Advice for Getting Started With Daily Fantasy Hockey
Fantasy football and baseball are hugely popular, but fantasy hockey is gaining steam. One great way to play is to participate in daily fantasy hockey leagues online.
The daily version of the hobby has multiple advantages over the season long version. The most important advantage is the rapidity with which you get your results and your winnings. You'd be hard-pressed to make a living playing season-long fantasy hockey, but the daily version of the sport offers a real chance at winning plenty of money over time.
Does that sound intriguing?
If so, read on, as the rest of this page provides specific advice for getting started.
Scoring in Daily Fantasy Hockey
In all fantasy sports, including hockey, you recruit a lineup of your favorite players. Their results in the day's games determine your score. Your opponents do the same. The rules for scoring vary from league to league and from site to site, but they're essentially the same in the daily version of the game as they are in the season-long variety.
Let's take a look at how the scoring works at one of the most popular sites for daily fantasy hockey. Their scoring rules are both simple and illustrative of how it all works.
You get points when any of your forwards or defensemen accomplish any of the following during their game.
- Goals are worth 3 points.
- Assists are worth 2 points.
- Plus/Minus is worth 1 point.
- Penalty Minutes are worth 0.25 points.
- Powerplay Points are scored at 0.5 points.
- Shots on goal are worth 0.4 points.
Goalies have a more limited number of ways to score points, but they're important.
- A win is worth 3 points.
- Goals against are worth -1 point each.
- Saves are worth 0.2 points.
- Shutouts are worth 2 points.
Some of the other big sites in this niche use scoring systems that are almost exactly the same as this, while others use different systems. When you get started at a site, the first thing to do is review the scoring system for that site carefully. You can't win a game of any kind if you don't know how to keep score. Daily fantasy hockey is no exception.
Setting Your Lineup
Different sites also have different rules for how many players and in what positions you can have for a lineup. For example, the roster positions at one popular site are as follows.
Here you can use right wings or left wings to fill the wing spots. The utility spot can be filled with any skater, although you cannot use a goalie.
Another site uses the following positions for lineups.
The differences in the positions you have to fill at a site will have some impact on how you go about selecting your team, so it's important to be aware of them.
It's also worth noting a major difference between the season long version of fantasy hockey and the daily version is how the draft is handled. In a season-long draft, league managers choose players one at a time. Once a player is chosen by someone, he is no longer available to the other players.
In a daily fantasy league, it's possible to not only have the same player as your opponent, it's possible to have the same lineup. You won't see your opponent's lineup until the game starts, but it's important to realize there might be overlap between your team and your opponent's team.
Salary Caps & The Concept of Value
One might think that everyone would just choose all the best players for their lineup, and everyone would have the same lineup, and it would be a big waste of time. But to make up for being able to draft the same players as your opponent, the sites have instituted a salary cap structure.
A salary cap works as follows.
- You're given a budget of in-game funds to use to recruit players.
- It's an arbitrary amount; it might be $50,000 on one site and $35,000 at another.
- You always have the same amount of draft dollars as your opponent.
- The buy-in for the contest is irrelevant to the salary cap.
Think of draft dollars as being the equivalent of the money in the game Monopoly. It has no real-world-value, but you can't play or win the game without it.
The sites also set a salary value for each player. This amount is determined by an algorithm known only to the site, but it takes into account each player's previous performances as well as his projected performance.
The goal is to find players who are going to score a lot of points relative to the amount of salary spent on them. This is called "finding value", and it's the crucial component of daily fantasy hockey strategy.
Determining a player's actual value is a simple equation. You just divide the amount of money spent on the player by the number of points he earns. Then you have a dollar amount that you've spent per point.
Here's an example:
- You recruit a player for $10,000. That player scores ten points. Each point cost $1,000.
- You recruit another player for $5,000. He also scores ten points. Each point cost $500.
You can and should also look at your entire lineup's value. If a team as a whole scored 100 points, and you spent $50,000 on the entire team, then you spent $500 per point. If your opponent's team scored 200 points, then he only spent $250 per point.
Projecting points versus cost is the heart of your strategic consideration. In board games, this is called resource management. It's an interesting wrinkle, and it's what makes playing daily fantasy hockey so much fun.
Our recommendation is to start with affordable contests and track your results per player and overall. Set a goal of lowering the amount of draft dollars you spend per point on a per player basis and on an overall basis. When and if you can consistently achieve better results week after week, you'll be well on your way to being a winning player.
Free Contests To Get Started With
All of the major sites offer free fantasy hockey contests at least once a week—sometimes more. These are contests with cash prizes that require no entry fee. We always recommend taking advantage of these free contests. For one thing, they're a positive expectation bet. For another, you can learn how to play and possibly win real cash without having to risk any money.
You'll also find contests with low buy-ins. Most sites have contests starting at just a dollar. We don't know of any opportunity in a season-long league to get into action for just a buck.
If you're nervous about how much it's going to cost to participate in this hobby, stick with the freerolls and the low buy-in contests until you're confident that you can win a reasonable amount of the time. Your break-even percentage will vary based on what kinds of contests you want to participate in.
Fantasy Hockey Contest Types
You can broadly divide daily fantasy hockey contests into two larger segments:
- Cash games
Cash games are games where you can almost double your money if you win, and there's a roughly 50% chance of winning. There are two main categories of cash games; head to head contests and 50/50 contests.
The only real difference between these types of cash games is the number of players. A head to head (H2H) contest only has two players. The winner of such a contest wins the whole prize pool. A 50/50 contest, on the other hand, might have 20 or 100 or some other even number of entrants. The players with scores landing in the top 50% of the field win, regardless of their exact place. The rest of the players lose, regardless of their exact place.
