If you’re new to playing daily fantasy football then you’re
going to need to gain some knowledge before you get started. You
might feel comfortable jumping straight in if you already play
season-long fantasy football, or even if you bet on football
with a bookmaker, but you really shouldn’t. Daily fantasy sports
are a unique form of gambling, and it’s important to know what’s
involved before putting any money at risk.
On this page we provide some information and advice that is
targeted squarely at daily fantasy football players who are just
getting started. We’ll help make sure that you approach things
in the right way, and also give you the best chance of making
money from the moment you begin playing. At the very least we’ll
make sure that you lose less money than you would if you just
How the Scoring Works
Scoring in daily fantasy football is one aspect of the hobby
that doesn’t differ much from the season-long variation of the
hobby. There are minor variations between the different sites,
but that’s true of season-long leagues, too. It’s very rare to
find two leagues which have the exact
same scoring system, even though the general principles are
always the same.
Here are a few quick points you need to know about how daily
fantasy football scoring works.
You get points based on how the players on your fantasy
Almost everyone on your team can score points.
The most points come from the players who get the most
Players who are able to score also earn a lot of points.
This means that running backs, wide receivers, tight ends,
and quarterbacks are the key players. Some sites also allow the
draft of a kicker, but that position isn’t as important as those
just mentioned. You’ll almost always have a team defense, too.
That’s more important than a kicker, but it’s less important
than all the offensive positions.
Most leagues equate ten yards to one fantasy point.
Touchdowns are worth six points. Most daily fantasy football
leagues also award points per reception, too—making wide
receivers especially important. Field goals are worth three
points. Defense gets points based mostly on how many points they
allow the other team to score. The fewer points the opposition
scores, the more points the defense earns.
Somewhat obviously, the goal in fantasy football is to get
more points from your lineup of players than your opponent does.
This page provides an introduction to how to do that, but you’ll
want to learn a lot more about the strategy involved if your
goal is to become a consistent winner. Like poker, daily fantasy
football is a game you can study for a lifetime without ever
How the Lineups Work
Different DFS sites have different rules about exactly how a
lineup must be put together. As an example, here are the
positions required at one of the more popular sites.
1 x Quarterback
2 x Running Backs
3 x Wide Receivers
1 x Defense
1 x Tight End
1 x Flex Player
A flex player is a position that can be filled with either a
running back, wide receiver, or a tight end. Some sites might
not offer this option, and instead require a kicker to be
Unlike season-long leagues, the entrants in daily contests
can put the same players on their roster as their opponents. In
fact, it’s even possible for two (or more) opponents to have the
exact same roster. This makes things easier in some respects, as
you don’t miss out on preferred selections just because other
contestants have picked them. However, sites compensate for this
by the use of salary caps.
How Salary Caps Work
A salary cap is a budget that applies for the purposes of
drafting players. Entrants to daily fantasy football contests
are all given the same amount of money to spend on their
rosters, and they must decide how to distribute that money
across the different positions. How well the salary cap is spent
ultimately determines how well a lineup does.
The size of the salary cap can vary from one DFS site to
another. It’s usually around $50,000 to $60,000. The value of
the players can also vary, as each site has their own formula
for calculating this. Their formulas take into account each
player’s performance for the season so far, along with their
projected performance in an upcoming game.
The Key To Winning Is Value
The goal in daily fantasy sports is essentially to get as
much value out of the salary cap as you possibly can. Value is
measured according to how points are scored per dollar of the
salary cap spent. Here’s an example to illustrate this further.
You’re playing at a site with a $50,000 salary cap.
Your team scores 200 fantasy points.
Your cost per point is $250.
Your opponent also had a $50,000 salary cap
His team scores 300 fantasy points.
His cost per point is $166.67.
When putting together a lineup, the idea is to try to predict
how many points each player is going to score. That prediction
should then be compared with a player’s salary in order to
determine whether or not he’s a good buy at that price.
Finding value is a vital skill in daily fantasy football, as
finding more value means winning more often.
How to Find Value
One of the tools you can use to get an idea of what’s going
to happen in a particular game is to look at the Vegas lines. No
one handicaps football better than the books in Las Vegas.
Here’s an example of how the Vegas lines can help.
