How to play Daily Fantasy Sports for Beginners

The simple reason for why betting has become legalized in the United States? The boom of fantasy sports. That was very popular before the proliferation of high-speed internet access to nearly everyone, but the web changed everything. Fantasy sports became its own billion-dollar industry.

When something is booming in this country, companies are going to spring up around it. And, of course, fantasy sports begat the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings. Owners of professional sports teams (Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones to name two) started taking stakes in those companies, and it became apparent that fantasy sports was indeed betting. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially agreed in 2018, and now states are in charge of passing their own sports betting laws.

Daily Fantasy Sports remains a very popular option for the average Joe or Jane who doesn’t understand point spreads or moneylines or totals and has no interest in betting on the result of an NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball game. Daily Fantasy Sports are a solid alternative, although your odds of winning are smaller.

Daily Fantasy Sports are different from the fantasy leagues in the past as those were season-long competitions. Daily Fantasy Sports are just as they sound: One-day competitions. It doesn’t matter how many touchdown passes Tom Brady throws in a season or how many home runs Bryce Harper hits over 162 games. It only matters what they do in a given day/game in terms of returning a profit in Daily Fantasy Sports. The NFL is slightly different in that games on Thursday night and Monday night also are usually included with the Sunday results. However, in sports that play every day or nearly so like baseball, basketball and hockey, it’s one day and over. (There are also options in golf, NASCAR, soccer and MMA but we’ll stick to the four major American sports here.)

How to Play

To start in Daily Fantasy Sports, simply open an account with whichever provider you choose – you must deposit a minimum amount of money, usually $20. Shop around for the best sign-up offers or bonuses – FanDuel and DraftKings, etc. are competing for your dollar and are just like sportsbooks in that they offer incentives to lure customers. Most sites will offer one free play simply to get accustomed to the system and rules.

Then, pick which contest to compete in – prices and rewards will vary. There are tournaments, limited-player leagues (think of those NCAA Tournament groups you may join for the ESPN Tournament Challenge), head-to-head, friends-only, beginners-only and many more. Head-to-head is the easiest to begin with because it’s just you against another competitor. The sites allow competitors to see others’ all-time win totals and skill levels so you can hand-pick whom you can to play.

Some contests offer nearly unlimited entries (each entry costs $$$). Be wary of those because expert fantasy players will take advantage of that by running thousands of statistical simulations to determine the best possible lineups. Some contests are single entry and others have an entry limit, usually no more than 10.

Let’s use the NFL as an example. If you were drafting in a season-long fantasy football league, Brady would be available to only who drafted him. However, in Daily Fantasy Sports leagues, Brady is available to everyone because players aren’t selected by draft but via a salary cap that’s the same for every fantasy competitor. (Some season-long fantasy leagues also are built around salary caps but most are straight up drafts.)

FanDuel typically has a $60,000 salary cap so competitors would have to decide if Brady is worth, say $10,000. You have to fill out a full lineup of players just as in weekly or season-long fantasy: a quarterback, two running backs, three receivers, a tight end, a flex position and a defense. In baseball, it’s one player at each position, and a certain number of flex players and pitchers.

Players are given points for positive and negative results – exactly like typical fantasy leagues. The more yardage or touchdowns that Brady throws for the better. If he’s intercepted or loses a fumble, that’s negative. In baseball, obviously a player who hits for the cycle is going to have a lot more points than one who is 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. In the NBA, try and find players who fill up the stat sheet in points, assists and rebounds.

DFS Strategy

While the points strategy is the same, it’s crucial to fixate on that day’s matchup. In baseball, the No. 1 priority would be the starting pitchers. The Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer is always going to be an expensive play because he’s so dominant. However, maybe he has a poor track record against a certain member of the Los Angeles Dodgers that day. You could get that Dodgers player really cheaply because he’s facing Scherzer. Find value wherever possible – that’s the key to winning at DFS. Get the biggest bang for your buck and don’t simply purchase a few high-paid stars and fill out the rest of your roster with low-paid scrubs.

In the NBA, check a player’s statistical history against an opponent. Might not be smart to pay a lot of money on Russell Westbrook if he’s playing a third game in four nights and Westbrook’s Thunder are facing the NBA’s top defensive team. In the NHL, don’t purchase any player whose team is going against a red-hot goaltender.

While value can be had at times in betting on games with early lines, even the day before, it’s not smart to do so in Daily Fantasy Sports. Wait until the last minute because any injury news is key. What if right before tipoff, the Lakers decide to rest LeBron James and you already paid for him? Perhaps a starting pitcher is scratched in baseball. A top NHL goaltender gets a game off to rest, etc.

The competitor(s) with the most fantasy points at the end of the day wins the money. It’s that simple. Cash out or roll it into the next day’s event.

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