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Intermediate NFL DFS: League selection

We continue our breakdown of NFL DFS. In this section, we look at league selection, with definitions and some basic strategy.

Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the ball in the third quarter of the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

In daily fantasy football, like in most things, getting the fundamentals down is integral toward laying a foundation of knowledge to build from as you progress as a player. For DFS, that means understanding how salary inefficiency plays into your DFS strategy.

League selection


There are three basic league categories: head-to-head, tournament (GPP), and 50/50. Deciding which category to enter takes some strategy, which we will discuss below.


50/50 vs head-to-head

A head-to-head game is self-explanatory, in that it is your lineup against another single player’s lineup. A 50/50 game is different due to the number of lineups you’ll be competing against. Both give you similar odds of winning, as you need to beat 50 percent of the contestants to cash. But, the more contestants, the safer the contest. When you go against one other lineup in a head-to-head, the range of outcomes for that lineup are extremely wide. If you go up against 99 other lineups, those extremely high or low scores are mitigated by a wide range of finishes.

On the other side, an okay score in a 50/50 game could just miss cashing while that same score could give you some useful wins if you play multiple head-to-head matchups. This, in the end, shows us that playing multiple h2h games cuts risk by spreading it out while playing 50/50 games is higher risk/reward since you are putting more eggs into one basket.


Starting your NFL DFS career with multiple, $1, head-to-head beginner leagues is going to be the smart way to go, but as soon as you feel comfortable, you’ll likely want to start investing in tournaments (GPPs). Tournaments have hundred to thousands of lineups in them and around 10 percent of those win something. You can break even by making the cut, but to win a big prize, you still need to get into that elite range of top scorers.

Before investing money into this risky proposition, it’s good to prove to yourself you are ready to put together lineups with above average scores on a consistent basis. Tournament strategy is of course different than cash games, so you will need to play to get better, but start slow and don’t rely on cashing in tournaments to keep your head above water.