Daily fantasy sports (DFS) and traditional sports betting
have a lot in common. They are both popular forms of gambling
for example, and they also require similar skill-sets and
knowledge bases. It’s possible to gain an edge and make long
term profits with both as well.
In addition to the similarities they share, however, there
are also some key differences between the two. The commissions
charged are different for one thing, and in DFS the opponents
are other human players rather than bookmakers. The laws that
govern the two activities are different too, or at least they
are in some regions. This point is particularly relevant if you
live in the United States, due to the complicated laws regarding
sports betting as you’re probably all too aware of. The legal
situation is a lot clearer with daily fantasy sports.
On this page we explore what we believe to be the biggest similarities and differences between daily fantasy sports and
traditional sports betting. This should help you to make a more
educated decision about which one you’d rather pursue.
Keep in mind that daily fantasy sports and
traditional sports betting are NOT mutually exclusive. You can
easily enjoy both hobbies at the same time. In fact, any
experience you gain in DFS can improve your betting abilities,
and vice versa.
Smart Players Can Profit from Both
One of the better written books about gambling is How to Make
$100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living by David Sklansky and
Mason Malmuth. In that book, the authors point out that there
are only a handful of gambling activities where you can
realistically gain enough of an edge to make a living. These are
The book came out long before the advent of daily fantasy
sports, but had they been around when the book was written then
the authors might well have included them.
One of the observations in the book was that a smart, skilled
sports bettor can make more money as a professional gambler than
anyone specializing in any of the other forms of gambling on the
above list. That may be up for debate, but it’s a fact that you
can make money from sports betting if you know what you’re
doing. The same applies to daily fantasy sports, and they have
the potential to be just as profitable as traditional sports
betting for most gamblers.
Both DFS and traditional sports betting offer the opportunity
to profit from your knowledge of a particular sport, or sports.
That’s not enough by itself, as you need to be able translate
that knowledge into mathematically advantageous strategies, but
consistent profits are possible with the right approach and a
willingness to learn.
In other words, if you’re smart and willing to work hard, you
can earn a living from daily fantasy sports or from sports
betting. Remember, as we already mentioned, you don’t even have
to choose between the two. There’s no reason why you can’t be
profitable at both.
Daily Fantasy Sports Is Legal and Safe
Sports betting is completely legal in many parts of the
world. Certain regions, such as the United Kingdom for example,
have bookmaking shops where you can bet on any sport you want.
In many other places, online betting is 100% legal and fully
If you live in the United States, however, your situation is
somewhat different. The only way to bet on sports without having
any cause for concern is to use Las Vegas books. This is legal,
and perfectly safe too. There’s no need to worry about getting
arrested or not getting paid out, as these books operate within
the law and pay their winners right away. Betting online is an
alternative option, but it’s not an entirely legal one.
No American is likely to be arrested for betting online, as
the laws and enforcement activities focus on the books and not
the people using them. This can still affect you though. If an
offshore sportsbook you’re using gets shut down by US law then
you may lose any money you have there.
Consider, too, what kinds of businesses are willing to
operate on the wrong side of the law. If they’re willing to take
your action knowing that it’s illegal under federal law, are
they likely to have a strong moral code when it comes to paying
out winnings? Maybe some of them will, but surely some of them
won’t. This problem can be avoided by using reputable betting
sites, but it’s still something for American sports bettors to
Daily fantasy sports, on the other hand, are legal and safe.
These games use the same rules as traditional fantasy sports
contests, which have never been legally controversial in the
USA. You can play from your computer too, so there’s no need to
travel to Vegas to participate.
For Americans wanting to get money into action on sports over
the internet, daily fantasy sports have a clear advantage over
offshore sports books.
DFS & Sports Betting Both Have Commissions
Daily fantasy sports sites usually keep a 10% commission on
all entry fees before paying out cash prizes. Here’s how that
You and one other player are involved in a heads-up fantasy
sports contest. You each pay $50 to enter. The prize for the
winner is $90. The other $10 goes to the site for hosting the
event. That’s a 10% commission.
