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How to play DFS Hockey: Getting Started

Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire

Welcome back to another fantasy hockey season here at This year, we are bringing you a basic starters guide for daily fantasy hockey (known as DFS) as well as some strategy to help you get a leg up on the competition.

Regardless of the type of player you are, the love of hockey and enjoying that game is the most important thing. This year we are especially blessed with the World Cup of Hockey being played in Toronto, showcasing the best players in the world playing for their respective home countries. DraftKings, one of the biggest DFS sites, has yet to release any info about offering DFS games for the World Cup of Hockey as per an email in early September. It’s likely they were waiting for the start of football season before they announce any games.

One of the first questions you need to ask yourself before you start playing is: Why am I playing fantasy hockey?

Are you looking to win a ticket to the Fantasy Hockey World Championship live final? Are you trying to win first place in a large Guaranteed Prize Pool? Or are you simply trying to maintain a steady bankroll that allows you to play freely throughout the season without having to deposit money again?

Answering these questions will help you establish if you are just playing for fun or are serious about DFS and being successful as well as profitable. Answering these questions will help define your goals and the amount of money you wish to play on any given night.

For starters, let’s talk in terms of bankroll allocation. In general, it’s best not to commit more than 10 percent of your pot to any game, so if you have a $100 in your account, that means $10. It is imperative that you only play to your means and not over them, playing smart and reserving money for when things go south.

25 April, 2016: Blues and Blackhawks players go through the handshake line after a NHL first round Stanley Cup Playoffs game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Blues won, 3-2, to advance to the second round. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

Game 7 between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks was a great example of unpredictability. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)

Always saving for a rainy day is even more critical when playing DFS since the unpredictability of “what will happen” versus “what you think is going to happen” is always present. Disciplining yourself and setting guidelines will help you maintain your bankroll during losing streaks. It allows you the safety to play the next day and prevents over-depositing and playing above your means.

Let’s begin with game selection because it is a vital starting point. Before you spend a dollar, take a minute to scan the variety of offerings.

Games range from head-to-head, five-man league, winner-take-all, guaranteed games with large entry fields with mass entries allowed per player, single entry tournaments and, most importantly, double-ups, where you simply double your money.

Over time, you may find you prefer certain games better, or discover you are better at one game versus another and therefore decide to target those types of games. But even before that, differentiating between sites is very critical, since sites vary their scoring systems.

For example, Fanduel uses plus-minus as part of its scoring system, while DraftKings does not. Personally, I find DraftKings to suit my game for hockey, although I enjoy Fanduel for baseball because they use only a single pitcher on the roster, where DraftKings uses two pitchers on the roster.

As for game selection, cash games are defined as games at different denominations that allow you to either double-up your money, play head-to-head, or enter you into a contest with an amount of players from three to fewer than 250, usually with only a single entry allowed for each player.

On the other hand, Guaranteed Prize Pools (GPP) are large contests usually ranging from a few hundred entries to more than a million entries, depending on the sport, that offer very large prizes, sometimes up to a million dollars. Unfortunately, hockey doesn’t garner as big of prize pools as the other three big sports, but DraftKings and Fanduel have both done a better job with hockey and have even raised some of prize amounts, upwards of $50,000, along with a live final for the Fantasy Hockey World Championships that offers a hefty prize pool.

Once you have experience playing different types of games, you will begin to feel more comfortable selecting specific games where you are finding more success. If you prefer playing GPPs, then pay close attention to the payout structure on certain games. There are times when GPPs are weighted very top-heavy in terms of payout versus amount of entries and its percentage. Look at the top 10 payouts compared to the other payouts and you will find that some games are really not worth playing if you are looking to grow your bankroll.

Sure, if you are a top-20 entrant overall (or top 1 percent), then you can earn some big bucks, however if you are looking for a return on your investment based on entry fee and realistic probability of winning, then the top-heavy GPPs are not for you. Cash games are better suited for your cause.

Simply put, if there are 100 people with a $3 entry fee, you can either double your money having to finish in the top 50 (double-up/cash game) versus finishing in the top 23 players (in a GPP, out of the same 100) with 14th place to 23rd place only paying about double ($6/$8) similar to the double-up. Of course the top-15 places here in our hypothetical contest pay the best, but if you fall short of the top 10-15 payout finish, the risk/reward return really doesn’t add up.

Penguins certainly can’t complain about their return on investment. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire)

Go slow and ease yourself into the world of DFS, allowing yourself time for research and preparation while scrutinizing each game’s payout structure. Efficient game selection is a smart step in the right direction to becoming a successful and profitable player, especially if you’re operating under a smaller budget and looking to grind out profit over the long-term.

In the process of searching through your games, you will be confronted with several options to spend your money, whether you choose to enter multiple entries or stick to a single line-up played across a myriad of games, cash or GPP. There are also single-entry tourneys with many denominations of entry fees that offer substantial prize amounts.

Personally, I prefer playing games that allow only a few entries per player because it instantly levels the playing field for everyone, since there is only one lineup per person, or at the most two. In the larger tourneys, players with big bankrolls have enough freedom to attack specific games from multiple angles and strategies while players short-handed financially are at a bit of disadvantage as the odds favor the L larger volume players.

Doing everything you can to gain a firm foothold in fantasy is very important to success, whether it’s against players with enormous bankrolls, finding games that don’t fill-up (called overlay), or learning who to play against and avoid head-to-head. Finally, when you figure out your system that is successful and works for you, stick with it. And a word to the wise, play close attention to the fine line between doing too much research and/or over thing everything when it comes time to roster the final team. Playing with multiple combinations and cycling through as man plays you like, in all positions, is the best way to find the best combination of players. I always look at it as a logic puzzle, and if you take your time, you will see how clear it becomes when you finally get it all out. Remember, you can reach me at [email protected] or Twitter @msr427 for any thoughts, rants or DFS questions. Thanks guys!

In Part 2, we’ll be taking a look at strategies for optimal roster selection.

How to play DFS Hockey: Getting Started


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