Daily Fantasy Sports for Beginners
Daily Fantasy Sports has been a game changer for the world of fantasy sports, not to mention the sports viewing experience itself. Viewers and players can now play along in real-time in exciting contests which offer up the opportunity to win some life-changing prizes.
From its early days as somewhat of a niche endeavor to the massive industry it has become, the growth of DFS has been nothing short of fascinating to watch. While growth has leveled off from the meteoric rise the industry experienced just a few short years ago, DFS is still going strong.
The largest contests on the biggest platforms attract tens of thousands of users, as DFS is completely legal and safe to play in the vast majority of the United States.
Here in our detailed look at DFS, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know. We’ll begin by taking a look at the top places to play DFS.
What is the Best Daily Fantasy Site in 2023?
When it comes to DFS, two operators are head and shoulders above the rest of the industry. DraftKings and FanDuel are the biggest names in the industry and hold a dominant market share.
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Most Popular Fantasy Sports Sites
FanDuel was on the scene before DraftKings. The company became the first DFS operator to really catch on with the masses, but DraftKings quickly gained traction after its own debut.
#1. DraftKings – $20 Free on First Deposit + Deposit Match up to $500!
Boston-based DraftKings was founded back in 2012. The company’s DFS offering quickly became a hit with users due to its new approach to things such as scoring and roster requirements. DraftKings has continually been ahead of the curve with new games and ways to play. DraftKings has grown into the largest DFS operator and remains in the control of its original founders.
#2. FanDuel – Get $100 with first $10 deposit!
FanDuel is based in New York City and was founded in 2009. At the time, the DFS industry was in its infancy and being serviced by a few niche operators. FanDuel helped take the industry to a new level with innovations including the introduction of live final events. The company was acquired by PaddyPower Betfair in 2018 and is part of the Flutter Entertainment family.
What is Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)?
DFS is a modern take on traditional fantasy sports. As opposed to contests which run the length of a season before winners are decided, DFS contests revolve around a single day’s slate of games in most cases.
Users draft their lineups from the pool of players who are slated to compete in the day’s events while adhering to any position requirements. For another wrinkle, users must stay under a predetermined salary cap while building their lineups.
DFS contests are scored in real time as the action plays out on the field of play. They range in size from head-to-head matchups all the way up to massive tournaments which attract tens of thousands of players.
Contests are offered at various buy-in points, and users have the opportunity to win real money. For the largest tournaments out there, the top prize is a whopping $1 million. Whether it’s the chance to win prizes or just the entertainment aspect, daily fantasy sports continues to attract and retain users at an impressive rate.
Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in the US?
It’s legal to play DFS in the majority of the United States. The legal situation surrounding the industry has been rather fluid. Some states were initially on board before reversing course, and vice versa. For now, there are just a few states which are outliers and prohibit DFS. Here are the four states where DFS is illegal.
In the past year alone, the list of banned states has become smaller. The legal atmosphere surrounding all forms of online gaming continues to evolve across the nation. While there’s no clarity on exactly when it may happen, it’s not too tough to envision a future in which DFS sites are permitted in all 50 states.
How to Play Daily Fantasy Sports?
While there is a learning curve to playing DFS, users often find that it’s not so intimidating once they have a few contests under their belts. That’s not to say that winning is easy, but rather that a little bit of seasoning goes a long way.
When first getting started on the site of your choice, it’s a good idea to review the rules for the sport you are interested in. Scoring and roster requirements can vary depending on the site, so this will help you understand what you’re walking into right off the bat.
Once you have a handle on that and know which sport you want to play, it’s time to go to the lobby and choose the contest that suits you best. You’ll see a wide range of options at many different buy-in points with prizes ranging from small to massive.
For new users, it can be helpful to focus on contests for inexperienced players only. You’ll see them in the lobby labeled as ‘beginner’ or ‘EPE,’ which stands for experienced players excluded.
After you find the contest you like, it’s time to start building out your lineup. You’ll need to adhere to the lineup requirements and stay under the salary cap. Once you’re happy with how it looks, click submit and kick back and enjoy the games.
Once you have mastered the basics, you’ll naturally be looking to expand your skill set. We’ll touch on some tips that can help you out on that front in a bit.
How is DFS Different from Sports Betting?
DFS and online sports betting are completely different pastimes, but there is a crossover in skill sets required for success in both endeavors. From a top line perspective, both DFS users and sports bettors are aiming to predict the outcome of sporting events.
Below that broad view is where you can begin to find the key differences, such as:
- For DFS players, the outcome of a game is pretty irrelevant. Their focus is on how the individual players will perform and which ones will accumulate the most fantasy points.
