What are daily fantasy sports?

daily fantasy sports
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Daily fantasy sports are a variety of fantasy sports games where contests take place in a matter of days or hours rather than over a whole season. As with traditional fantasy sports betting, players build teams from a pool of professional athletes and earn points based on their team members’ individual performance on the field. Online platforms allow you to place bets and earn money by competing against other players. 

Daily fantasy sports, proponents argue, require genuine skill to play well. In fact, in 2015, more than 90% of profits from Major League Baseball fantasy sports went to fewer than just 2% of the user base. That’s why many platforms started introducing features for more level competition, like tiered entry fees, veteran-level identification, the ability to block players, and beginner-level contests, all of which make it easier to get started and work your way up. 

Daily fantasy sports in brief

Daily fantasy sports are a subset of fantasy sports betting, played over much shorter time periods, with more frequent team selection, betting and prizes. Participants engage in contests through online platforms, which allow them to build a team of athletes for a given league and win prize money based on the athletes’ real-world performance. 

A quicker way to play fantasy sports

As opposed to traditional fantasy sports games, which are typically played out over an entire season, daily fantasy sports are based on much shorter time periods — right down to the length of a single day or sporting event.

For example, one of the most popular platforms for daily fantasy sports, DraftKings, allows you to build and submit your team right up until the start of a game. The results are posted at the end of the day, and earnings made available shortly thereafter.

A booming industry

Daily fantasy sports today is a multi-billion dollar industry. In the US, it’s largely dominated by two online platforms, DraftKings and FanDuel, whose collective revenue for 2018 was close to $25 million. Each year, millions of players invest more than a billion US dollars in contest entry fees.

That’s not bad for an industry whose legal standing, until recently, was on shaky ground. In fact, until 2018, traditional sports betting was illegal in the United States, and the question of whether fantasy sports fell into this category was hotly debated. Today, however, the vast majority of states have explicitly legalized daily fantasy sports, and online platforms are increasing in number, user count, and total winnings awarded. 

How to play daily fantasy

Online platforms and mobile apps make it easy to create an account, build your team and - with a bit of skill and luck - collect your winnings.

Before you get started, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully — these vary from site to site, which each have their own rules and scoring methods. However, the general process is as follows:

1. Make an account on a daily fantasy sports website

You have a couple of different options, but it’s often easiest to go with the largest platforms, as they have guides and information to get you started and special leagues for beginners. FanDuel and DraftKings both have easy-to-use interfaces and helpful features for beginners.

2. Decide on a game style, sport, and contest

Once you’ve made your account, you’ll need to decide what sport or sports you’d like to compete in. Most platforms support football, hockey, baseball, basketball, and soccer, while others focus on specific sports, like NASCAR or MMA.

There are a number of game styles to choose from. “Double-Up” games, for example, guarantee you a 100% return on your entry fee if you finish within the top 50% of all players. “Head-to-head” games are played against a single opponent and tend to be preferred by seasoned players. Finally, Guaranteed Prize Pools offer tiered payouts based on your team’s performance.

To compete, you’ll need to join a contest. These will be listed in the platform’s main screen or lobby and differ in sport, style, size, minimum buy-in, and duration. Entering a contest will include paying an entrance fee.

3. Build your team

Next, it’s time to build your team. You’ll have a list of all the players available, plus their stats and, often, recent performance reviews. It’s up to you to choose the best team you can, but you’ll need to make sure their combined salary is below a certain amount, known as the “salary cap.” Team building is where the skill comes into daily fantasy sports games, so consider your options carefully. 

Once the days’ games are finished, the stats are updated and your team’s performance is displayed on your home page. If you’ve selected a winning team, your earnings will be available shortly. If not, better luck next time...

Gambling responsibly

You probably don't need us to tell you that any form of gambling comes with serious risks and should never be undertaken as a silver bullet to solve your financial troubles. It's worth remembering the phrase...the house always wins!

If you suffer from a gambing problem or suspect somebody you know does, then we strongly suggest that you give the National Problem Gambling Hotline a call on 1-800-522-4700 to discuss it with a professional. It’s so important to make gambling safer for yourself and loved ones.

Christian Rigg

Christian is a freelance writer and content project manager with 6+ years' experience writing and leading teams in finance and technology for some of the world's largest online publishers, including TechRadar and Tom's Guide.