Use Breakeven Percent To Fine Tune Your DFS Pick'em Strategy

Use Breakeven Percent To Fine Tune Your DFS Pick’em Strategy

Jason Scavone
August 14, 2023


Insurance: You have to get it for your car and you never take it in blackjack. But what do you do with it on Underdog Sports?

If you’re coming to daily fantasy sports pick’em contests from a sports betting background, the terminology may be new but the concepts are fairly simple. Understanding how the sites work is the first step in building a DFS pick’em strategy.


The Science of DFS Entries 

Both Underdog and PrizePicks let you build entries of multiple player props in exchange for a fixed payout. The return depends on the number of legs in your entry. Payouts are further affected by whether you have to hit every leg of your entry, or you have some leeway to miss a pick or two. 

On Underdog, entries where you can miss one pick and still get paid are “Insured.” Entries that only pay if you get every leg correct are “Standard.” On PrizePicks, they call it “FlexPlay” vs. “PowerPlay.”

The rules around entries differ slightly between the two sites. 

Underdog will let you use two to five legs in a standard entry. Insured entries require a minimum of three legs. Your maximum return is smaller on insured entries, even if you hit all the legs. With one miss, you’ll still get paid, but at a fraction of what you would get on a perfect standard card.

PrizePicks’ PowerPlay entries are for two to four legs. FlexPlay starts with three legs, but will let you select a maximum of six plays. It also will pay out on two misses on five- or six-leg entries, though the return is minimal. A $10, five- or six-leg entry with two misses returns $4.


Payouts on Underdog and PrizePicks to shape optimal DFS pick'em strategy


Note that returns include your stake already. A winning $100 five-leg entry on Underdog returns $2,000, not $2,100. 

So what’s the best way to take advantage of Unabated’s new DFS Entry Builder? We want to optimize for return on investment. To start, we need to get an idea for what the breakeven percentages look like for various entries. 

Breakeven Percentages Drive DFS Pick’em Strategy


A chart of breakeven percentages on Underdog and PrizePicks.


Unabated’s data science team calculated the breakeven percentages of each type of entry on the two sites. Unlike breakeven calculations you’ll find elsewhere, our numbers take the possibility of pushes into account. 

One thing immediately stand out from this: The breakeven on plays with fewer legs are typically higher than they are when you add more legs. Generally speaking, you want to be playing four-, five- and six-man entries.

“The only time I would ever play a two-man is if there’s absolutely no even remotely decent place to make it into a five-man,” Dragiev said. “The difference in the breakeven percentage is so massive. Having to hit 58 percent almost on two-mans, versus having to hit 53.7 percent on six-mans, it’s just such a big difference. It’s much more difficult to be profitable on two-mans.”

But breakeven percentage doesn’t tell the whole story. To optimize DFS pick’em strategy, we need to estimate our edge. That will determine the best way to build entries. 

Payouts Shape Your Edge 


An edge chart showing optimal DFS pick'em strategy


We’re using a hypothetical scenario where each individual leg has a 60 percent probability of winning. The edge on an Underdog five-leg entry without insurance (which pays 20 times your stake) is 62.3 percent. That’s far less than the edge on a PrizePicks six-leg FlexPlay (which pays 25 times your stake if you ace all your legs). 

Note the breakeven on an Underdog Insured five-leg is lower than Standard, but the edge is better on the latter.

Those numbers will obviously change depending on the probability .  


Taking it to the Tools

So how do you suss out the hit rate on individual plays? That’s where the Entry Builder shines. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Entry Builder, you can check out our walkthrough of how to use the tool.

Start by selecting projection sets or uploading your own. Once you run them, the tool will compare the projections against current numbers at PrizePicks or Underdog, and will tell you how much of an edge you’re gaining or sacrificing with those individual plays.

As you add them to an entry, the player cards will show you the probability of those legs hitting. You can see here Diana Taurasi’s edge on fewer than 5.5 assists on Underdog on July 11 was almost 33 percent based on her projected 4.3 assists. The hit rate for that play based on that projection was nearly 73 percent.

Do be aware that correlation can affect how these sites pay out. In PrizePicks, for example, if you built a six-man golf entry that used three players to have less total strokes and all those same players to have more total birdies, the payout on six correct is 15x, not 25. If you used those same player to have less birdies, the payout jumps to 30x. 

It’s important to note that the Entry Builder does not currently account for correlation between plays in either MLB or WNBA, in entry building or in payout. 

The question of correlation in a sport like WNBA hasn’t been completely settled, but Dragiev says common sense should rule the day.

“I’ll avoid simple stuff,” he said. “I’m not going to take the Under on assists on one player and Over points on another player from the same team unless the edges are crazy.

“Otherwise, the market has been inefficient enough to where I haven’t found it necessary to spend a lot of time figuring out the lesser correlations and how important they are, but they certainly exist to some degree and will become more important as the market matures.”

To really nail optimal DFS pick’em strategy, you must balance hit rate and potential payout and, especially, the level of exposure that makes sense for your bankroll.


Finding Your DFS Pick’em Strategy

That last consideration is an important one. It determines whether you want to load up on plays with the biggest edges, or spread your action.

“I feel pretty confident that your EV is going to be best if you just take the top plays and get them for the max,” Dragiev said. “But given bankroll constraints, which are very, very real, mixing and matching across a wider variety of plays probably makes more sense for a lot of people. It’s an art of balancing the bankroll that you have, how many of these you think you can hit before the line moves, and also how much time you want to spend on it.”

There are hundreds of combinations of five- and six-leg entries you can create, even if you limit yourself to the top 10 edges on the board. 

In order to reduce your variance, you may want to build entries using, for example, the top two edges and rotating the next three. Or you might want to key the top edge and rotate the four players underneath. Bankroll will be a constraint on how wide you can spread across multiple permutations of edges.  

“Those are like decisions that everyone needs to make based off their bankroll, risk tolerance and how good they think the projections are,” Dragiev said.


The Art of DFS Entries

We’ve talked about the Art of Sports Betting. But there’s an art to building DFS entries as well. 

This isn’t, unfortunately, a free pass to not getting limited. PrizePicks imposes limits on some players. Some users have reported being limited on Underdog as well.

One way to help muddy the waters on your action is to not appear like you’re a one-sports specialist.

“It’s probably good to mix and match (sports),” Dragiev said. “I think if you’re only hitting WNBA it’s a red flag.”

Another thing to be aware of is that releases of well-known projection sets can move DFS numbers, too. 

Totals on strikeouts, points, rebounds and other stat categories can move very quickly on these sites. Knowing which projections are released and at what times can be invaluable. It can, among other things, help you understand why certain lines may be moving.

DFS pick’em can be profitable if you have the projections to beat them, and the tools to optimize your entries. Knowing when to take a little insurance at the right time doesn’t hurt, either.

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