- Sports bettors are more concerned with the actual outcome of the games. Standard bets revolve around which team will win the game, also known as moneyline bets, as well as the spread and total.
- In DFS, players selected can be on the losing side of the equation while still delivering an outstanding fantasy output. As long as the player delivers, DFS users have made a solid selection.
- Outside of things such as prop and future wagers, individual performances don’t matter when it comes to betting on team sports. A player can go out and have the game of their life, but if their team doesn’t win, bettors who selected the team to do so are out of luck.
- Certain situations such as injuries and late scratches can completely derail a DFS lineup. If a player selected winds up playing little or no time, users will wind up with a big hole in their lineup which can be tough to recover from.
- In-game injuries can certainly impact the final result of a game, but the perspective of a sports bettor remains on the final outcome. If a player on a team they placed a wager on goes down to injury, they can still rely on the rest of the team to attempt to seal the deal.
Those are just a few of the key differences to be found between DFS betting and sports betting.
What are the Similarities Between DFS and Sports Betting
As mentioned, there’s also some crossover between the two, such as:
- Research is a key to success in both. While the focus may be different – individual vs. team performance – strength on one side correlates well to the other.
- A good understanding of risk versus reward is also imperative for both. In DFS, users may find an under the radar player who they believe has a shot at having a great game. Naturally, there’s risk involved in selecting that player, but the rewards can be solid if intuition proves to be correct. The same applies in sports betting when it comes to things such as selecting underdogs to win.
- In both endeavors, strong bankroll management is a tenet of long-term sustained success. Each player and bettor will have their own comfort level in terms of total capital allocation and amount to risk per lineup or wager. Stick to the plan and don’t deviate. Singles and doubles can add up to runs as well. Those who consistently go for the long ball may strike out so often that they run out of funds.
There are plenty of other similarities to consider, but these three main points can help bridge the gap from DFS to sports betting and vice versa. Success in one is no guarantee of success in the other, but learning and following key concepts can help lay a solid foundation in both DFS and sports betting.
How to Build Your First DFS Team
If you haven’t done so already, review the roster requirements and any scoring nuances. After all, you need to know what you’re building, as well as which types of players may be the most intriguing options for the day’s games.
Next, take a look at the player pool and get a handle on the differences in salary. As you’ll notice, the most consistent top performers will be the most expensive. There’s another class of players in the middle who could go one way or the other, and then the bottom rungs of the salary scale which typically include inconsistent players or those who don’t see much time.
Approach building out your lineup with those three classes in mind. Start at the top and go through all of the superstars who are playing that day. Which one of them looks like they will have the best performance of the day? Once you believe you have the answer to that, select that player for your lineup.
Move down to the next tier and do the same. Are any of the mid-tier options in line for a big game? If so, select that player and move on. Next, go down to the players at the bottom of the salary list. Is there any value here, like a player who may be thrust into the starting lineup? If you find one, grab them for your lineup.
If you follow those three steps, you’ll have three players to form the base of your lineup, not to mention three positions filled. From here, it’s a matter of selecting the remainder of your lineup while staying under the salary cap.
You can follow the same process for the remaining spots – stud, mid, and value – and hopefully land on a combo which positions you for success.
What Daily Fantasy Sports Contests Can I Play?
In the early days of DFS, games revolved around the major North American team sports. Fast forward to today, and you can find fantasy sports contests for nearly every major sport.
Here’s a list of the most popular sports which you’ll be able to find at most major operators.
Please note that not all sports are available on every DFS site. For the major team sports, you should find them just about everywhere. On the individual sports, choices will vary depending on the operator. In addition, DraftKings is among those who goes above and beyond with niche offerings such as Canadian Football League and EuroLeague Basketball.
In terms of attention from users, fantasy football is the most popular, followed by fantasy basketball and fantasy baseball. The biggest prize pools will be found in these sports as a result. Keep in mind that the bigger prize pools attract tons of users, so competition can be tough.
If you happen to have a knack for a sport that has a lower level of DFS interest, that may make for a good area for you to focus on in addition to the major sports of your choice.
What is the Difference Between Daily Fantasy Sports vs. Season-Long Fantasy?
DFS and traditional fantasy sports share lots in common, but there are also some very notable differences. As a result, success in one is no guarantee of success in the other. While both are fun and enjoyable at the core, there is a learning curve involved for new players to keep in mind.
If you’re looking to transfer from one to the other, here are some key points to consider.
- For season-long fantasy, you’re looking to draft players who will hopefully be consistent contributors for your team all season long.
