My New Year’s resolution – Making money in 2023 through DraftKings.
By Sal Johnson
Hard to believe that DraftKings has been around for eight years. Each week we talk about the players and who we should pick, but the big question is, are you making any money playing the game? Looking through my eight years of playing DraftKings, I can say that I am a DraftKings loser, like most of you.
In the first few years, I was routinely losing. But with eight years of experience, I have turned it around and with some found secrets, can help you make some money. The first thing to realize is that playing DraftKings is gambling at its highest level. But in some cases playing DraftKings is a lot like playing the lottery. It’s rigged towards the house.
The biggest mistake many make is that we all see these games with the winner getting a million dollars. No matter how good of a prognosticator you are, you must possess a lot of luck to win that million-dollar first-place prize. You have to pick six players that will all be in the top 15 while also selecting the winner and the runner-up. There are so many players on the PGA Tour that on any given week, can surprise us all and screw things up. Let’s take, for example, the $300,000 game from last month’s Hero Challenge. 15,525 players paid $20 to participate in a game that paid off 3,640 places with a first-place prize of $100,000. So off the bat, your odds of winning first place is one in 15,525, which is not very good odds and more like a lottery than a game of skill. Even those that finished 3,595 in the rankings won $18.90, which was $1.10 short of getting back your original investment of $20. So 3,667 players won something, meaning 23.61% of the field cashed a check. Those folks aren’t great odds thinking that of the 15,525 tickets bought, 11,585 or 76.39% were losers. Going a step further, those odds are for those that cashed a check, as those at 3,595 only got $18.90. Despite Draftkings saying that those who finished between 1,686 and 3,640 would get a payout of $30. But you had to finish 1,678 to collect the $30, or $30.87, to be exact. So your odds are even lower. Only 10.80% of those in the field made checks of around $30. For those wondering about those players who won $30.87, they picked Viktor Hovland who won. Also chosen were Xander Schauffele, who finished 4th, Justin Thomas, who finished 5th, Tom Kim, who finished T-10th, Matt Fitzpatrick and Billy Horschel, who finished T-13th. Those players won 540.5 points.
The winner had 625.5 points, and all his players were in the top ten. He had the winner Viktor Hovland, along with runner-up Scottie Scheffler and 3rd place finisher Cameron Young. For the victory, he won $100,000. Three players finished 2nd and split the $25,000 price, so they won $16,666.67. Their six players earned 619.5 points picking Hovland, Scheffler, and Young, but the big difference was that instead of picking Sepp Straka, who finished T-10th, they picked Billy Horschel, who finished T-13th. For that one player, it was a difference of just over $83,000. In going down the list, seven players finished 5th, winning $1,814.29, thus earning 616.5 points or nine points below the winner.
Payouts get even worse. For the person who finished alone in 12th, he won just $700 and had Hovland, Scheffler, Young, and 4th place finisher Xander Schauffele. Down the list, a player called KWG93 was one of 20 to finish T-23rd. KWG93 also picked Hovland, Scheffler, and Young but unfortunately, picked Max Homa, who finished 17th. For his efforts, KWG93 won just $230, as his 604.5 points were just 21 points back of the winner. So for a slight difference in points, there is a drastic difference in a $100,000 check compared to $230.
Hopefully, you get my point, yes there is a skill in picking the right players. Still, it’s more like a lottery of luck when you consider that if you choose all six balls plus the mega ball in the December 27th MegaMillion lottery, you would have won $565 million. But those who picked five of the six balls they got $1 million.
Now we get to the dirty secret of winning this kind of game. To improve your odds, you have to play multiple tickets. The winner of the Hero game was a person called Dirksen, who only bought one ticket, so he only risked $20 for his $100,000 win. But for Nerdytenor, another better who played 150 times, he finished 5th, 18th, 96th, 128, 187, and 246. For finishing 5th, he won $1,814.28. Of the other five tickets, he won an additional $715, so a total of $2,529. Nerdytenor also had an extra 32 winning tickets for about $1,150, so he won $3,679 for his efforts. Buying 150 tickets cost him $3,000, so he was a $679 winner. A lot of work for that payout.
So you get my point. Extra entries increase your odds of winning. But not many of us want to spend $3,000 a week. Playing in the big game is like playing Powerball or MegaMillion when first place is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In Maui next week, the $20 game will pay $200,000 for first place, with second winning $50,000. So I could see buying one ticket, but for the others, there is a $5 game that pays $25,000 for the win and $10,000 for second. You can buy four tickets for the cost of one ticket in the big game, increasing your odds of winning.
