in ,

What Is Daily Fantasy Football And How To Play It: A Complete Guide

Daily fantasy football guide, what is daily fantasy football

What is Daily Fantasy Football?

While the two may share a name, season-long fantasy football and daily fantasy football are more like cousins than close siblings. Whereas season-long fantasy is your cousin that likes to read a book before turning out the lights at 9 pm, daily fantasy is the wild child who comes home at 2 am after partying all night.

You’ve probably seen a million different ads for FanDuel or DraftKings, the two biggest daily fantasy sites available. Based on their advertising budget, you’d think that you’re the only one missing out on not playing daily fantasy football. While it’s true that millions of people play daily fantasy every Sunday, only a small fraction of those people win money.

However, just as in season-long fantasy, daily fantasy can be more about the experience and fun-factor than about making money. Also, if you just want to play for free with your friends, that’s always an option too. This article will look at daily fantasy football from all aspects: how to play, strategies to use, and how to protect your bankroll.

When compared to season-long fantasy, the differences in how to play, and the strategy to become successful at the two games are vastly different. While DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike, beginners must know where and when to play if they want any chance of turning a profit.

When you play in a season-long league, the entry fee, if there is one, is akin to the price of admission to a movie or theme park. You’re there for the thrills, a few laughs, and if you make some money at the end of the day, it’s just a bonus.

On the other hand, with DFS, you’re likely not playing with friends. Instead, you are playing against hundreds, and often thousands of other players, all trying to optimize a lineup with the same pool of players to pick from.

How to Play Daily Fantasy Football

Playing daily fantasy is much easier than playing season-long fantasy because you pick your team in minutes, rather than hours, and never have to worry about roster management. To play daily fantasy football, you first select your contest, then you choose your players, and hopefully, you win money at the end of the day.


The available pool of players that can go on each team’s roster is the most significant difference between season-long and daily fantasy football. Daily fantasy football is a salary cap game (there is one exception to this which we’ll get to). A salary cap game means that every player is available to all teams competing in the contest, with varying salaries.

FanDuel Salary Cap: $60,000

DraftKings Salary Cap: $50,000

Yahoo Salary Cap: $200

Players are assigned a set dollar amount when the contest opens, and as long as the combined salary of your players is within your budget, then you’ll have a valid lineup. If you go over your budget, the site will not allow you to submit your lineup until you make corrections.

The three major salary cap DFS sites available to play at are FanDuel, DraftKings, and Yahoo. Thankfully, each of these sites has adopted the same standard lineup for their classic game:

  • QB
  • RB
  • RB
  • WR
  • WR
  • WR
  • Flex (WR/RB/TE)
  • Defense

The exception to both the roster and the way teams are assembled is DRAFT. distinguishes itself by giving users the thrill of a snake draft, but for daily fantasy. A snake draft is how most season-long fantasy football leagues are drafted. The draft snakes with the first team to pick in the first round becoming the last team to pick in the second round.

At DRAFT, the rosters are smaller, forgoing the traditional flex position for two receiver flexes:

  • QB
  • RB
  • RB
  • WR/TE
  • WR/TE


daily fantasy football scoring

The scoring in daily fantasy football is one of the main ways the game is similar to season-long fantasy football. However, scoring does vary between the various DFS sites that you can play on, so be sure to know exactly what the scoring rules are before entering a contest.

Draft Kings Standard Scoring

Offensive Scoring
Passing TD +4 Points
25 Passing Yards +1 Point (+0.04 Point/YD)
300+ Yard Passing Game +3 Points
Interception -1 Point
Rushing TD +6 Points
10 Rushing Yards +1 Point (+0.1 Point/YD)
100+ Yard Rushing Game +3 Points
Receiving TD +6 Points
10 Receiving Yards +1 Point (+0.1 Point/YD)
100+ Receiving Yard Game +3 Points
Reception +1 Point
Punt/Kickoff/FG Return for TD +6 Points
Fumble Lost -1 Point
2 Pt Conversion (Pass, Run, or Catch) +2 Points
Offensive Fumble Recovery TD +6 Points

