An Intro to Daily Fantasy Sports
Ever since Black Friday, online poker has been pretty much dead in the United States. US poker players have been without a skill-based online game for awhile. Until now.
Daily fantasy sports has taken the US by storm, and poker players have gravitated towards the skill-based, numbers-heavy game. What is daily fantasy sports exactly? Basically, it is like traditional fantasy sports but it lasts just one day (or in the case of football, one weekend).
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The way most daily fantasy sports is played is fairly straightforward. Upon entering the contest, users are given a set amount of 'fake money,' say $50,000. With this fake money, they select a squad of athletes. The best athletes cost the most money, and the scrubs the least. So if you are playing American football, someone like Peyton Manning may cost $9,500 whereas a mediocre quarterback (like say Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick) would only cost $5,000. Whoever selects the athletes that as a group perform statistically the best win.
By now, most Americans have at least heard of Daily Fantasy Sports, and Europeans likely will see it soon as well. One of the industry leaders, DraftKings, already has DFS for the EPL. However, Europeans still cannot sign up at DraftKings since they are not open to users outside of the United States and Canada (yet).
A lot of people have played season-long fantasy sports before and are interested in daily. Where do you start? How does it differ than season-long? Here is a quick guide.
The Differences Between DFS and Season-Long
The most obvious difference is time. A season-long fantasy league takes the entire season to play. Daily takes just one day or one weekend. Playing daily is far more suitable to playing for money since you only have to lock up your entry fee for hours, not months.
But there's significant differences in strategy as well. In season-long, you are generally playing in a small league with friends. A player can only be chosen once. After an athlete is drafted, no one else can choose him. Daily is different. Everyone can choose any given athlete provided they fit him under the salary cap. In daily, you may be in a contest with literally 20,000 other players, so the same athlete may be chosen by half of the users (10,000) if he's a popular pick.
In season-long, you are very exposed to an injury to a specific athlete. If you choose Jamaal Charles and he has a season-ending injury early in the season, you're screwed. In daily, injuries don't matter as much. If a guy you choose gets injured early in the game, then yes you are likely going to lose that day. However, your ROI over the course of the season won't get messed up too much due to any given injury since you can play so many times with a brand new slate of players.
Daily fantasy sports also stresses math-based analytics much more. In season-long, if you have two players at the same position, all that matters is you start whoever has a higher projection that week. In daily, you have to figure out not only which player has a higher projection, but which players have the highest value in terms of how much they cost. There's a lot of other considerations you have to take into account in daily (that you don't have to in season-long) when it comes to playing GPP's, but we'll get to that later.
Moreover, in daily, you can play many iterations. If you play season-long baseball, you may just be in one league with one team. In daily, you could easily play 150+ different days with different teams each day. Whereas your entire season in season-long may come down to one or two injuries, the luck factor in daily is wiped away a lot quicker due to the much larger sample size you gather over the course of the season.
In short, while any particular daily contest stresses the short-term performances of athletes much more than season-long, there are a lot more factors and variables you have to account for in daily that you don't have to in season-long, making daily a much more challenging, skillful game.
Large Tournaments vs. Double-Ups
There are two general contest types in daily fantasy sports. The first type, generally referred to as Guaranteed Prize Pool Tournaments (GPP's), are similar to poker tournaments. There's a large prize pool that is generally top heavy. The key difference between poker and daily fantasy sports is that in DFS the prize pool is always pre-set (to comply with the UIGEA). So if there's a $2 million prize pool, it will stay $2 million no matter how many people enter.
Generally, most sites set their prize pools and entries so there's a 10-13% rake. For example, there may be a $2 million prize pool with a $200 buy-in and up to 11,000 entries. So the site would take in $2.2 million, keep $200,000 as rake, and payout $2 million if the contest filled. If the contest does not fill, the effective rake would be lower.
In this $2 million prize pool example, the payout structure would likely be similar to a poker tournament. It would be top heavy, with first place receiving likely $300-$500k and paying all the way down to the top 20% of finishers. So in a tournament like this, you're playing to win first (much like a poker tournament).
In contrast, there are double up games, the 'cash games' of the DFS world. An example would be a $10 buy-in tournament with just 20 entries. The top 10 finishers would receive $18 ($2 going to the house). There's no benefit of placing 1st compared to 10th in this event; it just matters that you finish in the top half.
Double up events don't afford the same possible ROI as GPP's, but they're lower variance and allow newer players to dip their toe into DFS without losing all of their money too quickly.
If you're interested in checking out daily fantasy sports, the two largest sites are DraftKings and Fanduel. I'd also invite you to check out the DFS startup I work at, Sports Tradex. Sports Tradex has DFS games that are slightly different than the big 2 (we specialize in the Omaha of the DFS world you can say), and have generous rewards/signup bonuses. If you sign up at Sports Tradex and make a deposit, be sure to mention this article and I'll have you credited with a 150% signup bonus.