5 min read

DFS: Cash Contest Selection

It's easy to think you're going to be profitable in DFS, but actually making money long-term is a lot more difficult than it seems.

Think of it like a carnival game. If you're going to win any of the prizes, then you better figure out the right strategies. Otherwise, you can kiss that money goodbye. Lucky for you, you’re taking a step in the right direction familiarizing yourself with contest selection. When browsing the lobby for cash games, you want to search for contests labeled as 50/50s, head-to-heads, and double-ups.

Below we will discuss what to expect and how you should approach the three games.

Contest Selection


A 50/50 contest is easy to understand, because it’s all in the name: there is a 50/50 chance of winning. Unlike tournaments, cash games have no tiers where the top half gets significantly more money than everyone else who is placing. It will all be distributed evenly.

For example, say there are 100 people who enter a contest for $10. That means the top 50 winners will get $18. This is because DFS websites need to make money too and will do so through a term called “rake”. DraftKings and FanDuel take a 10% rake for themselves out of your buy-in and leave winners with a 90% profit. 

To give yourself an advantage long-term, I'd recommend looking for a single entry 50/50 with a field size above 1,000. Why is that? Because the more people that are in a contest, the more it will increase your odds of not as many experienced players competing in the field. Not to forget to mention it’s easier to finish in the top 500 out of 1,000, compared to finishing in the top 5 out of 10. It will also lesses the chances for those to win on pure dumb luck and heightens the opportunity for you to win on skill and a well-constructed roster.

One single entry is good because less variance is always better for cash games and making things more predictable! You don’t want the same people to enter multiple lineups with several outcomes. We want people to be chalky (definition of “chalk” found in Daily Fantasy Football Tournament 101 - The 33rd Team) and have the same high-rostered players.


Just like the name suggests, head-to-heads have you competing against only one other DFS player. You can either look for these contests in the lobby or set one up for yourself to have someone else compete against you. The payout is the same as 50/50’s with the 10% rake, except it's either you or the other person competing to be the sole winner. For example, in a $5 head-to-head contest, the winner would likely take home $9.

One way I like to get an advantage here is to compete against people who have head-to-heads posted without an experience badge next to their name. I prefer to seek out these contests rather than post one for someone to pick up, because well-versed DFS players known as “sharks” can come in and prey on the inexperienced players. Another fun way to win head-to-heads and keep it interesting is to ask your friends if they’d like to compete against you. That way, you know your competition and their experience level. The friendly banter is half the reason we love football anyway, so it can help make it more fun to play DFS on a weekly basis.


Common theme here, but all these contests have appropriate names with how the game is played. In double-ups, you are doubling the amount of money as your buy-in when placing in the top 43.5% of the contest; a little weird compared to 50/50’s where it’s the top 50%. In double-ups, DraftKings and FanDuel add an extra person or two to make sure everybody gets an even dollar amount. So, if you play in an 11-man contest for $50 and finish within the top 5, you will make $100 total because of the 10% rake. My approach to double-ups can basically be viewed the same way as I do 50/50s. Single-entry contests with larger fields help you here, as well, so you can eliminate variance. They are very similar: only the payout structure is different.


While some may say cash games are dead and ask, "why should I put so much effort into these types of contests to only double my money?" I say, let’s make cash games cool again to help keep our bankroll plenty and allow us to play with recycled money each week.

Work smarter and not harder, people.

Not only will cash games make you a better player for tournaments, but they also will help make you money. Once you master cash games and become comfortable competing, then you will gain a better understanding of how to strategize between cash and tournaments.

You will, therefore, ultimately become a better DFS player over time.