Here's the ESPN Fantasy guide to the must-know daily fantasy sports terms that you will see our experts using to get you ready for NFL DFS contests.
Bankroll: Your bankroll is the amount of money you have set aside to play DFS. Your goal as a DFS player is to grow your bankroll by winning contests so that your initial investment becomes just a seed for your future profit.
Bankroll management: This is the key to long-term DFS success. If you want to build bankroll and stay profitable, there are proven strategies for bankroll management to help you do so. First, you want to risk only about 5-10 percent of your bankroll per week for NFL DFS (5 percent or less per day for MLB and NBA contests). So if you have $500 on a site, you should play $25-50 worth of weekly NFL contests. By limiting your exposure, you limit the damages on the inevitable losing weeks. Of the bankroll you are playing with (say $50), it makes sense to put most of it into cash games. Playing approximately 80 percent (roughly $40 in our example) in cash games gives you the best opportunity to increase your bankroll. The remaining 20 percent ($10) can be played in higher-risk, higher-reward tournament style games. Following this formula, or some slight variation of it that suits your own bankroll and comfort level, is the best way to stay in the game and eventually play exclusively with your profits.
Cash game: Cash games are those contests in which half of the participants roughly double their buy-in. They are the safest contests to play in DFS, because the odds of winning are greatest. For that reason, they form the backbone of a profitable bankroll management strategy. The most common types of cash games are head-to-head contests and double-ups (50/50s).
Deposit bonus: When you make your initial deposit onto a DFS site, the site will offer you a one-time deposit bonus. Codes can be found via a simple search. Some sites offer new players and a friend a free game if they sign up using a specific referral link, so if any of your friends play regularly, check with them before signing up. A typical deposit bonus will be 100 percent of your initial deposit, but as sites compete for new users in this huge recruiting window before NFL DFS starts, you might see as much as 200 percent. For that reason, you should deposit as much as you can initially rather than depositing $10 and thinking you can add more later. The bonuses are almost always one-time-only deals. A common misconception of the deposit bonus is that the money will be available instantly. Unfortunately, these are trickle bonuses, meaning that the bonus money is released as you play contests. The rate is 4 cents per $1 spent on the site. That seems slow, but if you're a regular player, it pays out fairly quickly.
Double-up or 50/50: These cash game contests feature buy-ins at essentially any level you desire, with as big or small of a field as you like. So you can play in a $10 double-up with 20 people or with 2,000 people, and you can play for $1 or $1,000. You can also choose to play in single-entry or multi-entry double-up contests. While both are excellent bankroll builders, there is a subtle difference between a double-up and a 50/50 contest. In a 50/50, every entrant pays rake up front, and the top 50 percent of entries win double their entry, minus that rake. For example, you may enter a $3 50/50 with 80 people in it and if you finish in the top 40, you'll win $5.40. Everyone in the contest pays the rake. In one big NFL double-up on FanDuel, you enter for $5, and if you finish in the top 20,000, you win $10, but there are 45,454 people in the contest. In this case, the site fees are covered by the "extra" 5,454 people, and it's really the top 44 percent who double their money.
Fade: To fade a player in DFS is to specifically and selectively, after careful consideration, not play him. It's used most often when the player in question has a number of positive attributes that are appealing for fantasy. The most common reason for fading a good player is that you think he will be so highly owned by the field that by having him in your lineup you can't get ahead (using game theory). This logic applies mainly to big GPPs and can backfire in cash games. When a certain player has an excellent skill set, matchup, price and opportunity, he will correctly be owned in a high percentage of lineups in cash games. If you fade him, and he performs as expected, you will almost certainly not cash, but if you use him, and he fails to perform as expected, it doesn't hurt you because everyone else is in the same boat. See the "lineup construction" entry for more on this.
Fish: New DFS players are called fish. It's an affectionate term, for the most part, as everyone is excited to see the DFS industry grow. However, to keep it healthy and strong, fish need to learn how to survive the shark-infested contests. Thus, we offer this and other educational articles to get new DFS players on equal footing faster.