- In DFS, the perspective and time frame is much smaller. The focus is solely on the games included in the contest and which players will perform the best.
- In traditional fantasy, you can compensate for injuries to your key players by making a trade or picking up a free agent.
- On the DFS side, injured players can be a nightmare after roster lock. While you generally know who will be in or out before a game begins, injuries and late scratches happen. If you’ve selected one of those players, you could wind up with a big goose egg in your lineup.
- For season-long fantasy, the main daily or weekly focus is typically on a head-to-head matchup between you and another player in your league. On the season as a whole, you’re merely looking to have the best lineup in your league.
- While there’s a head-to-head option in DFS, larger contests revolve around your lineup versus potentially thousands of other competitors. Consistent production is still attractive, but you’ll also need to find under the radar players to help separate your lineup from the pack.
The key to remember is that there can be a learning curve before you find success in either DFS or season-long fantasy. However, having a good handle on the differences between the two can help to cut that down immensely.
What are the Most Popular DFS Contests?
One of the great things about DFS is the various ways to play. You can swing for the fences and shoot for the top spot in a huge guaranteed prize pool, or you can focus on smaller contests which may provide a more consistent return.
You can also choose which games to focus on. While there will always be a main slate of games for the most popular sports, there are also condensed contests featuring just a few games or even DFS games which focus on just a single event.
Here’s a look at the major contest types and various ways to play.
- GPP: These are guaranteed prize pool tournaments. The largest prizes can be won here, but the competition is intense with scores of users involved.
- 50/50s and DoubleUps: These are contests which pay up to the top half of entrants. They can be a good way to find consistent returns in DFS, but there’s also difficulty in building lineups that consistently cash.
- Multipliers: Contests which pay out based on the entry fee at certain multiples such as 2x or 3x for winning players.
- Leagues: Smaller than GPPs but a similar concept. The top scoring lineups cash while others move on to play another day.
- Head to Head: The DFS version of traditional fantasy sports. Its user versus user where the higher scoring lineup wins.
- Qualifiers and Satellites: These are tournaments in which the prize is a ticket to a bigger event such as a large GPP or a live final event.
- Beat the Score: Users entering these contests have a benchmark that needs to be beat. Those who clear the bar cash.
- Full Roster: This is the traditional form of DFS with a 9-player lineup revolving around specific positions.
- Single Game: Also known as showdowns, these DFS contests revolve around a single game as opposed to an entire day’s worth of contests.
- Tiers: A pick’em style game in which users don’t need to worry about a salary cap. All they need to do is select one option from each tier who they think will score the most fantasy points.
- Beginner: Contests in which experienced players are excluded. They’ll be specifically labeled in the lobby and make for a great way for those new to DFS to try it out against players of similar skill.
These are all of the main types of contests and ways to play, but you will find other niche events from time to time. For example, during NFL season, FanDuel offers a contest that revolves only around kickers.
There has also been a rise in in-game DFS on the main sites which revolve around things such as a half or a quarter of a game, so be on the lookout for them as well.
DraftKings Fantasy Football Millionaire
A good reason for the incredible growth of DFS is the massive tournaments which offer the opportunity for users to win life-changing prizes. As we go through our detailed look at DFS, we are in the heart of NFL season.
Each week of the season, there’s a huge tournament on DraftKings known as the ‘Fantasy Football Millionaire.’ Let’s take a look at the specifics.
- $20 entry fee.
- 176,470 entrants.
- 1st place gets $1 million dollars.
- The top 38,825 users earn prizes with the minimum set at $30.
- Users can enter as many as 150 lineups.
- 9-player lineup with a $50,000 salary cap.
- Players must fill the following positions: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, Flex, DST.
While that may sound like a ton of entrants, this tournament fills each and every week. Some users enter just as single lineup, while players on the other end of the spectrum go to the extreme with 150 lineups. Naturally, it’ll take a very special lineup to take down the top spot, but the $20 entry fee makes it well worth the chance.
In addition to the Millionaire tournament, DraftKings also has other exciting events during football season, such as the Fantasy Football World Championships. This is a live final event which users obtain entry to by winning a qualifying tournament.
This year, the final event will be held in Miami for 180 qualifiers. The top prize is a cool $2 million dollars, while even 180th place will walk away with $15,000. On DraftKings, you can find a full listing of outstanding promotions by clicking on the ‘Promos’ tab on the main website.
DFS Deposit Bonus and Free DFS Contests
For users who are looking to try out a DFS site but may be on the fence, there are some intriguing incentives which may help you make up your mind. If you sign up via our exclusive links below, you’ll find some attractive offers for new players.