FanDuel Standard Scoring

Offensive Scoring
Passing TD +4 Points
25 Passing Yards +1 Point (+0.04 Point/YD)
Interception -1 Point
Rushing TD +6 Points
10 Rushing Yards +1 Point (+0.1 Point/YD)
Receiving TD +6 Points
10 Receiving Yards +1 Point (+0.1 Point/YD)
Reception +0.5 Points
Punt/Kickoff/FG Return for TD +6 Points
Fumble Lost -1 Point
2 Pt Conversion (Pass, Run, or Catch) +2 Points
Offensive Fumble Recovery TD +6 Points

Yahoo Standard Scoring

Offensive Scoring
Passing TD +4 Points
25 Passing Yards +1 Point (+0.04 Point/YD)
Interception -1 Point
Rushing TD +6 Points
10 Rushing Yards +1 Point (+0.1 Point/YD)
Receiving TD +6 Points
10 Receiving Yards +1 Point (+0.1 Point/YD)
Reception +0.5 Points
Punt/Kickoff/FG Return for TD +6 Points
Fumble Lost -2 Points
2 Pt Conversion (Pass, Run, or Catch) +2 Points
Offensive Fumble Recovery TD +6 Points

Key Scoring Differences

  • FanDuel and Yahoo are half a point per reception, while DraftKings is a full point per reception.
  • DraftKings awards 3 points for a rushing or receiving game of over 100 yards.
  • DraftKings awards 3 points for a passing performance of over 300 yards.
  • Defensive scoring is the same on all three sites.
  • Yahoo scoring is identical to FanDuel, with the exception being -2 points for a fumble lost on Yahoo, compared to -1 point lost on FanDuel.
  • DRAFT offensive scoring is identical to Yahoo.

Strategy: Tournaments vs. Cash Games

Daily fantasy football strategy

Given the amount of money at stake every given day and week, strategy in daily fantasy comes down to much more than just picking high-scoring players. Many different factors come into play when selecting a winning lineup, but ultimately the most significant factor to consider, no matter the contest or format, is value. Playing and winning at daily fantasy is all about picking players that you believe are undervalued.

To be successful at daily fantasy football, you must understand the two main types of contests: cash games and tournaments. Cash games get their name from being the easiest way to keep your bankroll alive. A typical cash game is a 50/50 or a double-up, which will pay out the same dollar amount to the top half of the contest. Tournaments differ by paying out to fewer contestants, with the majority of the cash going to only the very top performers.

Tournaments (Guaranteed Prize Pool)

daily fantasy cash price pool

Tournaments are also referred to as GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pool) and are much different than cash games when it comes to strategy. A tournament will typically payout to the top 20% of the entries, making it much harder to cash in on a tournament.

Let’s look at an example of the payouts in the weekly FanDuel Sunday Million:

  • Entry Fee: $9
  • Total Prizes: $2,500,000
  • Total Entries: 330,687

Image courtesy of

As you can see, the top prizes are the reason why so many people will happily risk $9 for the chance to win the first prize of $1,000,000. The second prize goes down to $100,000, and you can make at least $1,000 by placing it in the top 20. But placing in the top 20 of a 330,687-entry tournament is incredibly unlikely.

From place #10,000 to #15,000, the payout is $18. But it’s important to note; you do not receive your entry fee back when playing daily fantasy. So, if your entry fee is $9, you’re only making $9 back with a return of $18. The last position to win $18 is inside the top 5% of contestants. If you place #10,000 you’re placing right at the 3% mark but still only win back a net profit of $9.

To illustrate how top-heavy the payouts in tournaments are, here are numbers courtesy of DraftKings showing their distribution of entry fees and winnings over the past six months:

Draft Kings Entry Fees and Winnings Distribution Past 6 Months
All DraftKings Users Entry Fees Payouts
Top 1% 31% 46%
Top 5% 32% 48%
Top 10% 33% 49%
Top 25% 33% 49%
Top 50% 34% 50%

With the top 1% of players accounting for 46% of the payouts, tournaments are not likely to be a profitable game to play long-term unless you’re an advanced daily fantasy player.

