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Beginner NBA DFS: GPP vs. Cash

We continue our breakdown of the basics for NBA DFS. In this section, we look at GPP vs. Cash games, with definitions and some basic strategy.

Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook and guard James Harden during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.  Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of great rivalries in sports. The Red Sox vs. the Yankees. The Lakers vs. the Celtics. The list goes on. The biggest one in DFS? GPP vs. Cash Games. If you’re new — which you should be if you’re here — you’ve probably seen “GPP” and “Cash” thrown around amongst the DFS community. These are the two core contest structures on DraftKings. Picking which type to enter will fast become very important.

Cash Games

Definition

Cash games are contests in which a large majority of the field wins money. The most common are 50/50s and Double-Ups. In 50/50s, the upper half of the contest field cashes and the prize pool is divided up. In Double-Ups, you enter a certain amount on a lineup and the top half of the contest doubles their investment. These are the easiest contests in which to win cash, thus the name. Head-to-head games also fall under this umbrella.

Strategy

A lot of DFS players will tell you that they swear by Cash Games. The basic strategy in cash games — specifically in NBA DFS — is to capitalize on injuries. Cash games are all about being risk averse. We want to minimize risk and go with players who are safe options, sure things, slam dunks, you get it.

So if one player on a team is injured, his stats, usage, minutes all need to be allocated throughout the rest of the roster. This is the easiest way to identify value plays. Most of the time these players have a high percentage of lineups using him, so they are perfect for Cash Games when the point is to get into the top half of the field. We’ll get more into this in a few other sections. For now, basic cash game strategy is to use players with high fantasy points per game averages while mixing in some value and 1-2 risky picks for leverage.

GPP Games

Definition

“GPP” stands for guaranteed prize pool. We use this to describe most tournaments on DraftKings because there is a set amount of money in the prize pool up for grabs. The difference between GPPs and cash games is in the payout structure. In tournaments, we don’t see the top half of the field cashing. Around 20% of the field cashes in most GPPs and the big money is in the top 1-5%.

Strategy

GPP strategy is almost completely different than Cash Games. It is worth noting that Cash Game lineups are viable in GPPs, just not optimal. If you use a GPP-type of lineup in a Cash Game, it likely won’t work out. Let’s get into why. In GPPs, you want to take some of those core value plays from Cash Games and mix in more high-risk, high-reward plays. We want to target players who are capable of scoring more fantasy points than expected. This could be through an injury or particular matchup that is strong. There are a lot of variables that go into deciding who to play in tournaments.

Leverage

Whereas in Cash Games we don’t need leverage, in tournaments they are paramount. Players who are expected to have low ownership are leverage plays. In big tournaments that have upwards of 50,000 lineups entered, it’s important to differentiate your lineup from the field. We can do this by rostering a player who likely won’t be in many lineups. For example, a player who is in a tough matchup may not be as appealing to the field. If you play said player and he beats that matchup, you have leverage over your competition.