DFS Baseball 101: If I Ruled the DFS World (2015 Edition)

DFS Baseball 101: If I Ruled the DFS World (2015 Edition)

This article is part of our DFS Baseball 101 series.

Around this time last year I wrote an article entitled If I Ruled the DFS World, and it probably generated the most buzz out of any article I have ever written. As I was reflecting on the DFS industry this week, it got me thinking that I should do an update to the original article. Some of the things I wrote about last year: rewarding free play, easier contest formats, simplified scoring, protecting the ecosystem, improving tournament payout structure, season-long contests, and gamification still apply, but I decided to look at how to improve contests already in DFS.

Head-to-Head Games

Reward head-to-head play by issuing a wins bonus each month
Fantasy Aces does this already and it is a great "rake back" program that encourages heads up play. Sites need to grow their heads up volume as it will be a sustainer of volume and more predictive. Relying too heavily on tournament volume and live event qualifiers is becoming too much of the norm. It does not have to be straight cash; it can be a private contest or tickets into future events. There is not enough incentive to play heads up games unless you are playing massive volume.

Offer lower rake for playing higher ranked opponents
This would be two-fold: first, it would encourage more players to play heads up. Second, it would also increase the amount of play that the heaviest volume players now get. By offering reduced rake, I might be more apt to play higher level opponents. Sites could designate these players in the lobby as "reduced rake" opponents.

Reward playing multiple sports
One of the biggest things that a daily fantasy sports site wants to get users trying different sports. If I do not follow a sport, I will most likely only play if there is overlay in a large prize pool tournament. But really and truly, you should be playing in heads up where the risk is low. Why not offer an incentive like your first 10 contests are rake free?

Reward playing different opponents
Most of the time when I am selecting heads up contests, I am just looking at the entry fee and names randomly to see if I know them, and if I do not, then I take the game. But why not reward for playing a variety of opponents? Highlight people I have never played before, or reward me for playing them. This can only help everyone get their games taken.

Give recommended opponents
In lieu of the sites not posting a player's win-rate or the amount of wins they have, then I would like to see some "recommended opponents" based on average entry fee. If I only play $1-$2 games, I should be able to see who the players are that also only play in that average entry fee range and decide if I want to play them.

No stacking contests
At Daily Joust, we used to run "No Stack" contests where you could only take a maximum of three hitters per team. DraftStreet used to have a maximum four hitters per game stacking rule. The stacking is getting out of hand, but I also cannot blame the players because it is the best way to play large-field tournaments. I cannot blame the sites because it is their job to drive revenue as high as possible. So what is the solution? We just need more single-entry, minimal-stacking contests to be offered. It will require some programming on the provider side, but this is also a good way to introduce newer players into the tournament pool. Right now, it's murky.

Higher percent payout tournaments
Most large-field tournaments pay out 20 percent on average. I would like to see some tournaments pay out 30-to-35 percent even if it means that some of the cashes are 50-to-75 percent of the entry fee. There is a reason why slot machines pay back 10-to-50 percent on some outcomes. It gives the illusion that you "won" something versus nothing and encourages repeat play.


Improved pay trails
One of the biggest concerns I have in daily fantasy sports is the huge emphasis on live finals and the qualifiers. While these contests are supposed to be designed as marketing tools to attract new players, they have transformed into multiple entry large-bankroll player events.

The pay trails in these contests are unfavorable, with most being in the 5-to-10 percent range. These are bankroll killers and are only rewarding the highest volume players who can afford to take the risks.

Fantasy Aces runs a live event qualifier with a 15 percent pay out trail and what they have found is most people take their winnings and put it back in for future qualifiers. You can do that with a larger pay trail, and I think you can even go to 20 percent. Getting back to my point about rewarding even a 25-to-50 percent of the entry fee prize is better than nothing. There have been complaints from players when a site tried to issue "tickets" instead of cash in qualifiers as prizes, but I do not see any issue if it's to extend the pay trail.

Multiple Event Live Final
Instead of one big event for a live final, why not offer several smaller events that are geared towards all players? For example, if you have a 100-person $2 million live final, why not get more juice from the squeeze by offering up five events at at $100K, $150K, $250K, $500K and $1 million? You can gear the smaller prize pools to new players by making them 20 seats or attract the higher stakes player by making it a 5 or 10-person event. The larger prize pools can hold more people, so this way you still have 100 people at your event and the same prize pool, but instead of only catering to a certain piece of your audience, you are covering everyone.

I hope everyone enjoys my take on the DFS industry, as someone who has worked behind the scenes in a consultant role and handling operations, I will always wear a hat of how I think we can make DFS a better place!

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Michael Rathburn plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: burnnotice, DraftKings: burnnotice, Yahoo: burnnotice, Fantasy Aces: burnnotice, FantasyDraft: burnnotice.
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Michael Rathburn
Known as “Rath” in the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) community, he has helped run operations for two prominent daily fantasy sports startups. Michael has taken his insider knowledge and expertise in daily fantasy sports to the content side. Rath won the 2016 FSWA "Baseball Article of the Year, Online" award and was a finalist for the FSWA Best Baseball Series in 2011.
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