DFS GPP Strategy: 2023 Guide

In case you’re new to all this. Let’s start by answering a simple question: What is GPP in DFS?

GPPs, or guaranteed prize pools (a.k.a. tournaments), are daily fantasy contests with a guaranteed total prize amount, regardless of how many people participate. GPPs have top-heavy payout structures where a small number of players make big money.

People gravitate to GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) tournaments on sites like DraftKings and FanDuel because the payouts are sexy. That $1 million prize in the weekly “millionaire maker” sounds a lot easier to win than a lottery. But practically speaking, it’s not.

You’ll find many DFS tournaments that are easier to cash in than those marquee 7-figure contests. Below are some core DFS GPP strategies to help you do just that.

GPP Basics

  • DFS GPP tournaments require a totally different strategy than DFS cash games (double-ups, head-to-heads and 50/50 contests). For the latter, half (or almost half) of all contestants cash. In GPPs, less than 1 in 4 entries win money.
  • Cash games therefore require more consistent players to ensure you beat at least half the field. Winning money in GPPs, on the other hand, requires a bigger swing for the fences. You can’t play it safe due to the lower probability of a payout. In GPP, constructing your roster to maximize projected fantasy points is not how you do it. Instead, your goal must be to balance the greatest possible ceiling and correlation, with the least possible ownership. 

Core GPP Strategies

  • Success in GPPs requires that a greater proportion of your players have high upsides (i.e., high ceilings, or [CeilingL4] values.) That in turn entails more volatility. It’s the reason why you do not want to enter cash game lineups in large (e.g., 1000+ player) tournaments.
  • To place in the top 1% of a big GPP contest you need multiple outlier performances in a single lineup. Or as Renne Miller wrote on ESPN a while back, “In a tournament, you need a lot of low-probability, high-upside events to happen simultaneously to find yourself atop a huge field..”
  • The bigger the contest, the more creative your line up selection must be.
    • Don’t expect to win the Millionaire Maker with an excellent cash game lineup that has a high floor. You need to take more chances than that. You won’t 1st place in any large GPP without taking risk.
    • Maximizing correlation is essential (i.e., you’ve got to stack.)
    • Big-play deep-threat speedsters have more value in large GPPs, as do low-cost third down pass catching RBs, which are sometimes the best DFS FLEX choice depending on the matchup. More often, however, receivers who stretch the field make for higher ROI FLEX choices than running backs.
    • Winning the $1 million contests requires game theory.
      • You can’t just roster the obvious best values. Too many other people will be taking them, particularly since so many DFS commentators call out such values each week. You need to use public psychology against the public. If 30% of the public are taking Justin Jefferson it’s probably a terrible GPP play. But at 10% ownership he may be worth a go.
      • As Miller says, consider a team’s best player in a bad matchup—a matchup the general public will avoid. Top player’s talent and their team’s reliance on them can pay dividends, she notes, despite a tough defense.
      • Also remember that you’ll never win a large-field GPP by doing what the majority is doing—e.g., taking the NFL’s RB1 who might be 45% owned in an easy matchup. Instead, you might want to consider a player that does well if that RB1 busts, like a WR1 or WR2 on the same team. This is something you’d never do in a cash game, but being a contrarian can help you leapfrog huge swaths of competitors in a big GPP (if you’re right).
  • In large DFS GPP contests, “it becomes nearly impossible to win if you don’t have the highest-scoring player per dollar,” 2020 Fantasy Football World Champion David Bergman told ESPN.
    • Indeed, it’s tough to win a milly maker if you miss the week’s top performer. If a player scores 35 to 40+ fantasy points and you don’t have him in your lineup, you can usually kiss your chances of a top finish goodbye.
  • In small-field tournaments, by comparison, you don’t need to be as contrarian to win.
    • Beginner Tip: A lot of long-time DFS’ers prefer GPPs with 100 or fewer entries. The probability of finishing high in the money is significantly greater, reducing swings in one’s bankroll. And by all means, search for “Beginner” GPPs. Once you enter a certain number of contests (at the time this is being written, that number is 50 on DraftKings) you’ll no longer have access to newbie tournaments.
  • If you want to win a big GPP tournament, you usually need to nail all but one of your offensive picks.
  • To double your money in a GPP you usually have to finish in the top 10%.
Rule of thumb: You need almost 20 points per player on average to place in the money in classic GPP tourneys with thousands of contestants. For the big money, you need over 4X value per player—or over 200 points total.

GPP Ownership

  • The goal of GPP lineup construction is to differentiate your lineup.
    • Other things equal, focus on players who aren’t heavily owned (e.g., over 15% owned).
    • You need to separate your performance from the field as much as possible and that’s what low ownership does for you.
    • The power of low-ownership in tournaments should not be underestimated. One 2018 study found that using widely available fantasy point projections and an algorithm that looked for low-owned players was profitable in top-heavy tournaments on FanDuel.
      • Side note: The same research found that this approach was not effective in cash games like double-ups. This strategy works best for GPP.
    • DFS pro Drew Dinkmeyer says overall ownership should sum to no more than 125%.
      • And at least one of your players should have ownership under 5%.
      • In short, “We want to win by scoring the least amount of points possible,” Dinkmeyer’s been quoted as saying. Because if the chalk does well, there’s far more competition for prize money.
  • Think about this for a moment. If a player you roster is 40 percent owned (which is high), you only gain on 60 percent of your competition
  • The difference between the Millionaire Maker winner and 100th highest scoring lineup is less than three points on average, according to past data from Fantasy Football Consultants.
    • On DraftKings, it means that choosing players who can generate the 3-point bonus for 100 yards rushing or receiving is key.

Miscellaneous GPP Considerations

  • Winning any kind of GPPs is about successfully predicting game scripts.
  • If you need help structuring your lineup, DFS Hub’s NFL Lineup Builder has you covered.
  • Game selection matters:
    • Single entry GPPs aren’t as dominated by sharks and require lower scores to place in the money. If you can avoid professional competitors with their algorithmically generated lineups, why wouldn’t you?
    • As you get better, and bankroll permitting, check out higher dollar GPPs. They have materially lower rakes. In $50 GPPs, for example, DraftKings collects 12% of entry fees whereas many of its cheaper tournaments have rakes approaching 16%.