On DraftKings, users who sign up via our links and deposit $5 or more will be eligible for $20 in bonus cash. The bonus funds are paid out in what’s known as DraftKings dollars. The bonus isn’t redeemable for cash, but it can be used to enter real money contests on site. Furthermore, new and existing DraftKings players will receive a 20% deposit match up to $500.
As for FanDuel, users who sign up via our links will get $100 to play with, if you make your first deposit, of $10. These entries can be used to enter real contests from NBA & one sports contest (sports contest will be based on the sporting calendar) on FanDuel. However, any winnings obtained while using them are yours to do with as you wish.
These are two great incentives just for signing up at DraftKings and FanDuel. Once you do so, be sure to browse the lobby carefully and keep an eye out for beginner games and free contests.
The free games will allow you to get your feet wet on a no-risk basis, while beginner games insure you’re only playing against other users with a similar level of experience.
DFS Props vs DFS Salary Cap
As the DFS industry continues to grow and evolve, new ways to play are beginning to emerge. On the major operators, things such as single-game or in-game DFS were once unheard of. Today, both are offered and continue to gain traction.
In addition to innovations from the major players in the game, there are also some new kids on the block who are looking to shake things up. One of them is Prize Picks, a platform which debuted recently.
While Prize Picks falls under the DFS umbrella, it’s an entirely different way to play. Here’s the key difference in comparison to FanDuel and DraftKings.
- PrizePicks games are essentially an intersection of traditional DFS and prop betting. As opposed to lineups and salary caps, users are focused on whether or not players will achieve certain benchmarks during the course of a game.
- Traditional DFS on FD and DK revolves around lineups which are built based on position requirements while staying under the salary cap. Total points scored by the entire roster is the focus and the determining factor between winning and losing.
On the similarities front, contests are offered at various buy-in points just like on FD and DK. The new way to play has captured plenty of attention from the DFS community. It’ll be interesting to see how far it takes off, as well as what other kinds of innovations it may inspire.
How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports
There is no magic answer on how to win at DFS, but that doesn’t mean you can’t better position yourself for success. Similar to looking to break into any new field or hobby, having a handle on some key tenets can help cut down the learning curve and put you on the right track.
- Have a clear understanding of roster, scoring, and salary cap requirements. While you’ll naturally want to fill your lineup with as many star players as you can, it’s not always feasible due to the salary cap. In addition, scoring variances can make certain players more valuable than others, so knowing what kind of player to look for is a big help.
- Know the matchups. Players will excel in certain situations and against certain teams, but they can also fall flat in others. While this may seem random, you can also help to spot the potential in both directions by understanding the matchups. For example, certain NFL teams have great passing defenses but weak rushing defenses. As such, an opposing wideout may excel against them, while a running back could be shutdown. Knowing the matchups can help you spot situations such as these and avoid trouble spots in your lineup.
- Research. There’s a lot that goes into sustained success in DFS. If you like to research, you’ll find it a very enjoyable pursuit. From individual matchups to things such as weather and injuries, there are a lot of different variables to consider on a daily basis. If research isn’t your thing, that’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of content providers who provide everything you need to know on DFS and even provide lineup recommendations.
- Know what kind of player you are. Some DFS users have better success with multiple lineups, while others prefer to focus on building a single optimal lineup per day. There’s no right or wrong answer on which approach to use. Try out both approaches and don’t force it. You’ll find your comfort level and know pretty quickly what works best for you.
In addition to all of the above, be mindful of the importance of bankroll management and playing within your comfort level. Not every DFS player is a heavy hitter. There are plenty of long-term players who start at lower stakes and work their way up, as well as those who have found their sweet spot somewhere in the middle.
Daily Fantasy Sports Guide
Most Common Mistakes in DFS
DFS can be a very enjoyable pastime, but it can also sometimes be quite frustrating. When you spend a good amount of time building out what you feel is a solid lineup and then see it go out and deliver an awful return, it can sting.
That said, one of the beautiful things about DFS is the one-day nature. Everyone has an off night, from the inexperienced players all the way on up to those with tons of experience. It happens and there’s no way to avoid it, but there are some potential landmines you can avoid which will help you reduce the number of off nights you have.
- Not reviewing your lineup close to game time. This is one of the biggest mistakes made, but it can be easily avoided. If you build your lineup early in the day – or week for NFL and College Football – be sure to go back and check it out closer to game time. Late news can break that you may be unaware of. Players get injured and scratched all the time. Knowing this beforehand can save you lots of heartache.
