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A Beginner’s Guide to Daily Fantasy Football

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
May 3, 2019

Paying attention to your contest’s scoring system can help you maximize your lineup’s potential

If you’ve been playing season-long fantasy football for any amount of time, you’ve probably wondered if there are any other ways to play the game and enhance your experience as a player. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) contests are a lot of fun and offer fantasy managers the chance to pick a new team each and every week and compete against friends, family, and passionate fans in exciting games. The best part? You can win money in some of these contests! Whether you’re brand new to the world of DFS or just dipping your toes in the water, this article will act as a guide to the basics of playing in these daily contests.

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What is it?

Daily Fantasy Sports, or “DFS” contests, are fantasy sports contests that focus on a single game or a single slate of games. In these contests, users compete against one another for prizes that are usually monetary, but can range from tickets to sporting events to free entries into higher stakes contests. These contests are similar to season-long formats in that managers try to score more points than opponents using the best available lineup of players. The difference comes down to how lineups are constructed.

Season-long formats require users to draft and trade players and then play only those players on their team each week. In DFS contests, a user’s lineup can (and will) change every single week. There is no draft and no trading, but there is a salary cap. These contests require users to select their players using a set amount of money.

Where to Play and How to Get Started

There are a number of quality DFS sites to try, but hands down the two best are FanDuel and DraftKings. For the best and most convenient user experience, download the apps and play right from your fingertips. To check out the full sites, click here for FanDuel and here for DraftKings. You can create an account for free on both sites and begin playing immediately.

There are plenty of free contests that you can join or set up yourself, so you don’t ever have to deposit money to play. Free contests often don’t pay anything to top finishers, so if you want to win some money playing DFS, you’ll have to spend it to make it. Both sites require a minimum $5 deposit, but check around for promos and exclusive offers before making your first deposit. More often than not, you can double or triple your initial investment with special deals.

Once you’ve created an account, you can navigate through the lobbies of the sites to select the specific sport you want, the date and time of the specific game or slate of games you wish to play, and the contest type. Both FanDuel and DraftKings have very friendly interfaces that make it simple for anyone to navigate. Paid contests cost as little as $0.10 and can run into the thousands of dollars.

Contest Types

When you’re ready to play and have selected the game(s) you want to bet on, you’ll need to select a contest type. There are a bunch of these, so you’ll want to have at least an overview of how they all work to decide which one is right for you (for more in-depth information on selecting the right contest types, click here – LINK to DFS contests article).

Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPPs)
These are your big money contests. GPPs have a tiered payout structure and usually allow multiple user entries. A tiered payout structure means that first place wins the largest prize, second place wins slightly less, and so on down to the lowest winning prize and user entry. These contests carry the highest risk/reward factor, but the payouts can be huge for a top finisher.

Cash Games
Cash games are games in which all winning entries receive the same flat payout. Multiple entries are usually not allowed. Cash games are comprised of two subtypes: head-to-head (H2H) and 50/50s.

  • In H2H games, you’ll be playing against one player in a winner-takes-all prize structure. Score more points than the other guy, and win some money.
  • In 50/50s, you’ll be playing against a large pool of users, but you only have to finish in the top 50 percent of entrants in order to win. The top half cash out, and the bottom half wins nothing.

Cash games are safer and are the recommended play for beginners because of the safe floor, equal pay structure, and single-entry format. When looking for contests, you may find the label “EPE.” That stands for “Experienced Players Excluded,” and those contests are only available to beginner and intermediate users. These contests exclude those users with a lot of contests under their belts, ensuring beginners have a more level playing field when setting lineups and throwing down money.

One often overlooked feature of DFS platforms is the ability to play with friends. Fantasy football is always more fun when competing against friends, and it’s so simple to do! Let’s take a quick look at how to play with friends on FanDuel. On the FanDuel app, simply look at the bottom banner for the “Friends” tab. Click it, and you can “Start your league” or “Create Challenge.”

