Introduction to Daily Fantasy Sports

Believe it or not, you can make money watching sports.

In this article we’ll run down the VERY basics of Daily Fantasy Sports.  If you have played traditional fantasy sport formats, such as season long leagues, it should be a pretty easy transition to DFS.  Let me fill you in on some of the differences.

Time Frame

Just as season long leagues take place over the course of an entire season, Daily Fantasy takes place over the course of, you guessed it, a single day.  NBA and MLB Daily Fantasy is always single day contests, however NFL  contests will sometimes stretch over the course of an entire week.

When there’s a big slate(a group of games) for a given sport, DFS sites will also offer a number of smaller slates which are a smaller collection of games taken from the big slate.  This allows the players to play contests specific to the games they want to watch or ‘sweat’.  If you want to watch the games at 4pm only, you can play that slate so you’ll always be watching your players. These smaller slates will have less contests, participants and overall prizes as the majority of players typically play the main slate.

Entry Fee

You no longer have to deal with hassling members of your season long league to pay their entry fees. With DFS you can easily and quickly join contests to play against players across the world.  To join real money fantasy sports leagues it’s now as simple as clicking ‘Enter Contest’.

You might have wondered how the sites make money.  They do so by take a percentage of every buy in entered into a contest as a fee for playing on the site.  The percentage they take varies depending on the buy in of the contest, field size, game type, and the site you play on.  Typically entry fees are 12% or less. If you play poker, you can equate this to the “rake” that the casino takes from every pot.

Salary Cap

Unlike most traditional fantasy leagues, DFS contests have a salary cap.  To create your roster you will be given a salary to ‘purchase’ your players.  Each player has a price assigned to them based on their projected performance. Every position must be filled while remaining under the allotted salary, like a puzzle.  This is where the strategy comes into play, it’s crucial to maximize value within the salary cap.

Contest Types

One of the most innovative features of Daily Fantasy Sports sites are their wide range of unique contest types.  Traditional season long fantasy football leagues have you playing 1 on 1 (head to head) vs another member of your league each week.  DFS sites have included this head to head format while also adding Double Ups (50/50s) and Tournaments.

Head to Head and Double Ups are often referred to as ‘Cash Games’.  I believe this name was adopted from poker, however a more apt comparison would be to poker’s sit and go format.  Despite my disdain for the name, it has stuck.  Large field tournaments are often referred to as ‘GPPs’.  This stands for ‘guaranteed prize pool’ tournaments.

Head to head games are simple.  You play one opponent and whoever wins the contest and doubles their money (minus the entry fee withheld by the site).

Double Ups and 50/50s are similar to heads up in that the maximum you can win is double your money.  However instead of playing against just one other player you’re playing against multiple players, the top scoring half of whom doubles their money.

GPP tournaments are the crowd favorite, especially for new DFS players.  GPPs run a tournament style structure somewhat similar to a poker tournament.  You must reach a certain place to make any money, and payouts increase the higher place you finish.  These tournaments will be played out regardless of whether or not they fill, hence the ‘Guaranteed Prize Pool’ .  In these tournaments it is often beneficial to be contrarian as low owned players who perform well have more benefit to you against the field than higher owned players. In other words; high risk yields high rewards.

Read Our Introduction to Cash Games and Introduction to GPPs for a more in-depth break down of the different Daily Fantasy contest structures.

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