Ultimate Guide to Daily Fantasy Sports

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) has exploded in popularity, and the prizes have increased just as quickly. The Betting Brain has created this “Ultimate Guide to DFS” will help you get started with daily fantasy sports.

The vast majority of the Fantasy Sports market is controlled by FanDuel and DraftKings. Yahoo.com is a distant third, but is not a major player in the industry yet. I am going to stick to the two big names, as these are the best place to start playing.

There are three factors to consider:

  1. Where can you play? Restrictions on daily fantasy sports vary from state to state, and can even vary from website to website within a single state. I’ll show you what’s legal by state.
  2. Which site should you play? Depending on your interests and the amount your betting, certain sites will be a better fit for you. I’ll show you what is different between sites and which you should choose (although using multiple is very common).
  3. How should you play? What are the strategies for winning? This isn’t regular fantasy sports – and you shouldn’t approach it that way.

Where Can You Play

Because there is no federal regulation of daily fantasy sports, each state is left up to handle the legality of these sites as they please. This has lead to several states banning daily fantasy sports, and these sites pulling their business out of the state out of fear of a future law suit.

FanDuel and DraftKings shut down business within the state of New York on March 21st, 2016. These same sites pulled their businesses from Idaho as of May 1st, and Alabama as of April 29th.

The following information is current through May 2nd, 2016.

Current Banned States by Site:

FanDuel: Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, Texas and Washington. https://www.fanduel.com/terms

DraftKings: Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, and Washington.  https://www.draftkings.com/help/terms

Texas is the only case where FanDuel and DraftKings have taken different approaches. FanDuel has moved services out of Texas, while DraftKings has filed a lawsuit to try and stay in business. Don’t be surprised if DraftKings is ultimately forced out of Texas.

The 2 Biggest DFS Sports sitesWhich site should you use?

We always see DraftKings and Fanduel ads in our face while watching sports or listening to games, but there are plenty of other good DFS sites that offer more sports.

FanDuel: Offers NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, and even esports (computer games). Generally this is consider a beginner friendly site, and they advertise a money back guarantee if you don’t like your first league.  This could be a good spot for a relatively low volume beginner in daily fantasy sports.

DraftKings: Offers NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, plus 4 sports not covered by FanDuel: NASCAR, MMA, PGA, and soccer. If you’re interested in those sports, DraftKings is the way to go. DraftKings also has massive prizes in certain tournaments, in particular football (up to $2 million to the winner). DraftKings will even invite big time players to special events – including live sporting events. If you’re going to play a lot, DraftKings is the way to go.

Note that DraftKings also has a feature call ‘Late Swap’, which allows you to change your lineup after the first game of a contest begins, as long as none of the players involved in the change have started their game. This means you can switch out a player if he is scratched from the Sunday afternoon game, and still have your choice of any players that haven’t played yet.

Our Recommendation

Forced to pick just one, I would take FanDuel. If you really can’t decide, there is no harm in playing both DraftKings and FanDuel. They are fairly similar sites, but both use different player pricing algorithms and have slightly different game structures. By playing both, you can find the right league for you.

How Should You Play?

First, get to know the games. These are often called a ‘one day’ league, but a ‘one game’ league is probably a more accurate term. That means football competitions can last one week, not one day. Some of the daily fantasy sports contest types include head-to-head contests (highest score wins), GPP’s (huge tournaments with massive prizes), 50/50’s (where half the entries will win), Multipliers, and Steps tournaments.

You should start with small entries if you’ve never played in a contest before.

Fantasy tips and notes by contest type

Head-to-Head: Just need a higher score to win. Be conservative – you only have to beat one opponent in this structure. Even a slightly above average score makes you a winner in the long run.

GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool): Very large tournaments with set prizes – up to $2,000,000 to the winner for certain DraftKings NFL contests. There may be hundreds of winners, but that could still represent only the top 10% or less. To win these, you need a lineup that can put up an elite score. Even very good won’t cut it here. High upside players are key to have a shot.

50/50’s (also called double-ups): Same idea as head-to-head leagues, but you can be even more conservative. You’re not going to lose simply because one person’s team has a great game.

Multipliers: Similar to 50/50’s, but the percentage of winners varies by the multiplier. For example, in a 10x multiplier, those in top 10% win 10 times their entry fee. In a 7x multiple, the top 1/7th of the league would win 7 times their entry fee.

Steps: Scored and structured like a GPP, but winners move up to the next tier. Once you win and advance through a certain number of tiers, you can win large cash prizes.

Ultimately you should play a mixture of these styles of games.  The GPP’s draw people in due to the high payout, but the vast majority of the time people lose when they enter these. Mixing in multipliers and head-to-head games gives you a realistic shot at winning some money each day (which protects your bankroll).

Using this guide, I hope you be success playing daily fantasy sports. Good luck.