Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the obsessive nature of those who play fantasy sports. In the United States and Canada, more than 40 million people a year play some form of fantasy sports. Fantasy sports are a multi-billion dollar industry and one that continues to grow at a rapid rate each year.
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The vast majority of these players are playing season-long leagues or yearly leagues with their friends and family. However, the past several years have seen a meteoric rise of the daily fantasy sports industry. And if the numbers are any indicator, it’s not going away ANYTIME soon…
While the industry dates back to as far back as 2006, daily fantasy sports have only recently begun to receive mainstream exposure. Sites now advertise on television, radio, and across hundreds of fantasy sports-related sites. There are million-dollar prize pools every week for the NFL and championship tournaments throughout the year for other sports. Several sites offer top prizes of $1 million.
Even with this massive explosion in player numbers as of late, daily fantasy sports haven’t even tapped into 5% of the market of those that play season-long leagues. The potential for growth when it comes to daily fantasy is still mostly untapped.
What EXACTLY is “Daily Fantasy Sports?”
Daily fantasy sports are very similar to season-long leagues, with one crucial difference. Players can draft a new team every day or, in the case of NFL, every week. If you check out the chart below (courtesy of DraftDay) it really is extremely simple when it comes to picking a team, following live results on whatever DFS site you’re on and then collect your winnings!
Instead of drafting a team before the season starts and using one roster for the entirety of the season, daily fantasy, which I’ll abbreviate by using the acronym “DFS,” allows players to draft a new team roster as often as they would like. Players aren’t stuck with that injury-ridden team they drafted months or weeks ago. Instead, they can pick a new team every day and play for real money.
If your yearly team flames out early or you simply just want more fantasy action, DFS is the way to go. If you make a bad decision or roster choice, you can pick a new team in less than 24 hours.
Is DFS Legal?
Yes, it’s legal for the vast majority of citizens in the US. Only a few states, such as Arizona, Montana, Louisiana, Iowa, and Vermont, currently don’t allow daily fantasy sports in their states. However, many of these states have movements in their legislature to legalize the activity.
Even though it’s played daily, and much larger amounts of money are changing hands compared to season-long leagues, DFS benefits from the same legal landscape as yearly fantasy sports.
When the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in 2006, it criminalized overseas gambling operators that offered poker, casino, and sports betting to Americans but provided a special caveat for fantasy sports. The UIGEA actually provided the legal framework for DFS entrepreneurs to develop their products.
So, unlike offshore gambling sites, DFS sites are regulated and based in the United States and offer the full gambit of legal protections for players. Credit and debit cards, along with payment processor PayPal and other deposit options, are available. Most sites offer easy banking options and withdrawals back to your credit card, through PayPal, or via check through the mail.
The legal worries or payout concerns that surround many other gambling sites are never an issue when it comes to daily fantasy sports.
Bonuses and VIP Offers at DFS Sites
This is another aspect where online gamblers may feel some familiarity with DFS. Like online gambling sites, daily fantasy sites offer deposit bonuses, reload bonuses, and VIP programs.
Bonuses are cleared in the same way they that are at online gambling sites and sportsbooks. As players join contests for real money, they unlock portions of their bonus, which are released into their account.
Some of these deposit bonuses can be as large as $600. Sites will also offer reload bonuses, usually around the time a major league kicks off a new season. These reloads will be cleared the same way as deposit bonuses.
VIP programs and other bonuses will vary depending on the site, but some can offer unique rewards, such as buy-ins to larger events or reduced rake.
Type of Daily Fantasy Games Offered
Salary Cap Leagues
The vast majority of leagues offered by DFS sites will be salary cap leagues. Many sites offer variations of the salary cap and standard rosters, along with the snake drafts that so many yearly fantasy players are used to doing. Overall, though, the lifeblood of DFS is the salary cap league.
Instead of rostering players round by round like a snake draft, each player in the roster pool has a set price that is fixed. When building a team, you must fill each position on your roster without going over the salary cap. There’s no set amount that players have to spend; the only stipulation is that they can’t go over the salary cap.
Adjustments to players’ salaries take place after every day, or every week when it comes to football. How each site calculates changes in price using their own algorithm is up to them. A number of factors are considered when it comes to fluctuations in pricing. Recent performance is usually weighted most heavily, but the strength of opponent and early betting lines can also be factors.
Taking advantage of value in the pricing is the key to building a winning lineup. Some sites will offer “sharper” pricing than others, making it tougher to find value. Being able to spot value, along with understanding rules and scoring for each site you play, will go a long way to making you a profitable player.
Cash Games and Tournaments
When you begin to get more into DFS, you’ll often see players and experts mention the difference between a tournament and a cash game play. Rules wise, the contests, are the same, but the type of players you’ll want to roster for each game type are different.
When I talk about cash games, I’m mostly referring to head-to-head matchups, double-ups, or 50/50s. We can take this a little further and throw in 6-man, 10-man, and 20-man contests. The goal in cash games is to maximize your floor since you only have to beat one opponent or finish in the upper tier of most leagues. Players with upside are fine, but the goal in these leagues is to maximize your base of points because you don’t need a top score to win these contests.
The other league type is tournaments, which are also known as Guaranteed Price Pools (GPPs). These can number from hundreds of players to up to tens of thousands. In these types of leagues, you need to hit a home run with your lineup to win and post an above-average lineup to cash.
In these leagues, you’re looking for players with loads of upside that won’t be heavily owned by other managers. The “boom or bust” types of guys are perfect for GPPs because you need big games from players that wouldn’t generally be rostered elsewhere.
One of the best things about GPPs is that they usually offer some overlay. Their prize pools are guaranteed, hence the name, which means, if they don’t fill, the remaining money goes into the prize pool.
Registering for a Contest (like the ones listed above)
Those who have played online poker in the past will feel right at home when looking at a typical DFS lobby. The layout is extremely similar to a poker tournament lobby, more specifically, to a sit n’ go tournament lobby.
Simply clicking on a league you want to enter and hitting register is about all it takes to join a contest. It’s a painless process. Most sites also offer excellent tools for keeping track of your different leagues and lineups as well.
Furthermore, sites are always looking to create a better user-friendly environment for their players by looking to upgrade their interface. As someone who has played daily fantasy for several years, the interface and features available are light years better than where they were three years ago.
As I mentioned above, DFS has only scratched the surface of their potential market share. The industry is growing at a rapid rate, and with more advertising exposure across several mediums, it will be interesting to see the size of the prize pools we’ll have in a few years. The potential for growth is staggering, and I think it’s only a matter of time before everyone in North America is playing daily fantasy sports.