Game theory: Using game theory requires us to take into account what others are doing as we make a decision. It can be applied to any facet of life, but for NFL DFS specifically, it usually means considering whom we think our opponents will be using in their lineups in addition to who we think the best players are any given week. It is important to remember that the goal of DFS isn't necessarily to have the highest possible score. It's to have a higher score than the people playing against you. That's the essence of game theory.
GPP/tournament: A GPP, which stands for guaranteed prize pool, is a large-field contest in which the prize money is guaranteed by the site even if the contest fails to fill to its maximum capacity. I tend to use the more general term "tournament" because the same strategy principles apply whether the prize is guaranteed or not. The important thing to remember about tournaments is that the prizes are bigger, the pay line is higher, and the payout distribution is very top heavy. Consider the big Millionaire Maker tournaments that DraftKings runs for a $20 buy-in. First prize in Week 1 is $2 million. Second is $1 million. If you finish in the top 400 (0.07 percent of the entries), you will make $1,000 or more. Overall, 21.9 percent of the entries will win at least $25. With a capacity of 572,500 entries, this contest requires a very different strategy than you'd use for cash games. A conservative bankroll management strategy would recommend you play only about 20 percent of your allotted bankroll in tournaments because while the rewards can be life-changing, the fact is that about 80 percent of entries will lose.
Head-to-head: A popular cash game format, head-to-head contests pit one DFS player against another for any buy-in level. Playing a variety of H2H contests against different users is a good way to build bankroll. Having variability among opponents is important, because even if you don't have the best lineup in a given week, you're likely to have a better lineup than some people if you're a good player. For this reason, if you have only $20 to play in cash games, it makes more sense to play 20 $1 contests than to play two $10 contests. The net gain will be the same if you win all of them, but in the event that you don't have that stellar lineup, diversifying can help save some of your bankroll. When you look for H2H contests, you'll find the lobby full of user-generated games. It's worth learning who the best DFS players are, because as a beginner, you probably don't want to attempt to build your bankroll playing against the best professional players. If you don't know whose games to enter, you can also create your own, but beware that there are DFS sharks that will prey on unfamiliar users who post contests in the lobby. Familiarize yourself with the different sites, as some have random matchup generators for H2H contests, too. Always look for beginner-only H2H contests when you're starting out.
Lineup construction: The beauty of DFS is that every slate is different. Every week in the NFL and every night in baseball requires a different solution to the same general problem. Lineup building is what we gear all of our ESPN Insider content toward, helping you succeed. We'll help you find the perfect combination of talent, matchup and price at every position for football, as we've been doing for baseball all summer. Here, I'll just give a general goal for cash game vs. tournament lineups.
For cash games, your goal is to roster high-floor, high-ceiling guys. You want to limit variance and stack safety. Because you only have to beat out one guy (or half the field), you can afford to play it safe. It's OK to plug in the running back everyone is talking about. If he's great, he's great for you, too, and if he's not, he's bad for everyone else as well. You can easily lose a cash game by being one of a few people fading an obviously good player, but it's hard to lose a cash game solely because you rostered him.
For tournaments, you're looking to be in at least the top 20 percent, which is a more difficult spot to place. In a large-field tournament, you have to find ways to differentiate your lineup from everyone else's and score more points than you might need to win in a cash game. For that reason, you're looking for high-upside players, period. You welcome variance in the form of deep ball specialist wide receivers, rushing quarterbacks and boom-or-bust tight ends. I still believe in going with solid running back production, but perhaps you choose the one of the top eight that has a more difficult matchup on paper. You also want to stack players from the same team to maximize how on-field scoring is reflected in your DFS score. Tournament lineups are the place to avoid using a lot of potentially highly owned players that we welcome in our cash game lineups. Note that no one is ever as highly owned as Twitter would have you believe and that having one highly owned player doesn't preclude you from a top finish in big tournaments.