Bookmakers also keep a commission, but the net amount is
usually lower. Here’s how that usually works.
You place a wager with a bookmaker and have to put up $110
in order to win $100. That looks like a 10% commission, but it’s
actually only around 5%. The total potential return when
wagering $110 to win $100 is $210, and that’s the figure used to
calculate the commission percentage.
The net effect of this difference is that you’ll need to
maintain a higher winning percentage in order to break even in
daily fantasy sports. You need a roughly 52.4% win rate at
sports betting when laying $110 to win $100. But in daily
fantasy sports, you need a roughly 55.6% win rate to break even.
This also means that you need a correspondingly higher win rate
in order to achieve the same goals for your ROI (return on
Our explanation relating to how
bookmakers charge commission is deliberately simplified for the
purposes of this article. For a more detailed look at the
subject, please read our article on how bookmakers make money.
There’s No Bookmaker to Beat in DFS
We’ve just mentioned how the commissions for DFS are
effectively higher than those charged by bookmakers. Although
this appears to be an obvious disadvantage of playing daily
fantasy contests, when you take other factors into account it’s
not actually that big a deal.
One factor that should be taken into account is that sports
betting involves pitting your skills against the skills of the
odds compilers and handicappers that are employed by bookmakers.
These people are very skilled, and they are essentially the main
reason why the sportsbook business is so profitable.
In the case of the Vegas lines, you’re talking about experts
with a practically unlimited access to data and its analysis.
It’s hard to compete with that kind of analysis and win enough
wagers to make money on a consistent basis. They set the odds
and lines with such efficiency that it’s incredibly difficult to
gain an edge over them. It’s possible, but it’s very
When you enter a daily fantasy sports contest, you’re facing
other people just like yourself. Some of the opponents you come
up against might be more skilled than you, but they won’t all
be. In fact, many of them will be not very good at all. You
certainly won’t face many opponents who are as hard to beat as
In this respect, daily fantasy sports contests resemble poker
games. If you’re one of the best players at a poker table, you
can consistently put yourself into positive expectation
situations and win money more often than you lose. The same
applies to being one of the best fantasy sports players on a
Both Activities Might Be Addictive
Gambling of any kind can be a curse to people with behavior
control problems. The science behind gambling addiction is
clear, and it’s all to do with the human mind and the
biochemistry of the brain. Without the right levels of
self-control, it’s entirely possible to create a dependency on
the highs and lows of gambling.
This a very important point to note. The internet is rife
with horror stories of people whose lives have been ruined by
gambling, and you don’t want to be one of those people. If
you’re someone who has quit gambling on sports because of your
addictive personality, daily fantasy contests are not a safe
alternative. If you can’t control your impulses when betting on
sports, changing to another form of gambling is not going to
Gambling addiction is similar to alcohol addiction.
Alcoholics can’t get their drinking under control just by
switching from whiskey to beer. It just doesn’t work.
Lots of people can enjoy gambling as a hobby, but many others
can’t. If you’re in the latter category, just stay away from
traditional sports betting AND daily fantasy sports. The
potential misery isn’t worth it. If you think you need help,
then do something about getting that help. Life is precious, and
every moment you spend as a slave to an addiction is a moment of
possible freedom wasted.
We’ve shown that traditional sports betting and daily fantasy
sports have some things in common, and there are also some
differences between the two activities. Each has its own
advantages and disadvantages.
An experienced sports bettor may feel much more comfortable
sticking with what he knows. An American may be happier playing
daily fantasy sports due to the clearer legal situation. There’s
no right or wrong here, and it’s a simple matter of personal
preference. We don’t recommend one over the other.
What we do recommend, though, is that you at least give daily
fantasy sports a try. You might not like it, but you might just
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