Take More Risks in Tournaments

Due to the higher difficulty, and a smaller chance of cashing in tournaments, it often pays to take more risks. Tournaments are all about high risk and high reward. Sometimes the risk will be rostering a lesser-known player that you believe will outperform expectations. Other times, you may roster a low-cost quarterback you expect to perform similar to higher-priced options, allowing you to spend more money on the rest of your lineup.

Single Entry vs. Multi-Entry Tournaments

It’s also important to note whether a tournament is a single entry only or allows multiple entries per person. In the Sunday Million, you can create up to 150 entries per person. A multi-entry tournament gives an advantage to the more experienced players who have a bigger budget to spend and are taking much more time to discover the most optimal lineups.

In a single-entry tournament, advanced players aren’t allowed to load up a large number of lineups. Single-entry contests then theoretically provide a better chance to place in a higher dollar position.

Stacking Lineups

Stacking is a term used often in DFS, which means picking multiple players from one team. The idea is to load up on an offense you believe will go off for big points in a given week. If you can roster a quarterback and wide receiver who hook up for a long touchdown pass, you’re scoring double the points for one play.

Identify Games with High Projected Point Totals

You can find betting lines by visiting an online sportsbook, and both FanDuel and DraftKings have their own sportsbooks, which is convenient. To bet at those sportsbooks, you must live in a state that allows it, but anyone can check on the lines without actually betting. Look for games with totals of 50 and above. The majority of NFL games will have totals between 40-50, with the lowest totals usually bottoming out in the upper 30s. The higher the projected total, the more fantasy points the experts expect to be scored.

The point total will help to identify a high-scoring game in which the offenses will be exchanging blow for blow, ideally with porous defenses on the other side. A high point total on a game can lead you to create a “game stack” in which you pick offensive players going against each other in the same game. If you pick correctly, you can wind up with a lineup full of points.

Avoid Highly Owned Players

Part of the problem with identifying the right team stack or game stack is the fact that thousands of other people are likely thinking the same thing. If the majority of entries have the same player, you have no real advantage for picking that player. The idea is to be contrarian in a tournament, and the challenge is being both a contrarian and correct with your players.

Perhaps a wide receiver is going up against a shut-down cornerback, and the market doesn’t believe he will perform up to his standard. Maybe you have some insight on that corner and have reason to believe the wide receiver will perform well despite the seemingly difficult matchup. This might be due to an injury, or a specific matchup reason. You must do your research to have success in DFS, and analysis should reveal matchups that your competition may not anticipate.

Injuries are Key

Injuries play a huge role in daily fantasy, just as they do in standard fantasy football. Sometimes, due to an injury, you are better off owning a player despite his high ownership. For example, pricing on players is set early in the week before the injury report comes out. If a starting running back gets hurt during the week, his backup may now be thrust into a starting role, while still holding a low-price tag.

The smart players in the market will know this, and many people will own the backup that now became a huge bargain. While you want to be contrarian, you don’t necessarily want to be so contrarian that you pass up a great value, which would put you at a disadvantage if that player performs well.

The other side of the coin is if you think the market is overreacting to an injury, and you don’t believe the backup will perform as well as expected. In this case, you could potentially roster the third-string running back, both fading the market and possibly finding a difference-making player at an even lower price.

Play the Matchups

Above all else, winning at daily fantasy is about finding value, and finding the right matchups. A low-cost quarterback may be the perfect option to anchor your tournament lineup if he’s going against the 30th ranked pass defense. You can then build from this quarterback by adding his favorite wide receiver. Now you can load the rest of your lineup up with #1 running backs, who have both a high floor and a high ceiling, along with the other most reliable players you can fit into your budget.

Cash Games

Cash games are a more laidback way to play daily fantasy. They are also an essential part of bankroll management. There are two primary forms of cash games: 50/50s and Head to Heads.

Head to Head games pit you against one other opponent. You both put up an entry fee, and the winner takes all (with the site taking their cut). For example, a Head to Head with a $25 entry fee on FanDuel will pay $45 to the winner, with FanDuel collecting 10% of the entry fees. 50/50s have the same payout amount but have more entries. In a 100-entry 50/50 contest for $25, the top 50 teams will get a $45 payout.

