How I Went from Self-Exclusion in 2019 to Over 7x-ing My Bankroll in 2020
A recap of a very successful 2020, and how I got there
If you’ve been following me on Twitter for any length of time, then you probably remember that I publicly self-excluded from DFS in spring of 2019.
Okay, I admit it was a little dramatic.
But I was a losing player. Full-stop. I’m not ashamed to admit that because I believe most people who play DFS are losing players. But I wanted to be better than that, and it consumed me. Self-exclusion gave me an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate my process, without the pressures of simultaneously registering and playing my own games.
When I came back in the middle of the 2019 NFL season, I tried to apply some of what I had learned at very small stakes. At the start of 2020, I decided to try and get back in the game for real. I started out with a bankroll of $1,312.40 (half of the profit I still had to my name), and was determined to keep diligent records in a Google Sheet of all of my fantasy gaming and betting. The results so far have been fantastic.
What makes me most proud of my success is that I haven’t had any massive hits. No GPP wins, and no 100/1-type of longshot bets. This makes me feel better about the quality of my process through over 1,000 bets, DFS slates, and games.
I thought perhaps it would be helpful to others if I could highlight some of the changes I’ve made, and holes I noticed in my game.
Focus on Strengths
It is easy in this space to try and be good at everything. For most people, however, that will be too much to bear. That makes it important to determine what you are good at, and try to focus more time and energy into those areas. For me, that meant a lot more betting, and less DFS play.
I still play DFS because I enjoy it. It is intellectually stimulating for me, and there is a good bit of upside and edge in playing a peer-to-peer game versus betting against the house.
But I still believe I have a lot of work to do on my DFS game, where betting is already a strength. It’s also easier to get more money down in betting, which allows me to realize my edge sooner, and turn it over faster.
Specifically, my biggest strengths in betting lie in draft and futures markets. I ended up with an ROI over 80% between the NFL Draft, NBA Draft, and NFL Futures, and still have a 45/1 Bucs ticket that is in limbo. These are markets that typically take a long time to develop, which allows for a ton of edge.
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This is the boring part, but was critical to my success. I’m a bit of a nit with my bankroll. Heck, I like being a nit about it. That’s why you see the 1% indicator in the first screenshot of my bankroll. I like to use that as a barometer of how much to get down on a given slate/bet.
For DFS, I play mostly tournaments, and am typically playing 1% or less of my bankroll in those contests. You can see how — especially with there being no sports for a few months, and my primary sport being NFL — it would be difficult to get a good bit of cash down in DFS alone. I actually started out my year by playing very low-stakes NHL tournaments on FanDuel. I knew absolutely nothing about hockey, but NHL DFS is a fantastic area to work on DFS tenants such as ownership, correlation, and leverage.
For betting, I try to keep most bets to 0-5% of my bankroll depending on the amount of edge there is in the wager. But assuming that each bet is an independent event, I can place more bets (and with a higher probability of return) than I can play DFS slates. So even if my edge was the same, there is more money to be made as a bettor. Colin Drew (@drewby417) talks about this when discussing PGA DFS as a reason to play Showdown contests as well as full four-day ones. The same logic applies here.
But whether it is DFS or betting, keeping wagers to a low percentage of my bankroll insulates me well from ruin — which was something I left myself exposed to greatly a couple of years ago. The simple math on this is that if every wager was 1% of my bankroll, it would take 69 straight full-loss sessions to cut my bankroll in half.
Don’t Try to Predict Outcomes — Maximize Edges
Something Jordan Cooper (@blenderhd) admonishes frequently in his content is predicting outcomes. This is a mistake that DFS players and sports bettors make alike. I’m not going to try to explain the game theory of DFS better than Jordan. If you want to learn about it at a high level, I recommend you purchase his course. Much of my revamped approach to DFS is due to following Jordan’s content, and it is summarized nicely (and more) in this 15-hour audio masterclass.
I will say that similar principles apply to sports betting. When I place a wager, I am not looking to predict the outcome of the event. My objective is always to get the best price. I do not expect to beat the house on something like NBA sides — and I think it is a fool’s errand to believe you can without some kind of advanced model (even with one, I think that would be difficult). But if I can create the most value in my bets, then I give myself the best chance to be a long-term winner. This is something I wrote about when discussing draft markets. I don’t need to predict the result of an event, just where the market will move the number.
One way to get the best number on bets is to monitor the news. Injuries especially will move lines greatly. I wrote about this in my NBA props piece, but it applies to all kinds of wagers. Of course, these bets don’t always pan out — I got about a full touchdown of spread value on Miami this weekend, and they got destroyed — but you will be raising the EV of your entire gambling portfolio.
I am confident that anyone can be a successful sports bettor simply by following the news and tailing sharp projections in the prop market. The house works incredibly hard to make lines efficient, but is ultimately a market. It takes work, but is worth it if your goal is making money, not just sweating the games.
2021 Goals and Resolutions
While I’ve done well in 2020, I certainly do not pretend to be perfect. There are plenty of areas I’d like to improve, but two that almost immediately come to mind as things I’d like to make strengths by the end of 2021.
Go Harder in Best Ball
As you can see, I had a very successful year in best ball for 2020. I had no teams make a final in tournaments, but well out-performed my expected number of playoff teams. I finished 37th in the Drafters Bestball Championship (which is just total points) to go along with four other teams in the top 1,000. I also did extremely well in cash contests, winning my biggest 12-man league (hey, it helps to run hot), and accruing a 28% ROI in Fanball double-ups.
I think I have a strong understanding of the game-theory behind best ball, and would like to press my edge more next season. I’m not sure how much cash I will play given the amount of money I’d have to lay out and not have access to for a few months, but really want to go harder at tournaments.
Maximize Cash-Out Edges
Often times, sportsbooks will allow you to cash out tickets early at some kind of discounted rate from the current odds. You have to be careful, because the kinds of bets that qualify for cash-outs vary by book, but I think there is real money to be made without even waiting for events to begin. For instance, I made an easy 5x this past weekend by hitting Ty Montgomery touchdown props after the entire Saints backfield was ruled out.
At the time, I hit the Montgomery prop because I knew it would be a good bet versus the closing line (remember, we aren’t predicting outcomes). But had I known the cash-out opportunity would have been there (this was on FoxBet), I would have hit this for the max and just scooped a huge profit (I cashed out anyway, and Montgomery did not score).
Cashing out on long-shots is a great way to take the variance out of good wagers, even if it costs you some EV. I’m still getting the hang of what bets are cash-out eligible at each book, but would like to really maximize my edge on this going forward. I love the idea of cashing out Sklansky Bucks for real profit.