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Introduction To Daily Fantasy Sports

Updated on October 24, 2014

Where To Play

Before you can start playing daily fantasy, you have to find a reputable website. There are many out there and most offer similar contests so it will come down to your personal preference on the site layout and the ease of use. The two largest sites are FanDuel and DraftKings. I personally use DraftKings most of the time. DraftKings tends to offer a wider array of sports (they even tried World Cup contests in 2014) and contests so that may tip the balance in their favor for you. You can test out each website before making an account. I would recommend searching for contests, reviewing the sports that are featured, looking at the payouts for events in your price range and review their policies on payouts. Once you find a site that you like, it’s time to deposit some money.


Deposit Bonuses - Don't Believe The Hype

Most sites will advertise deposit bonuses but don’t get sucked in. Unless you are depositing a lot of money, chances are it won’t do much for you so I would not make my decision based on the bigger deposit bonus. A common bonus is to match your first deposit. Let’s say you deposit $10, the assumption would be that you can then play in a $20 contest. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The $10 deposit bonus will be held as a pending bonus that is “released” as you play contests, typically at a rate of 4-5% of the entry fee of each contest. For example, if you enter a $25 contest on FanDuel, $1 of your pending bonus will be “released” to your account. So, in the long run you will get the benefit of that deposit bonus, but it will take a while. It’s also important to note that you cannot withdraw your bonus. These policies are in place to prevent fraud and discourage people from creating multiple accounts.

Types Of Games

Once you have picked a site and deposited your cash, it’s time to pick a contest. There are a few different styles of contests. Here’s a quick rundown on the more popular types:

  • Tournaments: a large number of players, anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands; payouts for the top spots are massive but the chances of winning are small
  • Leagues: smaller than a tournament, usually 3 to 20 players; winner takes all or sometimes top few paid out, smaller payouts than tournaments but better odds
  • Head to Head: you against one other player; winner take all
  • 50/50: could be any number of players; half of players win and are paid twice the entry fee
  • Double-up/Triple-up/etc: could be any number of players; half/third/etc of the players will double/triple/etc their entry fee

(This is a good time to mention “the rake” which is the website’s take of entry fees. Typically, 10% will be taken out of the prize pool. For example, if you are in a 3 player $10 contest, the winner will only win $27. Anytime you see words like “half” or “double” keep in mind that it’s not quite that much because of “the rake.”)

Drafting Your Team

The next step to create your lineup. All daily fantasy use a “salary cap” structure. Each player will have a specified value and you will need to create a team while staying within the salary cap. So, you want to find players who have good value for the week. You can find these values by looking at injury reports and see whose stock is rising because they will see more playing time. You should also play the matchups and find somebody playing an inferior opponent who could rack up points. Remember, this is daily (or weekly for football) so you need to use a different strategy than traditional fantasy. Players that are injured/suspended have zero value. Players who enter the week questionable to play are high risk because once the contest starts, you cannot change your lineup (even if the injured player is in a later game). Be careful not to take too may “sleepers” because despite their upside, there is a good chance they do not produce. Ultimately, you should have a good balance of high upside players and consistent players to maximize your chances.

Draft Tips:

  • Try to find value players. You are not going to be able to have all superstars on your team. Everyone can pick superstars, but it's the players who can draft for the best value who are going to win.
  • Know the type of league you are drafting for. You may not want to draft the same for a tournament as you would for a double up. Knowing the payout structure can have a huge influence on how you want to draft your team. If only the first place spot pays out, then you are going to have to go big. If half the teams get paid out, it's probably best to play it a little safer.
  • Don't draft injured players. There's just no reason to. There are plenty of other options available.
  • Draft based on match ups. Jay Cutler at home vs. Jacksonville might be a better pick than Peyton Manning playing in Seattle. Cutler might cost less too.

DraftKings Draft Lobby
DraftKings Draft Lobby

Show Me The Money!

If you win your contest, and I hope you do, you will be wondering what happens to that money. Your winnings will stay in your account on the site until you decide to withdraw them. Do not use a website that makes it difficult to withdraw your winnings. Mainstream sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings allow you to use your PayPal account which makes deposits and withdrawals effortless. If you read the withdrawal policies and they are confusing or convoluted, stay away!

Giving daily fantasy sports a try may seem like a daunting task for the traditional fantasy player but if you have some know-how going in you will be able to select a reputable website, maximize your deposit and pick winning lineups!

Once you get started, be sure to check out my hub on daily fantasy football strategy!

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