off 2-3 of your cash players for Higher Risk, Higher Reward players.  You would play this in 5-man, quintuple ups, Chambers, 5-20 man contests, and Single Entry Tournaments.
  3. GPP Lineup:  Take the Cash game lineup and pivot off 5-6 of the positions to Higher Risk, Higher Reward type players that you like.  Also look for players with recency bias, or that may be low owned around the industry for perceived bad matchups.  I’ll dump this in 10x multipliers, Winner take all’s of 10+ entries, or large field GPP’s where I throw in a single bullet dart throw (NFL’s Milly Maker or NBA’s Sharpshooter).

Personally, this is the approach that I use.  I spend the majority of my time building that initial cash lineup and highlighting my gpp (High Risk, High Reward) Plays.  Then, in the last 15-20 minutes leading to lock I finalize my cash lineup and make the adjustments to the other 2 lineups adding in that second group of players.  This approach seems to work well for me.

Multiple Lineups

I do not recommend this for cash players unless you are just dumping a bunch of lineups into a low cost 20-entry contest or higher and have the bankroll to sustain doing this with only 20% of your daily bankroll.  

If you are building multiple lineups for gpp’s, I’m not the best source of advice.  But, from what I’ve researched about it, the only way you can adjust to late news and adjust multiple lineups is by using one of the large websites lineup builders which are free.  You can then allocate percentages to each player, you can “X” players right out, you can even correlate players, and you can stack.  Once the optimizer builds your preferred number of lineups, you can save it to a CSV file and export it directly into draftkings or FanDuel.  It takes some practice and I’ve done it a few times and it’s pretty easy to do.  I don’t know how simple it is to make last minute changes but the optimizers can build pretty quickly for you.  

Unfortunately, as Mgfresh mentioned, you’d need to win at ~40% consistency with a few big wins per year.  The percentages are not in your favor based on the payout structures unless you are really an exceptional player.  

I’ve compiled some data over the last week to examine cash lines for gpp’s vs “cash” games.  

On DK, the average cash lines were as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 12.43.52 AM.png

In other words, you have a much better chance to grow your bankroll steadily by playing cash contests or multipliers over large gpp tournaments.  However, the lottery chance of winning big do not exist in cash games.   

My guess is you would need a bankroll built up over about $800-1000 to even begin considering going the multiple lineup, multiple entry route but for beginners getting in the $0.25 tourneys or even the 3, 7, or 20 entry tourneys at $1 are options.  Single entry tourney’s are also a great option but you don’t need as much risk in those lineups.  Most of us grinders will take a year or two to get there unless we hit it big on a single bullet at some point.

Conclusion

So, I’ve presented a few ideas on how many lineups to build and maybe some of the process behind building them.  Also a few ideas from fellow players on why they do what they do.  Best of luck in constructing your perfect DFS lineup(s).  I’d love to hear from you in the slack channel or on twitter if you have further ideas on this as I’m constantly adjusting my way of thinking.  We always think our way is the only right way until we find out that it’s not… right?

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

You can reach Craig on twitter @cpackham007 or on the slack chat.