Daily fantasy sports (DFS) has been around in one form or another since the 1980s. Today, it has become a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of players. It’s a popular way for sports fans to earn extra cash by doing something they already enjoy.
Presently, fantasy sports betting sites are active in many US states. Players across the United States now have access to fantasy sports betting.
The modern form of daily fantasy sports began around 2007. Today, fantasy sports betting is big business. Players can make some real money by playing their favorite fantasy sports.
Overall, daily fantasy sports was really boosted by the internet. Before the internet age, fantasy sports players had to scour newspapers every day to keep up with league stats. Today, the internet is the only place you need to look. All the latest sports data is immediately available online.
Best DFS Sites
Overview in maintenance
Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in the USA?
Overall, daily fantasy sports betting is mostly legal in the US. However, there is still some debate in a few states over whether or not this is really gambling. Regardless, DFS is currently legal in more than 40 US states.
Some states do consider it to be gambling. In some of these states, DFS operators are still allowed but they must have a gaming license. Additionally, some states charge DFS operators taxes and licensing fees in order to operate.
In a few US states, there is no clear ruling on whether or not daily fantasy sports is truly gambling. In these states, some DFS operators have taken the chance to open their businesses. So far, none have been shut down in these states.
Additionally, there are a few US states that have declared daily fantasy sports to be illegal. In most of these states, DFS falls under state-specific gambling laws.
However, daily fantasy sports is fully legal and regulated in more than 20 states. Presently, more states are actively considering DFS legalization.
What is the Best DFS Site?
Overall, there are two major players in the world of daily fantasy sports. They have become household names today thanks to massive ad campaigns. They are DraftKings and FanDuel. Together, these two betting sites hold more than 90% of the DFS market share in the US.
1. DraftKings Daily Fantasy Sports – $20 Free with First Deposit & Up to $500 Match
DraftKings holds the title for the largest daily fantasy sports operator in the USA. Presently, it’s active in most US states.
It’s easy to play DraftKings daily fantasy sports for cash. The company’s DFS software is accessible via web browsers and apps for both iOS and Android. Overall, the DraftKings DFS software is one of the best in the industry.
DraftKings offers players a variety of daily fantasy sports contests. Players can enter qualifier events to gain access to larger tournaments. Then, players can enter large contests with guaranteed prize pools for winners. Additionally, players can compete head-to-head against one other player in single matchups. DraftKings also holds regular 50/50 tournaments.
DraftKings offers daily fantasy sports on more than just the biggest major leagues. You can play all these daily fantasy sports via DraftKings:
- Auto Racing (NASCAR)
- College Football
- Esports (League of Legends, CS:GO, Call of Duty, etc)
- Mixed Martial Arts (UFC)
- Golf (PGA Tour, European Tour, Outlaw Golf)
- Soccer (Premier League, Champions League, Major League Soccer)
- Aussie Rules Football
Presently, DraftKings offers the widest variety of sports in DFS and a massive player pool. Consequently, DraftKings prize pools are often the largest in the industry. This has only helped the company grow more popular.
2. FanDuel Daily Fantasy Sports – $5 Free on Signup & $5 Free on Deposit
FanDuel is a close second to DraftKings in the daily fantasy sports market. Presently, these two DFS operators have a bit of rivalry going in the USA. Both are very popular. FanDuel is very close to DraftKings in terms of size. Specifically, FanDuel can claim more than $ billion in annual payouts.
This constant competition between FanDuel and DraftKings has only benefitted players. As these two fantasy sports betting sites compete, they push each other to improve. Consequently, FanDuel has made big changes to its platform over the years. These changes have been well received by players.
FanDuel also offers its DFS platform via web browsers and apps for iOS and Android. The FanDuel DFS software is very polished with an intuitive interface. Additionally, FanDuel is constantly adding new game formats and updating its platform.
FanDuel offers all the popular industry-standard DFS formats. Large tournaments with guaranteed prize pools are offered as well as head to head matchups and 50/50 contests.
Additionally, FanDuel has its own innovations. The company has launched single-game DFS contests, beginner contests, and many fresh player features over the years.
FanDuel also has its own contest entry limits which serve to help new players. Other special features on the platform include advanced entry, late swap, and third-party software blockers. Additionally, FanDuel offers simplified versions of its core games.
Presently, FanDuel offers these daily fantasy sports:
- Major League Baseball
- Soccer (English Premier League)
What is Daily Fantasy Sports?
The basic concept of daily fantasy sports is the same as traditional fantasy sports. Players seek to create their own fantasy teams using athletes from across a specific league. To simulate real gameplay, the athletes’ real in-game stats are used.