All daily fantasy sites keep a commission in exchange for hosting these contests. This reduces the amount of money available in the prize pool.
Here's an example of how that works:
- You enter a H2H contest with a $1 entry fee.
- Your opponent also paid a $1 entry fee.
- The total of entry fees is $2.
- The site takes a 10% commission of $.20.
- The prize for the winner is $1.80.
Here's another example:
- You enter a 50/50 contest with 100 participants.
- Everyone paid $1 to play.
- There's $100 in entry fees.
- The site takes a 10% commission of $10.
- That leaves $90 in the prize pool.
- The top 50 each win the same amount, $1.80.
This commission has a dramatic effect on what percentage of contests you have to win in order to break even. In cash games, the break-even percentage is 55.56%. Win less often, and you'll be a net loser in the long run. On the other hand, win more often, and you'll be a net winner in the long run.
By contrast, tournaments offer you the opportunity to win a large return on your initial investment, but you also face a greater risk. The site keeps a commission, but the prize pool is usually divided between the top 20% or so of the field. And tournaments, of course, always have more than two players—usually a lot more.
Here's an example of how a tournament might work:
- You pay $100 to play in a tournament with 2777 players.
- The prize pool for this contest is $250,000.
- The site collects $277,700 in entry fees, and keeps $27,700 in commission.
- Anyone who places in the top 500 of this contest wins something.
- The amount won is determined by how you place:
- 1st place - $30,000
- 2nd place - $20,000
- 3rd place - $15,000
- 4th place - $10,000
- 5th place - $7,500
- 6th place - $5,000
- 7th & 8th place - $4,000
- 9th – 11th place - $3,000
- 12th – 15th place - $2,000
- 16th – 21st place - $1,500
- 22nd – 27th place - $1,000
- 28th – 35th place - $750
- 36th – 50th place - $500
- 51st – 80th place - $400
- 81st – 150th place - $300
- 151st 270th place - $250
- 271st – 500th place - $200
As you can see, your potential return on investment in this sort of contest is dramatically higher. Win first place, and you earn $30,000 on a $100 buy-in, which is a profit of $29,900.
Many tournaments at daily fantasy hockey sites offer a guaranteed prize pool. In this case, the site pays the agreed upon prize structure even if the contest doesn't fill. In the above example, if it were a GPP (guaranteed prize pool) tournament, you'd have the same payouts even if only 2,000 or 1,000 players entered.
The extra money paid out would come from the site itself. This situation is called an overlay, and it's something you should take advantage of every chance you get. The extra money that the site contributes is dead money, and it increases the expected return on the contest.
Here's how to calculate the break-even percentage for tournaments. Divide your buy-in by the total payout amount. Then multiply that by the number of payouts. In the above example, you buy in for $100 and the total payout amount is $250,000. There are 500 payouts. You'd need to win at least 20% of the time in order to break even in that contest.
Most players participate in both cash games and in tournaments. The cash games provide a steady return, but the potentially large return for the tournaments is something most players can't walk away from.
Think of the two contest types as being different investment types. Most financial advisors suggest keeping a percentage of your savings in bonds, which are a safe investment with a low return, and a percentage in stocks, which are riskier but provide a potentially higher return. That way you preserve your capital while also achieving better than average returns.
If you're a losing player over the long run, you'll eventually go broke no matter how well you manage your bankroll. There's nothing wrong with being a hobbyist who loses over the long run, by the way. But if that's you, your goal when managing your bankroll is to have as much fun as possible.
On the other hand, if you're a winning player, avoid putting so much money into action that you run the risk of going broke before your long term edge over the other players kicks in.
For example, let's say you have a bankroll of $1,000. You enter a heads-up contest with a $1,000 buy-in. Your opponent isn't as good as you, but you still estimate that you have a 40% chance of losing. If you win, you're up to $1,800, which is great. But if you lose, you're out of action until you put together a new bankroll.
On the other hand, if you took that $1,000 and played in a hundred contests with a $10 buy-in, you'll be unlikely to have $1,800 afterward, but you'll be dramatically less likely to go broke, too.
Assuming again that you can win 60% of these contests, you'll wind up with $1,080 when it's all said and done. That's not as exciting as the $1,800, but you don't have to worry about whether or not you can play tomorrow.
And if you can achieve that kind of return every day, your bankroll will grow larger more rapidly than you think. That's because you can reinvest your winnings into more contests.
Here's how that looks.
- Day 2 - Take the $1,080 and enter 108 contests. Win 60% of those. The bankroll is now $1,166.40.
- Day 3 - Enter 116 contests. Win 60% of those and wind up with $1,252.80.
- Day 4 –Enter 125 contests. Wind up with about $1,350.
- Day 5 – Enter 135 contests. Wind up with about $1,458.
- Day 6 – 145 contests. Ending bankroll = $1,566.
- Day 7 – 156 contests. Ending bankroll = $1,684.
So yeah, winning $80 on a $1,000 investment doesn't seem like a big deal, but keep reinvesting those returns in additional contests. Maintain your winning percentage, and compound interest takes over, and soon you're winning $684 a week.
The trick is to only risk between 1% and 2.5% of your bankroll on buy-ins each week. Even if you have bad luck one week, over time, you'll be less likely to go broke, and your odds of going broke are almost none.
Daily fantasy hockey is a fun and exciting way to get some money into action on sports. Everyone can participate regardless of how much money they have—even with only $20 to spend on entertainment, you can find contests to fit your budget.
Learning the subtleties of how the different contests work and how to manage your bankroll are the first steps in becoming a winning player.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: October 2015
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