DFS - Daily Fantasy Sports

Fantasy Sports

Let’s start with fantasy sports. You’re probably already familiar with “sports” in some form. The “fantasy” part comes from constructing your own lineup of real, professional players from a specific professional sport. The “fantasy” being the chance to pick and manage your own team.

In more traditional fantasy sports, you join a league of a limited number of teams. You get to draft a team that you keep for an entire season and trade, add or drop players as needed. Just like a professional draft, each player can only be selected once. So each professional athlete would only be found on one fantasy team in each fantasy league. If your favorite player gets selected right before you get to pick, you have to pick someone else. In some formats you bid imaginary money to get the player on your team. Other formats allow you to keep some of your players from the previous year. There are countless other formats as well.

The professional player participates in a game, match, etc. in the real world and earns fantasy points according to the league’s scoring system. Depending on the type of fantasy league, your team either competes head to head against another team in the league or you compete against all the league’s other teams at once by earning points in different categories.

I still enjoy participating in a good fantasy league, especially football. But sometimes if your top picks get injured or half your league doesn’t keep track of their lineup after week one it’s pretty easy to lose interest. Enter: Daily Fantasy.

Daily Fantasy Sports

In Daily Fantasy Sports, or DFS, there are contests instead of leagues. A contest is based on one day’s worth (or one event’s worth) of competition in the specified sport. There are usually many different contests available for each sport every day. Contests differ by number of entrants allowed, entry fees, or which of the real games during the day are scored.

You get to pick your own team just like regular fantasy sports. In daily fantasy, teams are referred to as lineups because you can make many different lineups and often you can enter multiple lineups into a single contest. The other fantasy players choice of players has no effect on your choices. So even if every other person in the contest picks your favorite player, you could still pick that player. Technically, every lineup in the contest could be the exact same. But that would obviously defeat the purpose.

The challenge of picking a lineup comes from the salary cap. Think of the salary cap like a mandatory budget. Every professional player is given a price. You have to pay that price to select the player to be in your lineup. If you pick a couple of the most expensive players, you’ll probably have to choose some really low priced players so you don’t go over the salary cap. The really low priced players are cheap for a reason. Most of them don’t play a lot, or even at all.

Your lineup competes against every other lineup in the contest. Most sites offer live scoring so you can see how your lineup is doing compared to all the other lineups as the real life competitions are played out. If you are participating in a contest that offers prizes your lineup has to be ranked high enough to get a prize. Prizes (often money) are determined before the contest so you know what place you need to finish to get the desired prize.

Cash vs. Tournament Contests

There are two main types of contest in Daily Fantasy Sports.

cash money

Cash Games

Cash games pay out a larger percent of the players in the contest but the payouts are smaller and usually all the winners get the same amount. A Double Up contest will pay almost half of the participants double the entry fee. So you “double” your money if you win. 50/50 contests pay the top half of the participants almost double the entry fee. You only have to beat 50% of the players in the contest to get a prize.


Tournament or GPP

Tournaments pay out a much smaller percent of the total participants but the prizes get much more substantial. The top place takes home a huge payout. 2nd place gets a little bit less, third even less and so on. Up to 20-25% of all participants win a prize in tournament contests. Usually a lot less in free contests.

You may hear some people refer to tournaments as GPPs or Guaranteed Prize Pools. This means that the prizes are guaranteed to be awarded even if the contest isn’t filled. Often, large tournament contests don’t reach the maximum allowed entries but the prizes are still awarded. Technically, Double Ups and 50/50 contests can have guaranteed prizes but they are still referred to as Cash Games. If someone refers to a GPP, they are most likely talking about a tournament.

So if you want to give daily fantasy a try, go sign up for free at DraftKings.

(Or see why I recommend DraftKings.)