Multi-entry vs. single-entry: A single-entry contest is one in which each user is allowed only one lineup entry. There are single-entry cash games and single-entry tournaments. In order to offer huge weekly prizes, sites also offer users the option of entering multiple lineups into the same contest, which heavy-volume, well-bankrolled players do often. Sometimes there is a limit on the number of entries any unique user can enter -- there's a 500-entry limit on the Week 1 Millionaire Maker on DraftKings -- and sometimes the only limit is your own time or scripting abilities. The ability to enter multiple unique lineups into the same contest is a great way to get exposure to different players and player combinations that you like. If I'm doing multi-entry, I tend to keep the same core players in my lineup and switch out three or four guys at positions where there are either several equally good options or no obviously good options. In NFL DFS, I may have a RB/WR/WR/TE core that I feel great about, and build lineups that differ in the QB/WR combination (I almost always use the primary wide receiver of my QB), second running back slot and defense. Remember with multi-entry that great lineups win tournaments; it's not necessarily a "more is better" numbers game.
Optimality: The theory of optimality describes a decision-making process that considers the costs and benefits of different options, then chooses the option resulting in the greatest benefit at least cost. This strategy plays into our drive to minimize loss over our drive to seek rewards. It's best suited for cash game play, where our goal is to achieve a high score with a low degree of risk. I think most players' lineup-building processes start with optimality for cash games and are then modified for tournaments.
Qualifier: A qualifier is a type of contest in which the top finisher wins a ticket to another contest. Some qualifiers are for extravagant live final experiences, such as those hosted by FanDuel in Las Vegas or by DraftKings in the Bahamas. Often only the top finisher wins anything, while sometimes the runner(s)-up win cash prizes. Qualifiers are the hardest games to win, and are recommended only for those with money to lose in their bankrolls. They are the highest risk, but also offer the highest reward, because a seat in a live final not only provides a memorable vacation, it usually provides the chance to compete in a very small field for a very large prize.
Rake: Not a term that the DFS industry embraces -- owing to its ties with the online poker industry -- rake refers to the fees that the sites take in exchange for offering the contests. It varies by site and by contest, but is easy to calculate. Most fees are around 9 percent of the contest buy-in, though they can be lower for the highest buy-in games and higher for certain tournaments and qualifiers.
Satellite: A satellite contest offers the winner or winners entry into another game via a ticket. Commonly, the satellite contest is a low-buy-in game that gets the winner a ticket to a high-dollar qualifier or GPPs. Like qualifiers, satellite contests are very hard to win, since usually only the top one to five entries will win tickets.
Sharks: Experienced, sometimes professional DFS players who look to build their bankrolls off fish. To avoid sharks, play as many beginner-specific games as you can. Anyone who has played more than 50 contests in that sport is excluded from entering beginner games. Posting your own H2H contests is a way to attract sharks, who, I should point out, are not bad people. They are merely trying to maximize their profits within the rules of the game.
Slate: A slate refers to a set of games included in a given contest. For NFL, common slates are all week (includes all the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games), Sunday only, primetime (only the Thursday night, Sunday night and Monday night games) and Monday/Thursday night games.
Stacking: The use of stacks in your DFS lineup allows you to sort of double-up on fantasy points. Say your quarterback throws three touchdown passes to a top-tier wide receiver. It makes sense for you to have that wide receiver in your lineup rather than someone else. QB-WR1 is the highest correlated combination for fantasy points. QB-RB is not highly correlated; only rarely will the running back and quarterback on the same team both have superior fantasy days, but RB-DEF can be a valuable combination. NFL stacking is on a much smaller scale than it is in MLB, where you can sometimes roster up to six players on the same team. A full fantasy point correlation matrix can be found at RotoViz.com.
Tilt: The agony of a good decision gone wrong is commonly referred to as tilt. It's another poker term, but one we sadly embrace. Share the misery on Twitter as players you faded go off and those you trusted sprain ankles. Tilt proudly as your top-scoring quarterback loses the 0.25-point lead you had during end-of-game kneel-downs. We'll sympathize with you if Ben Watson vultures all of Josh Hill's touchdowns (I will, at least).