Starting a league means you can invite a number of friends to play in a recurring DFS contest that renews each and every week. Set the name of the league, invite your friends by copying or sharing the link, select an entry fee amount, and get started! Creating a challenge enables you to select one friend to challenge in an H2H contest. Just like the league function, set the price and select the game(s) you want to get started. These contests are one-offs and do not renew weekly.

If you would like to challenge more than one friend without creating a league, select the “Lobby” tab on your app, select the sport, select the contest you would like (Intermediate, Full Roster, or Single Game), then navigate to the bottom of the page to select “Create Private Contest.” Simply select the entry fee, set your lineup, create the contest, and invite friends.

Single Game vs. Full Roster

Full roster contests consist of selecting a multi-player lineup similar to season-long formats that span multiple games. Typically, full roster contests run Sundays for the 1:00pm through the 4:25pm games. Thursday night, Sunday night, and Monday night games are rarely tacked onto these contests and stand alone as single-game contests. Full roster contests typically feature one QB, two RBs, three WRs, one TE, one flex, and one D/ST, which need to be fit within a salary cap.

Single game contests are made up of five or more players that must fit within a salary cap. These players do not have to fill out any set positional requirements. Instead, all of your players are flex options that you can select as long as you have the money for them. This means you can play both starting QBs in a game if you’re willing to pony up the expensive salaries for both.

Single Game MVP or Captain
In single game contests, there is often a designated player who will score double points. At FanDuel, this is the MVP, but on DraftKings this is the “captain.” FanDuel does not make you pay extra for the double points, but DraftKings doubles the salary of any player you select for you captain slot. It’s important to note the difference in scoring and price among players with extra point designations in single-game contests.

Lineup Submission and Scoring

Once you’ve picked your contest, it’s time to construct your lineup and submit your entry. Each player is assigned a price based on skill level, matchup, and projected production. Elite players cost the most, and players with little upside cost the least. To see the available players, click on the position. There, you can see the players and their salaries and sort them by price or by the fantasy points per game they’ve scored. News and notes are available on almost all players you may want to select.

The app keeps a running total of the money you’ve spent and will let you know how much is left to spend (black) or how much you are in the negative (red). Once you have filled all of the required roster spots and stayed within the salary guidelines, you can hit submit. Lineups can be edited all the way up to kickoff, so it’s a good idea to pay close attention to any injury designations that may affect the status of a player in your lineup.

Scoring in DFS contests is very similar to scoring in season-long leagues. Both FanDuel and DraftKings use some form of a “point per reception” (PPR) scoring system, both award four-points per passing TD, and both award six-points per all other TDs. It’s very important to know what scoring system is in place in order to maximize value from picks. Scores and standings are updated in real time, so you can follow the excitement of your contests as they unfold.

Before getting started with a contest on any platform, be sure to check the scoring! You can’t set the best roster possible without understanding how the players score points. For DraftKings scoring, click here. For FanDuel scoring, click here.

Odds and Ends

While DFS sites and apps require a minimum deposit, there is no minimum to withdraw funds. If you win even a couple bucks, you can withdraw those funds immediately, though you’ll likely need a PayPal account set up to receive the withdrawal.

Make sure to turn on notifications, subscribe to emails, and check your preferred site or app frequently for promotions, contests, and giveaways. DFS sites want you to keep playing, so they will try to draw you in with deposit matching, rewards for entering specific contests, and free contests. Many use a point system that rewards users with points for frequent plays or frequent wins. Those points can be used to enter contests and act as a “store credit” of sorts.

It goes without saying, but play responsibly. Fantasy sports are for fun and should be treated as such, even when there is money on the line. Stick to a weekly or monthly budget when entering these contests and know when to walk away.

DFS is a form of gambling, and it’s easy to get too involved too quickly. DFS sites almost always have proactive tools to help users play responsibly. These include restricting access for a set timeframe, restricting monthly deposit amounts, and restricting monthly entries. Now that you have the basics, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get playing!

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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

DFS, DFS Advice, DFS Glossary, Featured, NFL