Playing daily fantasy sports can be a quick way to lose money fast if you do not know what you are doing. Trust me, I learned the hard way back in the early months of 2013.

I began playing NFL DFS when the 2012 season kicked off. I was hooked. It made the sport that much more fun to watch, especially when your season long team began to deal with injuries later in the year. All you had to be concerned with is how a player would do for one week. It is so much easier and more fun when you only have to worry about one opponent. A running back who gets 25 touches against the worst run defense in the NFL? Plug him in! A mid tier quarterback against the best pass defense in the league? Move on to the next one. The flexibility that daily fantasy gave me was addicting. When the NFL season ended, I decided to move on to a sport I never really even watched before: basketball.

I know it was in January of 2013, but couldn’t tell you which date.I decided out of the blue that I was going to play NBA DFS. I had no idea where to start, so I just looked at what FanDuel had on their site as far as statistics go. Believe me when I tell you that it was so much different then than it is now. I did my best to put together a lineup of guys who according to their stats had been playing well lately. My lineups that night were bolstered by a star named Kobe Bryant and a rising star named Kyrie Irving.

The problem was, they were both injured. This is long before any fantasy sites had any mechanism to warn players against this. The 7 active players in my lineup that night did great. Kobe and Kyire, however, achieved me two goose eggs. Additionally, I played a lot. I figured that daily fantasy was taking candy from a baby. I was correct. The problem: I was the baby.

Over the years, I have come to hone my craft. I will talk sport specific in later articles but for this, I will highlight 5 tools of the trade I really like to emphasize when making lineups:

  1. Make sure the players you roster are active
  2. Look for value first
  3. Weather is important
  4. Don’t hold grudges
  5. Exercise bankroll management

I’m sure there could be an easy ten more points to add to the list, but I feel like these are good starting points, especially since I violated these all more than once and paid dearly. Experience is the best teacher.

I know it sounds dumb, but you need to make sure your players are active. This was more prevalent back in the early days of daily fantasy, but it can still happen today. Sometimes, news breaks late, maybe even while you are making your lineups, and you miss it. College football can be a big pain because there are often not a ton of reliable sources of information. Do your due diligence. Make sure your hitter isn’t getting a night off. There are plenty of sites to help with this. You just need to do the work yourself.

Value is a major factor to consider. Getting someone cheap allows you to load your lineup with more security. The best way to find value is to look at the injuries and determine who is likely to be the biggest beneficiary. When Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe got injured earlier this season, Devin Booker and Archie Goodwin were the only guards left on the roster. They were also both sub 5k, and getting minutes close to the 40s. Minutes equals production [usually]. In baseball, players being called up are also good sources of value. When Carlos Correa and Kyle Schwarber were called up last season, they both took a slow path from minimum pricing. Correa was one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive, shortstop by the end of the year.

Pay attention to the weather. I cannot stress this enough. In baseball, games will get cancelled a lot for poor weather conditions. If you can’t switch out players, it is best to just leave them out. You will regret it when you get zeros. For sports that play outside and are unlikely to be cancelled, weather still plays a major role. It can affect how the pace of the game is played, and, in almost any sport, if the pace is slowed down, less fantasy points will be scored.

Holding grudges was a bad habit of mine. I would play a guy, he would inevitably do poorly, and I would justify not using him for long periods of time. You cannot be thin skinned in daily fantasy sports. Everyone will have off nights. Yes, it is horrible when you play them on off nights. Yes, it will be horrible when a player does it several times in a short span. In the long term, though, the player won’t be in the league very long if all they have is off nights, so the performance will likely turn around. You don’t want to miss out on a player making you money because he lost it for you a few times.

Finally, we have bankroll management. When I began playing daily fantasy, I would often play 50% or more of my bankroll a night. At first, it was just playing it all in tournaments. When I won, I usually cashed big, but when I lost, I lost it all. After, sadly, a few years of doing this, I expanded my strategy. I focused on playing cash games initially to hedge my bets with tournaments, because I found I could typically put together slightly above average lineups on most nights. Slightly above average is all it takes to win in cash games. Some of the technique is figuring out what type of player you are. For some, tournaments are all their minds can do well. Others do much better in the cash game setting. While I have won some good money in tournaments, typically I do much better in cash games.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive to do list in order to not lose money in daily fantasy. It is merely short pieces of advice to get you thinking. You may need some trial and error to figure out what works best for you because it is different for everyone. I will work on some sport specific lists in the next several months to give more depth to each sport. Until then, use this as a guide to help you move forward in your quest to not lose money, and dare I say, win a little!