The main difference with daily fantasy sports is that the timetable is accelerated. DFS contests are played in short time periods, not over entire seasons. For example, a daily fantasy sports contest might run for just one day.
Otherwise, daily fantasy sports is just like classic fantasy sports. As the player, you build your team like a GM by doing research, then drafting and trading players. The goal is still to put together the strongest team among your opponents.
The games are perfect for the internet age where everything moves quickly. They give sports fans a more immediate way to enjoy fantasy sports. Occasionally, daily fantasy sports contests can be played over just a single real-world game.
What Types of Daily Fantasy Sports Contests Are There?
The simplest DFS contest is the salary cap contest. This is just like classic fantasy sports. In this format, players build fantasy teams while staying under a set amount of total player salaries. This helps keep things balanced. It prevents players from stacking their teams with only the best players in the league.
In salary cap contests, most of the player salaries are totally fictional. However, they are based on real-world performance. Overall, players who do the best end up with the highest DFS salaries.
Once your team is built, you earn points based on real-world player actions. The performance of your players in actual league games determines the success of your DFS team.
Salary Cap DFS Contests
These are some of the most common formats for salary cap DFS contests:
- Guaranteed Prize Pools: In these daily fantasy sports contests, players pay a fixed entry fee. That fee becomes part of the shared prize pool. In these contests, the prize pool is guaranteed to be at least a certain minimum amount. If not enough players join to reach that minimum, then the DFS operator puts up the rest of the cash. Usually, these contests have the biggest payouts on daily fantasy sports betting sites. Anywhere from 15-25% of the player field will receive payouts. However, payouts are weighted towards the top. More successful players will get bigger payouts.
- Leagues: DFS leagues are more limited in size. They can have anywhere from 3 to 100 players. Both private and public DFS leagues are offered. Usually, they don’t have fixed prize pools. However, payout percentages end up about the same as bigger contests.
- Head to Head: Head to Head DFS contests are just what they sound like. In this format, two players compete against each other directly. The player with the stronger team wins the entire prize pool.
- 50/50: This is a variation on other DFS formats. If a DFS contest is 50/50, then the top half of the field all gets an equal payout.
Not Salary Cap-based DFS Contests
Additionally, there are some daily fantasy sports formats that are not salary cap-based. They include:
- Tiers: DraftKings offers tiered contests that don’t have set salary caps. Instead, players are grouped into tiers. Each tier has its own cap.
- Beat the Score: This contest type is offered on FanDuel. Players must still try to build a strong team. In order to get a payout, a player’s team must meet a minimum scoring total.
- Showdown Captain Mode: This DFS game mode is offered on DraftKings. It’s a bit looser than other formats because it gets rid of real-world team positions. Players can build their teams with whatever athletes they want. Additionally, the player can set a team captain. That captain earns points with a 1.5x multiplier.
- Single Game: This FanDuel DFS format is a bit more realistic. In this mode, players can only build teams using athletes who are playing in the same real-world game. Players can select certain athletes to earn points with bigger multipliers.
- Parlays, Props, and Predictions: This daily fantasy sports format takes a page from real-world sportsbook betting. Some fantasy sports betting sites offer unique props formats.
Best NFL Daily Fantasy Sports Contests
The NFL just might be the most popular major sport in daily fantasy sports betting.
There is no daily fantasy sports contest bigger than the Super Bowl. For these games, fantasy sports betting sites offer massive contests with up to $1 million in prizes for first place.
DraftKings and FanDuel also offer weekly NFL daily fantasy sports contests. These are the biggest NFL DFS contests:
DraftKings Millionaire Maker
This DFS contest gets its name for a good reason. Usually, the prize pool is guaranteed at $7 million in total. Ultimately, the overall winner will get a $1.2 million cut of that pool. Individual entry fees are just $20.
The size of this DFS contest makes it tough to win. It attracts some of the world’s best DFS experts. It can also have a maximum of 400,700 entrants. Out of those players, the top 83,000 will get a payout.
FanDuel NFL Sunday Million
FanDuel had to answer back when DraftKings released the Millionaire Maker contest. Sunday Million is what they came up with. This contest has a total guaranteed prize pool of $6 million. The overall winner gets $1 million. Entry fees are $25 per person.
This DFS contest is also capped. Only a maximum of 275,862 people can enter. Out of all those entrants, the top-ranking 55,300 get paid in the end.
FanDuel Sunday NFL Rush
This contest also has a big guaranteed prize pool at $2 million. Additionally, the entry fee is just $5 per person!