Now before we continue, let’s be realistic about our goals. Sure we want to win the top prize, but in any investment, if you can get between 8% to 15% return, that is great. So the $5 game, in which close to 20,000 will be in the game, you are looking to finish between 1,111 and 3,105 to double your money. Still, your odds are in the 25% to 30% range, which isn’t very good. So how do we get the odds to 50%? Again, you have to bring down your expectations of winning a lot. DraftKings has double-up games in which the cost is $10 to play in a game with 11 entries, with five winning. Some games have 32 players, and the top 15 double their money. But realistically, the best game is the 11 players with five winners. I also like games where only three players in the game for $10, and the winner gets $27. One thing to remember, lots of novice play in the games that 20,000 others are in, thus making it more of a lottery than a game of skill. Those games with just 11 players have some savvy players, so you must be at your best.
Another game I recommend is the one called “tiers.” In picking your six players, they give you limited choices, three players for the top couple of picks, going down to six possible players for one selection. I love this game because it makes picking players easier and faster, but again you have to remember the essential part of DraftKings: pick players that make the cut. If you choose six players to contend all four rounds, the odds of you winning is in the 80% range. Now even the best players miss cuts. So you have to try and avoid that happening.
Picking winners in 2023, who to take, and who to avoid.
Time to discuss which players to take. We have to remember in picking players, we aren’t looking for those on top of the world rankings or FedEx Cup points. The premise of DraftKings is a combination of how they place in the event but most importantly, who makes the most under-par score and avoids making anything over par.
We have put together a database beginning at the start of the 2022 season and going through the 2023 Hero World Challenge, a total of 57 events. The database includes how many points a player won during the event and his cost. Out of the database, we can determine the player’s average price, the percentage of cuts made, the total DraftKing points earned, and the players’ average points earned per event and average points based on the number of rounds played.
Who is the best?
Here is a list of 22 players sorted based on who makes the most average points per event
The top four are probably what most people figured, that Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Schauffele, and Xander Schauffele do make the most DraftKings points. In Rory McIlroy’s 17 events played, he has won 1,550.5 points, averaging 91.21 points per event and 24.23 points per round. One of the reasons for McIlroy’s top-average points is that he made 15 of 17 cuts. His best productive event was his win at the CJ Cup last year in Las Vegas, winning 159 points. The worst point production was McIlroy only making 27.5 points in missing the cut at the Valero Texas Open. That is the good news. The bad news is that Rory’s average cost is $10,694, which makes him an expensive choice. Only once in his 17 starts was he below $10,000 when he was $9,700 in finishing T-10th at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles. At the Wells Fargo, Rory cost $11,500, but in making 83 points, he was still worth the high cost. In looking through these 22 players, seven of them have an average price of over $10,000 while six of them are in the $9,000s, five are in the $8,000s, three are in the $7,000s and one, Ben Griffin, is in the high $6,000s. Now for Griffin, he only has nine events, with most of them in the new 2023 season, so we have to watch him on the West Coast and Florida swings to see if he is for real. The same could be said for Taylor Montgomery and Will Gordon. In looking for some bargains in this group of 22, players like Thomas Detry, Tom Kim, Max Homa, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise, and Billy Horschel are good, inexpensive picks in the future.
If you are looking for that cheap bargain, consider these 27 players.
The heart and soul of your six picks are finding players under $8,000 that will make cuts and produce a lot of points. Below are 27 possible choices based on a formula dividing the average points per event by the average cost. Now, you should ensure that the course is compatible with the player and that he hasn’t had issues in past years. But again, the goal is finding low-cost players. These folks will help you in picking a winning team. We saw Tom Kim in our list of best players to choose from again. His average cost is $7,540 but will probably go up during the year if he continues to do well. We also have players whose costs could go up, like Cameron Young, K.H. Lee, Taylor Pendrith, Sahith Theegala, and Adam Hadwin. Along with Kim, I also like Aaron Wise, Taylor Pendrith, Brian Harman, Sahith Theegala, and Adam Hadwin because they make over 80% of their cuts.
Avoid these players. They could hurt your team.
These 22 well-known players have problems either missing a lot of cuts or low average point totals. Some of these players have even won an event in the last year, making Tom Hoge, Mackenzie Hughes, and Sepp Straka poor choices. But the biggest problem is missing a lot of cuts, in the case of Gary Woodland, he has missed half of his cuts.
We will update this story sometime after the Masters and see those players that have improved or gotten worst.