- Don’t get too cute. Fantasy sports, whether it be DFS or the traditional variety, is a competitive endeavor. Bragging rights are a pretty big thing as a result, and many players love those moments when they feel like a proverbial genius for spotting the hidden gem that no one else saw. While that’s great and all, don’t force it in DFS. There will be legitimate under the radar opportunities which come up every day. If you’re comfortable with them, pounce and don’t think twice. However, don’t waste your time building a lineup filled with nothing but oddballs while hoping for the best. Your bankroll will thank you later.
- Don’t play over your head. When you are playing at your comfort level, you’ll know it. A loss won’t be the end of the world. The same applies when you veer out of your lane. Find the level of play which agrees with your budget and stick to it. You can always move up or down in stakes as needed, just don’t force yourself to move up just because you think you have built a golden lineup.
- Don’t chase losses. No one wins every day in DFS. Many who claim that they do also happen to be selling information to users. Be mindful of this and take outrageous claims with a grain of salt. You are going to have your fair share of off nights. If you find that’s happening more often than not, take a break and reexamine your approach. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by how a new outlook on things can translate into building better lineups.
In addition to all of the above, remember that DFS should be an enjoyable hobby which affords you the opportunity to win some real prizes. If you hit a patch where it starts to seem less enjoyable, take a break and recharge the batteries.
DFS Glossary of Terms
Here are some of the key terms you’ll come across as you begin playing DFS.
- FPPG: Fantasy points per game. This is the average fantasy output that a player produces.
- OPRK: Opponent rank. This tells you how well a player’s opponent performs while defending a specific position.
- PMR: Player minutes remaining. After the contests begin, this refers to how many minutes a player in your lineup has left to play.
- EPE: Experienced players excluded. Contests that have these labels block players of certain experience levels from entering and are reserved for beginners.
- GPP: Guaranteed prize pool. These are the largest DFS tournaments, some of which offer life-changing top prizes.
- 50/50: A DFS contest in which up to the top half of users will earn prizes.
- Stud: Another way of referring to the top tier of players – or superstars – in a specific sport.
- Value: A player who may be more valuable than their DFS salary suggests on a given night.
- Flex: A roster spot which can be filled by players from different positions.
- Contrarian: An under the radar player who has the potential to have a good game.
DFS has become incredibly popular for several reasons, including the opportunity to win real cash while doing something that you really love. In addition, the one-day nature of events has only added to the appeal as users can play whenever they like and take a break whenever they want to.
For DFS, the numbers vary based on the season. NFL is the most popular time of the year, but the NBA has attracted quite a following as well. Recent estimates suggest that there are over one million monthly active users on FanDuel and DraftKings, and between six and eight million registered accounts.
DFS is legal in most of the United States due to a carve out from the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, which was first introduced in 1999 and updated in 2006. In a nutshell, there is specific language in the act which points to fantasy sports as a game of skill and eligible to be played for real money prizes as a result.
DFS rankings can refer to a couple of different things. For one, there are certain sites which rank the top players in the industry in terms of winnings and contest success. In another instance, rankings may refer to how the players on a slate of games stack up from top to bottom.
As the DFS industry has grown, so too have the options for players looking for lineup building help. There are plenty of sites out there which offer advice on building lineups, some of which also offer lineup optimizers. In short, the optimizer aims to fill out your lineup with the best available options based on the salary cap. While they can make for a helpful guide, keep in mind that they are also being used by scores of other players. You’ll want to build in some differentiation as well to help your lineup stand out in tournaments.
There are no guarantees on how much money you can make playing DFS. While it’s certainly possible to earn a profit – and to win a huge tournament with a massive prize pool – DFS needs to be approached with a mindset of risk versus reward. In other words, play with what you can afford and build up your skills in a quest for profits. Along the way, there will be some losses, so be sure to factor that into your budget.
In the world of DFS, FanDuel and DraftKings continue to be on top of the mountain. It should come as no surprise that both companies have built out stellar apps for Android and iPhone. Both of which have become huge hits for users looking to play on the go or from their device of choice.
To build out a proper DFS lineup, you’ll need to have a complete understanding of the scoring, roster, and salary cap requirements at one of the top daily fantasy sites of you choice. From there, it’s a matter of finding the best players from the day’s slate of games and building out a lineup which fits. For one approach, a good mix of stud and value plays can serve as a solid base, and you can then fill in the gaps with the best available players based on the amount of cap space you have left.
DFS revolves around the performance of athletes in real live games. Naturally, performance varies. Even the best players in the most optimal spots can have off nights. As a result, it’s tough to classify any contest as completely beatable. Results will vary based on the performance of your lineup. That said, there are plenty of DFS users who have found success playing 50/50s, as well as some who have a strategy which aligns better with GPPs.