A look at similarities and differences in 50/50s and Heads-Up Contests

DFS Cash Games: 50/50s and Head-to-Heads

While many are enamored with the million dollar tournaments in the daily fantasy industry, cash games are the lifeblood for many players. Learn the differences between the two major formats: head-to-heads and 50/50s.

A look at similarities and differences in 50/50s and Heads-Up Contests

Those who have made a lot of money playing DFS may have won a big tournament, but for most the daily fantasy game is a grind. While there are plenty of daily fantasy experts who make their living playing primarily tournaments, many top earners will tell you that cash games are their bread and butter.

The correct philosophy surrounding cash games is relatively straightforward: focus on high-floor players when building your lineups. The upside is something to look for as well, but shouldn’t be the focus when building cash game lineups. However, players with high floors but ones that also have the ability to explode for big games make for ideal cash game plays.

The two primary options for cash games at most sites are 50/50s and head-to-heads. Both have the goal of doubling your buy-in — minus the rake or fees — but have some crucial differences that few consider when choosing their lineups.


50/50 leagues or sometimes called “Double Ups” at some sites require that players finish in the upper half the field to profit.

For example, if we enter a 50 man double up, our goal would be to place in the top 25. Placing 1st or 25th is irrelevant in 50/50 leagues when it comes to payouts. If we enter a 50-man double for $11, both 1st and 25th will win $20, which would double their buy-in, minus the fee. If you happen to place out of the top 25, you will lose your $11.


Head-to-head contests are similar to a 50/50 league in that you’re trying to finish in the upper half of the field, but the key difference here is that you’re only going to be facing a single opponent.

Rake and fees are the same for H2H contests. Playing in an $11 H2H contest will result in $20 in winnings if you successfully beat your opponent. Failure to get a higher score than your opponent will result in the loss of your buy-in and fee.

H2H vs. 50/50

New players who want to dive into cash games will choose either H2H or 50/50 — or some combination — leagues with little understanding of the differences between the two. On its face, the two seem extremely similar, but if we examine the game types more extensively, there’s a bit more to consider.

50/50 contests will have a “cash line” for each contest, meaning the score that players need to beat to finish in the upper half of the field and double their money. This number isn’t exact and depends on the contest, but the score that players need to hit in all 50/50 contests will usually vary just by a few points across the board.

There’s going to be a much larger variation in H2H contests since players will face single opponents, rather than a larger field of players. Due to the fact you are facing a single opponent, the score needed to profit in H2H leagues has been slightly lower.

For instance, if you placed in the 60th percentile of scores, you would easily win all of your 50/50 leagues without issue. However, it’s almost certain that you wouldn’t win all of your H2H contests enough though you would the sizable majority of them.

Consider the same scenario, but this time your score is in the 40th percentile of cash games. You would lose all of your 50/50 leagues and have no hope of getting back any of your money if you didn’t mix in any H2H leagues.

Head-to-head contests offer players a bit more safety when considering nightly profits, which can be especially important for new players as they try to build a bankroll. The format may be notably more +EV on the whole compared to 50/50 contest when you consider other aspects.

Many of the largest sites offer massive 50/50 leagues that have upwards of 60,000 entries in some cases.

Despite the large numbers of seasoned players that are entering these, I still recommend playing the larger field 50/50s because they ultimately reduce variance compared to smaller contests. The larger the field, the lesser the variance, due to a much larger sample size. There is always a chance players could get a bad draw in a smaller contest, say of 10-20 players. That’s not possible when entering large field double ups.

Creating Head-to-Heads on DraftKings

One of the best ways to reduce your risk and play a variety of opponents in your H2H contests is by creating your own, rather than joining open contests in the lobby.

Both DraftKings and FanDuel offer this feature, but there’s a crucial difference between the two big boys of DFS when it comes to H2H contest creation. FanDuel doesn’t allow players to filter their contest entries opponents, but DraftKings does.

We can create a contest by clicking the ‘Create Contest’ button on the main page.

From there, we can create H2H contests at a variety of buy-in levels while limiting the number of times each player can play against us. This assures us that our contests can’t all be scooped up by a high volume experienced players.


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