However, this doesn’t make this contest easy to win. It’s capped at 459,770 entries so it’s still quite large. Lots of those entrants are daily fantasy sports experts. The top 90,800 players will get a payout. The overall winner will get $150,000.
DraftKings Weekly Play Action
Remember we said that DraftKings and FanDuel like to compete? Well, this is the DraftKings version of Sunday NFL Rush. It only costs $3 to enter, but it’s also a huge contest. Total entries are capped at a maximum of 575,000 players. Out of all those people, 122,290 of the highest-ranking players will get paid.
The total guaranteed prize pool for this contest is $1.5 million. The first-place player will get a $100,000 payout.
Daily Fantasy Sports Bonuses & Free DFS Contests
DraftKings and FanDuel both offer bonuses for new players. Both fantasy sports betting sites will give $20 in free cash to new players. However, to get that cash, a deposit must be made first.
Additionally, both of these top daily fantasy sites offer free contests and limited time promotions. Occasionally, players can win millions of dollars through these special offers.
These are the welcome bonuses on offer right now at both sites:
- DraftKings: Get $20 free on your first deposit + a deposit match up to $500
- FanDuel: Get $5 free when you signup + $5 free on your first deposit
DFS Props vs DFS Salary Cap Contests
Daily fantasy sports betting sites offer a few props contests. They are somewhat similar to the props bets you’ll find at sportsbooks. In DFS props, you can bet on performance aspects and game stats of specific players.
Daily fantasy sports salary cap contests are more common. In these DFS contests, players build their teams while trying to stay under a set salary cap. Every player is given a fictional salary based on past performance stats. Better players will end up with higher salaries.
How is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in the USA?
The modern forms of daily fantasy sports started in the US back in 2007. Initially, the industry made it very clear that DFS contests were skill games and not gambling. Consequently, legislators never really gave it a second thought.
However, the popularity of daily fantasy sports eventually exploded. By 2015, both FanDuel and DraftKings were running advertisements nationally on major TV networks. Once this happened, it was impossible for lawmakers to ignore.
First, it was former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who took aim at daily fantasy sports. He stated that under current laws at the time, DFS should be illegal. Consequently, this industry found itself involved in extensive legal proceedings.
Ultimately, this small speed bump did not cripple the daily fantasy sports industry. By the end of 2018, most of the legal trouble had passed. By that time, DFS was actually legalized and regulated in 20 states.
US States Where you can’t Legally Play DFS:
Today, these are the only US states where you can’t legally play daily fantasy sports:
Specifically, only Arizona, Montana, and Washington have outlawed the practice via legislation. However, daily fantasy sports companies are not willing to take the risk in Hawaii, Idaho, and Nevada. That’s because attorneys general in those three states have issued negative opinions of the practice.
It’s important to know that outside of the 20 regulated DFS states and the 7 listed here, there exists a legal grey area. Specifically, the remaining US states don’t have any daily fantasy sports laws on their books. It’s really up to the DFS operators whether or not they want to operate in those states. So far, no “grey area” states have done anything to clamp down on DFS.
More states are actively pursuing DFS and sports betting legislation. It’s possible that as sports betting becomes widely legalized, DFS will follow.
Major League Deals with DFS Operators
When sports betting became federally legal in the USA back in 2018, most major leagues were against it. However, DFS is a different story. Many of the top leagues in the USA have already partnered with daily fantasy sports companies.
For example, the MLB jumped onboard with DraftKings back in 2013. This was the first time any major league organization partnered with a daily fantasy sports operator. This opened the floodgates. After this, DraftKings and FanDuel knew there was more investment potential from other leagues.
More Major League-organizations will Follow
Straight away, DraftKings signed deals with seven NHL teams. By the end of 2014, DraftKings had even signed a multi-year contract with the NHL itself. At the same time, the NBA invested heavily in FanDuel. The two organizations signed a four-year deal at the end of 2014.
The NFL followed shortly after that. By mid 2015, the NFL gave its teams permission to partner with DFS operators. In just a few months, FanDuel had made deals with 16 NFL teams. New England Patriots owned Robert Kraft even invested his own money in DraftKings.
The paid promotion did not slow down at all after that. By the end of 2015, DraftKings has signed a three-year partnership with ESPN. The deal was reported to be around $250 million. Additionally, DraftKings signed a $250 million deal with Fox Sports around the same time.
At this point, advertising for DraftKings and FanDuel became unavoidable during sports broadcasts. Almost every NFL game at the time saw heavy DFS advertising. However, this slowed down in 2016. In that year, daily fantasy sports came under some additional legal scrutiny.
