Cash Games Versus Tournaments

fd-101-300x300Welcome to FantasyDraft 101, the only series designed to teach you how to play daily fantasy sports and win on The articles are designed to teach the basics step-by-step in order to educate beginning players and assist them in becoming the best competitor they can be. With little to no prior knowledge of the topic, these are the fundamentals to setting competitive daily fantasy baseball lineups.

Cash Games Versus Tournaments

Cash Games – These are the contests where around 50% of the entries finish in the PayoutZone. 50/50’s and head-to-head games classify as the two different forms of cash games.

Tournaments – Contests where only a more select percentage of entries finish in the money than cash games. Commonly, these contests include triple-ups, multipliers and all the large GPP (guaranteed prize pool) contests. Essentially any other format than 50/50’s, double-ups, and head-to-heads qualify as tournaments and require a different strategy than cash games.

Why is there a difference in ideology of lineup setting between the two contests? The answer is simple: you only need to beat 50 percent of the field to cash in 50/50’s, whereas you need to beat approximately 75 percent in tournaments. The goal each and every night is to finish in the PayoutZone, and since it is easier to do so in cash games, the game plan should be slightly different in the two formats.

Cash Strategy

In order to be profitable over a long period of time, one would need to finish in the PayoutZone 56 percent of the time in cash games. Since you only need to cash slightly over half the time, the mindset should be to play it safe. A lineup will likely not need four home runs in order to finish in just the top half. Therefore, cash strategy is to try and play players with the highest possible floor in a given slate. If a lineup escapes without any complete duds, they will likely be in contention and will only need a player or two to have a big day. A suggestion for cash games would be to focus on batters hitting in the one through six spots in their respective lineups. In terms of playing the percentages, players batting higher in their lineups will have more opportunities to contribute. Here is the approximate number of at-bats each spot in the lineup will see over the course of a full season (based on 2009 statistics):

National League

1st – 763
2nd – 746
3rd – 728
4th – 711
5th – 696
6th – 681
7th – 662
8th – 643
9th – 622

American League

1st – 762
2nd – 743
3rd – 725
4th – 709
5th – 693
6th – 675
7th – 657
8th – 638
9th – 618

Over a 162 game span, the one hitter will have approximately 144 more at-bats than the nine hitter or ~0.89 at-bats per game. So that means, if we round up, players at the top of the order average nearly one more opportunity to produce per game. Without a penalty for making outs, it makes too much sense to focus on players. In the cash game format, obvious plays may emerge due to a great hitter facing a poor pitcher or an elite pitcher facing a weak offense. Do not stray from the pack just to be different, because consistency is the name of the game. Batters with poor average that have the home run upside, such as Chris Carter (.219 career batting average), are not favorable plays for the format. Pitchers with limited strikeout upside such as Tim Hudson (career 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings) are also poor picks due to their lower floor than strikeout pitchers. Average and steal specialists are typically better suited for cash games as well because home runs are usually needed to win tournaments. Vegas lines are helpful in determining pitchers and offenses to target because Vegas determines the odds on which team will win and how many runs each team will score. Using Vegas as a guide helps determine which teams have the highest probability of success for that day. The mindset is simply to win more often than you lose and not take any unnecessary risks in cash games. Players with a great deal of value instability are better suited for tournaments.

Tournament Strategy

Tournaments are where you can let your imagination run wild in daily fantasy baseball. Since the goal becomes to beat approximately 75 percent of the field instead of 50, a higher score will be needed to win. FantasyDraft offers deep payouts (at least 25 percent of participants paid out in all FantasyDraft-generated contests), so you’re chances of winning here are pretty solid. Many tournament formats have a payout format where the higher you finish, the more you win. In order to finish first in a large field, risks will likely need to be taken. If a player is on everyone’s radar, not using them can sometimes be more beneficial than using them, because if he fails you have an upper-hand on most of the field. Players in the lower part of the lineups now become options as well (although loading up on them is not recommended), because there is still the possibility of they will produce, even if it is slightly less. Risky plays are always in play because if everything shakes out, you can win big. Home run, multiple steal, and win upside are what to look for in players because these types of outcomes will likely put a good day over the top. Basically go big or go home in tournaments, while you should be slightly more conservative in cash games. Combining those simple strategies will give you the best opportunity to maximize profits.

We will discuss other factors that contribute towards setting nightly lineups in future articles. With a basic understanding of the mindset differences between the two contest formats, the objective for each should now be clear. See you in the PayoutZone.

If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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