You’re thinking about drafting a quarterback for a team
The Vegas Line has that quarterback’s team as a 14 point
Chances are good that this quarterback won’t score you
many fantasy points.
The over/under for a particular game can also help. If the
over/under is low, then that means the books expect the total
score for the game to be low. The reverse is true, too—a high
over/under means they’re expecting a high scoring game. For the
sake of a fantasy roster, you want offensive players who are
involved in high scoring games and defensive players who are
involved in low scoring games.
Based on the Vegas lines, you can make projections for how
many fantasy points you expect players to earn. If you want to
get really serious, you can track this via spreadsheet. You can
use columns on a spreadsheet to track projections versus cost
and come up with estimates for each player’s value. You can also
estimate what the overall dollars per point figure will be at
the end of the game. This is the kind of detail you need to get
into if you want to be a long term winner.
It’s a good idea to pay attention to the winning
scores in the contests you’re playing. This information can then
be used to set targets for how many points you need to score to
win in the future. In turn, this can help you to budget your
salary cap effectively.
Finding Value With Freerolls
Many daily fantasy football sites offer freerolls for new
players. These are contests with cash prizes, but no entry fee.
For example, one of the most popular fantasy sites runs a
freeroll once a week for anyone who has made a deposit within
the last 7 days. This weekly freeroll runs every Saturday and
offers $1,000 in cash prizes.
Any time there’s an opportunity to win money without having
to put any money on the line, you should take it. It’s the
ultimate in positive expectation. These freerolls are therefore
great for when you’re getting started, and even after you’ve
been playing for a while.
How the Different Contest Types Work
You can divide daily fantasy football contests into two broad
categories; cash games and tournaments.
About Cash Games
Cash games are where a lot of the serious players grind out
their profits each week. The main cash games are called H2H
(head to head) and 50/50 contests. The head to head contests are
limited to two players each. You have a single opponent, and the
winner takes the prize.
50/50 contest are similar, but they have a larger player
field. If your score is in the top 50% of the field’s, you get
prize money. All the winners get the same amount—there’s no
difference between 1st place and 48th place in a 100 person
contest for example.
Grinders play in as many of these cash games as possible.
They look at their knowledge and expertise as an edge that they
want to exploit repeatedly in exchange for small profits.
Here’s an example.
A player estimates that he can win 57% of the time.
He starts the season with a $1,000 bankroll.
He focuses on playing in $10 buy-in head-to-head
He’s playing 100 contests a week.
If he performs according to his mathematical expectation,
he’ll win 57 contests and lose 43 contests. In these contests,
he wins $18 for each win. After his first week, his bankroll is
That doesn’t seem like much, but if his bankroll is $10,000,
and he follows the same strategy with the same winning
percentage, he’s winning $260 per week.
And as his bankroll grows, he’s getting more money into
action each week, so the effects of compound interest start to
Tournaments are higher variance. If you’re looking for a big
jackpot, these are the contests to focus on. In a tournament, a
large number of players compete for cash prizes that are
progressively larger the better your team performs.
Here’s an example.
Tournament with $100 buy-in & 100 players
Total of entry fees is $10,000 ($100 x 100).
Site takes 10% commission ($1,000)
Total prize pool is $9,000 ($10,000 – $1,000)
First place pays $3,500
Second place pays $2,250
Third place pays $1,250
The remaining $2,000 is divided up between places 4-10.
In these contests, you’ll almost certainly place in the money
less often, but when you do, you’ll see a larger return on your
investment. One of the tricks to performing well in these
tournaments is to embrace variance.
In other words, you’ll have to get lucky and have lots of
players who weren’t widely chosen and who also had really great
weeks in order to win.
The best tournaments to get involved in are the ones with
guaranteed prize pools (GPP). These GPP tournaments might have
more money in the prize pool than the entry fees will cover,
which means that the fantasy football site is covering the
difference. In this case, you have an overlay situation.
Any time you get involved in an overlay situation, you almost
guarantee yourself a positive expectation.
Here’s an example.
Tournament with $100 buy-in & $10,000 Guaranteed
50 players enter.
Total of entry fees is $5,000 ($100 x 50).
Prize pool is still $10,000.