The strategy of cash games is to pick players with high floors. These are players that you feel are unlikely to be outright busts, even if they don’t have the same ceiling as another player at a similar price. Unlike the risk-taking strategy of tournaments, in cash games, you want to pick solid performers at every position, because finishing 1st is no different than finishing 50th.

Showdown Slates

A showdown is a daily fantasy contest that is centered on one game. The showdowns are reserved for a nationally televised game such as Sunday or Monday Night Football. With limited players to pick from, the rules are modified for showdowns.

Yahoo does not offer showdown slates, instead choosing to pair up two games, such as the Sunday and Monday night games, or the Monday and Thursday night games. DraftKings also offers these two-game contests in addition to their showdowns, but FanDuel does not.

The wildcard in a showdown contest is the MVP position. This is a player that will score 1.5x the number of points that they earn, making your MVP choice the most significant roster decision you have. You can choose any player to put in your MVP position.

Every position on the showdown slate is a FLEX, meaning you can pick any combination of running backs, wide receivers, tight ends or quarterbacks as long as you stay within your budget. The only roster difference between DraftKings and FanDuel is that DK lineups have six positions, while FanDuel has five positions.

Take Advantage of Beginner Contests

When you first sign up at a daily fantasy site, you are considered a beginner. Each site moves players into different tiers depending on how many contests they’ve entered and how much money they’ve made. These beginner contests will only be available to you for a limited time. So, to maximize your deposit, you should spend the majority of your time playing in beginner or intermediate-only contests while you can.

Bankroll Management

So, you make a deposit and start playing beginner matches on a site. You’ve made money, maybe double or even triple what you started with. You think to yourself, “this is easier than I thought, or maybe I am just that good!” So, the next week, you load up most of your bankroll on multiple entries, hoping to double your money again. Only this time, you lose the majority of your contests and now have just a few dollars left to play with.

It can be easy to fall into this trap, which often leads to you re-loading your account with more money to get back in the game. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and I’m not here to judge you. It’s your money to do with as you please. But it’s smart to go into a given season with an idea of how much you’re willing to spend on DFS.

At the end of the day, just like with standard fantasy football, playing daily fantasy is entertainment. If you win some money, then great, but if not, you don’t want to lose so much money that it outweighs the entertainment value.

To illustrate how difficult it can be to make daily fantasy a profitable experience, here are more numbers courtesy of DraftKings:

DK Users Past 7 Days Past 30 Days
Net Gain 16% 14%
Even 4% 8%
Net Loss 80% 79%

Play Tournaments with Friends

Each of the major DFS sites offers the ability to create your own leagues and host your own tournaments. You can structure these leagues however you’d like. If you want to pay out to 7 of the top 10, or just to the top 2 teams, the choice is yours.

These leagues will be available to be played for money, with the site handling the transaction (and taking their cut), or they can be free-to-play. If you’re playing with a close group of friends and you trust everyone, you can cut out the middleman and not pay a fee (just make sure you’re all Venmo friends).

Bottom Line on Daily Fantasy Football

Daily fantasy football can be as serious or as laidback as you want to make it. If high-stakes and big payouts are what get your spine-tingling, there’s an abundance of contests available to you in a variety of different formats. But if you’re simply looking for an extension of the fantasy football experience on a daily level, you can play a $2 50/50 and still have something to root for on Sunday.

The most important thing to remember when dipping your toes into the cool water of daily fantasy football is bankroll management. Try to have an idea of how much money you’re willing to spend on a given season, and pace yourself each week. While you may believe you have the ultimate lineup and want to load up on entries, the chances are good that someone else will have thought to use the same players.

Remember to have fun, play within your means, and try to play with friends. Daily fantasy football is an exciting way to spice up your Sunday afternoon, but before you set a lineup, do your research and give yourself your best chance. Good luck!

You May Like: How To Play Fantasy Football: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

What do you think?

Written by Fanable

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Influential NFL Games, Top NFL games of all time

Top 10 Most Influential NFL Games Of All Time

NFL players with shoe deals, NFL shoes, footwear endorsements NFL

Sweet Cleats: 6 Recent NFL Players With Footwear Deals