However, daily fantasy sports once again stayed alive in the USA. Today, DraftKings is the official daily fantasy game of the MLB, NHL, and NFL. Additionally, FanDuel is the official DFS partner of the NBA.
Daily Fantasy Sports vs Seasonal Fantasy Sports
Traditional fantasy sports contests are played out over entire sports seasons. There are a few big differences with daily fantasy sports:
- Results are immediate
- More players are involved
- You can win more money
It’s true that some high-stakes traditional fantasy leagues exist, but even those can’t touch daily fantasy sports. Daily fantasy sports betting is now so big, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Players can win up to a million dollars in some DFS contests.
Usually, the biggest daily fantasy sports payouts happen during the NFL season. However, other leagues like the MLB, NBA, and NHL also regularly see six-figure prize pools.
There are a lot more players in daily fantasy sports compared to classic fantasy sports. Some of the most popular guaranteed prize pool DFS contests will accept 500,000 or more players. Conversely, most traditional fantasy sports leagues have just 10-15 teams in each.
Daily fantasy sports betting sites know that people like the classic league-based model too. In response, most major DFS operators now offer public and private DFS leagues. These contests have fewer players than the guaranteed prize pool contests. However, they still attract tons of players. People like that this is more familiar and has a social aspect.
Additionally, because DFS contests are often held daily, there’s less of a time commitment. It’s possible to just play for a few days then take time off. Daily fantasy sports contests don’t necessarily require constant attention.
DFS Sports to Choose From
Overall, daily fantasy sports operators offer mostly the same sports. However, some offer sports that attract more niche audiences. In theory, any sport is a candidate for daily fantasy sports because all sports have stats. That’s really all it takes to play daily fantasy sports.
However, there are some clear leaders in terms of DFS revenues. These are the top sports for DFS:
- Basketball (NBA)
- Baseball (MLB)
- Football (NFL)
- Hockey (NHL)
Additionally, there are plenty of other options. You will find tons of professional sports at the major daily fantasy sports operators. These are some of the more niche options available:
- Canadian Football League (CFL)
- College Basketball
- College Football
- Esports (League of Legends, CS: GO, Overwatch, Dota 2, etc)
- Euroleague Basketball
- Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
How to Win at Daily Fantasy Sports
In general, there is no way to guarantee yourself a daily fantasy sports win. However, it’s possible to improve your chances.
The biggest problem you’ll face is that daily fantasy sports contests can attract hundreds of thousands of players. In contests this large, you need to be really good to make it to the top. Straight away, you can improve your chances by playing in lower level contests with less players.
Part 1 Practical Tips
Otherwise, here are a few practical tips that might help you succeed:
- Enter Multiple Lineups: With this strategy, you basically enter the same contest more than once. It’s possible to enter a DFS contest with multiple lineups. However, this will require more money invested on your part. It also takes a bit more time to get it right. The upshot is that if one of your lineups does poorly, you still have backups and decent chances.
- Stick to Low Stakes: Like we mentioned above, DFS contests on the lower levels are often a bit easier to win. If you put in expert-level research, it can really pay off in low-stakes DFS contests. That’s because most low-stakes players don’t invest a lot of time. Usually, they’re just in it for fun and they play by their gut feelings.
- Be Different: If you do the exact same thing as every other daily fantasy sports player, you’ll get the same results they do. Distance yourself from the pack by finding less obvious choices. If you put in the time and research, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems.
Part 2 Practical Tips
- Play the 50/50 Contests: In 50/50 DFS contests, the top half of the field all gets the same payout. That means you can earn solid cash by being just a bit better than average. You don’t necessarily need to crush it in order to get decent payouts. This is a great way to build up a solid bankroll playing DFS.
- Do the Research: If you put in the effort beforehand, you’ll reap the rewards later. In fact, it’s the exact same way in real sports. The best players are the ones who put in the time and effort to improve and perform well. Do your own research and make your own conclusions. It’s good to take advice from fantasy sports writers, but don’t rely on it completely. You still need to find your own way. Otherwise, you’ll just be making the same moves as everyone else.
What Not to Do in Daily Fantasy Sports
We can go on for pages about the best DFS strategies and tips. However, it’s a lot quicker to explain the main things to avoid when playing daily fantasy sports. Here are three things you shouldn’t do in DFS:
- Don’t Ignore the News: Sports news is one of the best ways to get up-to-date info on your fantasy players. The big sports networks like ESPN are constantly reporting. Check in often to learn about new trades, injuries, and more.
- Don’t Follow the Crowd: Like we said earlier, if you do what everyone else does, you’ll get the same results they do. That doesn’t mean you should ignore the popular moves and opinions. It’s great to know what the crowd is thinking. However, you should use that knowledge to find something fresh and new that no one is doing.