Site makes up the extra $5,000.
The extra $5,000 added by the site is effectively “dead
money”. Just by being in the tournament, you have a shot at
winning it—even if it’s only a small one.
Busy sites rarely offer overlay situations, but you should
keep your eyes peeled for them anyway.
They’re too profitable to ignore.
Managing Your Bankroll
Suppose you estimate that your edge over the average player,
after taking into account the site’s commission, is 1%. If you
enter a $1,000 contest, you expect to win $10. Let’s assume
you’re playing a head to head or 50/50 contest.
That’s a mathematical expectation, though. In real life,
you’ll either win $800 or lose $1,000. Your chances of either
are fairly close to 50%, in fact—even if you’re a skilled player
with an edge.
On the other hand, suppose you entered 1,000 contests—each of
which has a $1 entry fee. Your chances of going broke are
practically non-existent. In fact, as long as you win a little
more than 55.56% of your games, you’re almost guaranteed a
The player who puts his entire $1,000 bankroll on the line is
engaged in a maximum boldness strategy. If you think you don’t
have an edge, this might be the most effective way to manage
your bankroll. A 45% chance of almost doubling your money might
be better than seeing your bankroll ground away by the
commissions and the edges of the more experienced players.
But if you’re a good player, you want to focus on a minimum
boldness strategy. You want to minimize your chances of going
broke. By entering a lot of contests, you’re less likely to
double up immediately with your entire bankroll, but over time,
your bankroll should grow incrementally each week.
Everyone has a bad week, too. Just because you have a lower
winning percentage than you expect one week doesn’t mean you’re
a loser. It could just mean you had some bad luck.
You want to look at your overall winning percentage over the
life of your career as a daily fantasy football player. You can
become more confident of the accuracy of your results as the
number of contests you’ve played in grows larger.
Your bankroll requirements vary according to your goals. If
you’re just doing this for a lark, putting all your bankroll
down on one contest is fine. Just be prepared to go broke if you
On the other hand, if you’re playing cash games, try to keep
your buy-in to between 1% and 2.5% of your bankroll. If you have
$1,000 earmarked for daily fantasy football, this means putting
between $10 and $25 on the line in each contest.
If you’re playing in tournaments, you should be even more
conservative. You might need $2,000 or even $4,000 to play for
those same stakes. Since you’re winning less often, but winning
bigger prizes when you do win, you have to protect yourself from
the vicissitudes of luck by not risking a large percentage of
your bankroll on a single tournament.
Stacking players means taking multiple players from a single
team. For the most part, you’ll want to avoid stacking players
in daily fantasy football. That’s because there are only so many
points to go around.
For example, you might choose to add the top three wide
receivers for a team on your roster. Chances are that the teams
WR1 is going to see the most action—the other two receivers will
see a reduced workload.
The same holds true for running backs.
If you want to win daily fantasy football contests, you have
to do well in multiple positions.
The only exception to this is stacking a quarterback with his
#1 wide receiver. This makes the most sense when you’re playing
in a tournament, and you’re looking for a wide receiver to have
a really big breakout week. If he does, you get points for both
the quarterback’s passes and the receiver’s receptions, and all
the yards that both earn.
Offense and Defense
You also want to avoid having a lot of offensive players on
your team at the same time as the opposing defense. You’re
guaranteeing mediocrity when you do this. If your offensive
players perform well, your defense is guaranteed to perform
poorly, and vice versa.
You want to focus on getting players from throughout the
league for your team.
Don’t Start H2H Contests Yourself
In poker, players refer to each other as “sharks” and “fish”.
Daily fantasy football also has sharks and fish—the sharks are
the players who win and take money from the fish. When you
start, you’re almost certainly going to be a fish.
When you start H2H contests yourself, the sharks are lurking
in the waters—waiting to jump into your contests. You’re better
off finding people who have already set up H2H contests and
joining their tournaments. Try to avoid getting into multiple
contests with the same opponent.
Daily fantasy football is more fun than you can imagine, and
getting started is easier than you think. With a little bit of
common sense and some thoughtfulness, you can enjoy this hobby
without losing a lot of money at first. Eventually, with some
practice and attention, you can become a winning player. All it
takes is diligent application of the getting started advice
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