- Don’t Take on the Pros: Certainly, there are daily fantasy sports professionals out there. These people make a living playing DFS, so they’re true experts at it. Unless you’re an expert too, you shouldn’t try to take them on. If you think you can handle it, stop and think for a second. The DFS pros are doing this all day, every day. This is their job. Are you putting in the same amount of time?
Daily Fantasy Sports FAQ
Is DFS Considering Sports Betting?
This is a tough question to answer. In fact, many US legal experts have been trying to nail down and answer for years.
We’ll break it down the best we can. At some daily fantasy sports betting sites like Monkey Knife Fight and PrizePicks, things are similar to sports betting. At these sites, you are basically just choosing the over or under on props bets. However, you aren’t placing “bets” like at a sportsbook. That said, you’re still betting on the same things you would be at a sportsbook.
The biggest thing that’s saved DFS from betting regulation is that it doesn’t allow for single game wagers. Meaning, you can’t place DFS bets on a single team to win a specific game. Daily fantasy sports is based on individual players and stats, so it’s much more skill based. This has held back much of the betting regulation too.
When Will DFS Be Legal in All 50 States?
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to ever happen. However, it is likely that some additional states will legalize daily fantasy sports soon. Many states have DFS or sports betting laws on the agenda for this year. It remains to be seen what the outcomes will be.
In some states, DFS and sports betting are rolled into one. This can be a blessing and a curse. In some states, that means DFS can easily become legal. However, in others it means the exact opposite.
How Much Money is Made in Daily Fantasy Sports?
The short answer: a lot of money. To give you an idea, it’s estimated that daily fantasy sports generated $335 million in revenue in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. In that same time period, more than $3.2 billion in DFS entry fees were paid.
Is Daily Fantasy Sports a Form of Sports Betting?
It’s easy to see why DFS and sports betting often get confused. In both, players get cash based on specific outcomes from sporting events. However, there are some big differences between the two.
In true sports betting, you can place a bet of virtually any size. You can place that bet on tons of different outcomes. You can bet on which team will win, and you can bet on the total combined final score. Additionally, you can bet on point spreads and props within specific games too.
Sports betting props bets are the closest thing to DFS. For these bets, gamblers place wagers on who will be the first player in the game to score or who will have the most points. In football, a common props bet is who will get the most yards passing or rushing.
However, despite the similarities, daily fantasy sports works completely differently from sports betting. Players cannot place wagers on specific game outcomes. There is no traditional betting. Instead, in DFS contests, players pay a set entry fee. That entry fee gives access to a tournament where players build fantasy teams from league players. To receive a payout, players need to have the strongest teams in the contest.
How Many People Play DFS?
These days, daily fantasy sports is immensely popular in the USA. Some estimates place the yearly number of players in the tens of millions. Usually, the most popular DFS contests every year revolve around the NFL.
What Are Daily Fantasy Sports Rankings?
This is a way for DFS operators to rank players. These rankings are used when creating DFS lineups. The rankings can help you determine who is a better player.
How Do I Optimize My DFS Team?
There are actually quite a few DFS Lineup Optimizers out there on the internet. Do a quick search and you’ll find lots of options to help you.
How Do I Make a Living Playing DFS?
Like anything else, to make a living playing DFS you need to invest tons of time and effort in it. It’s nearly impossible to make a living from DFS as a part-time player. You would need to be very lucky. Additionally, there’s a strategy to earning a consistent living from DFS. THe pros don’t just enter every DFS contest they find. They aim for the ones which they’re most likely to excel at.
How Do I Build a Good DFS Lineup?
There is no shortcut here. You need to do lots of your own research. It helps to take advice from experts, but don’t use that alone. Dig into the data on your own and find your own plays. Additionally, it helps if you’re a big sports fan too. If sports are your hobby, you already know more than most people.
Is Daily Fantasy Sports Gambling?
At the core, daily fantasy sports is really not gambling.
For example, in sports betting (gambling) players can place wagers of any size on specific games. Gamblers can bet on the winner, the total score, and a ton of other outcomes.
In daily fantasy sports, players cannot place any wagers. Instead, players pay a set entry fee to enter DFS contests. In these contests, players build fantasy teams from league athletes. Daily fantasy sports contests are decided by the combined real-world statistics of fantasy team athletes.
Do I Have to Pay Taxes on DFS Winnings?
Overall, yes you will. There are specific ways that the IRS wants you to report these earnings. For more information, check with DFS operators in your state or contact your accountant.