a primer to daily fantasy football - main 550 compAs guys… we love football, and we love fantasy football:

It’s the favorite fantasy sport of 73% of players polled… the fantasy sport that Americans spend $11 billion playing each year… and the fantasy sport that even had its own prime-time show (The League).

Now:

Season-long fantasy football is great… but as we all know, things happen:

Your draft position sucks. Your star QB gets injured. Your team doesn’t perform and you don’t make playoffs.

…And it’s for these things that I was so excited to start playing the unique new style of fantasy football that has recently exploded in popularity:

Daily fantasy football.

Daily fantasy football (DFF) is faster-paced, more engaging, and more exciting than traditional, season-long fantasy football…

…and since scoring, strategy and setup are similar in DFF, if you do well in your season-long league, you’ll be able to quickly and easily make the transition to daily fantasy football.

And here’s the best part:

Playing daily fantasy football, you have the chance to win real money each and every week.

a primer to daily fantasy football - winningNow… I want to be clear:

DFF isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It’s a game of skill that requires research, strategy and some specialized knowledge…

…but like anything, with practice, you can get good… and if you’re good, you can make real money playing fantasy football.

So… to help you get started playing, and winning, at daily fantasy football, I put together this comprehensive guide.

It covers everything from how to play, to how to make money playing…

…and even includes some advanced strategies and tips used by the fantasy pros!

A Primer to Daily Fantasy Football

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Like I mentioned above, this is an incredibly comprehensive guide that will teach you everything you need to know about playing, winning, and making money from daily fantasy football…

…but if you’re interested in something specific, you can use the table of contents below:

Side Note: Throughout this article, you’ll see italicized links on specific daily fantasy football terms (for example: GPP). These are internal links that, if you click, will jump you to the definition of that term. As an example, click on the italicized link for “GPP”.

What is Daily Fantasy Football

Daily fantasy football is the evolution of fantasy football.

It’s different (and better) than season-long fantasy football in two simple ways:

  1. There is no draft
  2. You select your team using a salary cap

Here’s how it works:

Every NFL player is assigned a monetary value based on their past and projected performance. Each week, you create your team, selecting the players you want, while staying under a specified budget.

For example:

In the fantasy contest below, you have a $200 budget to draft your fantasy dream team:

salary comp

Now:

As you can see, Tom Brady costs $41. So… if you select him as your quarterback, you’d have $159 ($200 – $41) left to draft your team’s remaining eight players.

Make sense?

Here’s the bottom line:

In daily fantasy football, you get to use your knowledge, strategy and skill to select your dream team… each and every week.

Why It’s Better than Season Long-Fantasy Football

Don’t get me wrong:

Traditional, season-long fantasy is great…

…but daily fantasy football is better for three main reasons:

Reason #1: You’re not constrained by your draft order

We’ve all been there:

A bad position in the draft order caused you to miss out on the top picks.

…But thanks to daily fantasy football’s salary cap structure, you’ll never again be restricted by draft order. Choose from all NFL players to draft your dream team each and every week.

Reason #2:  You’re not crippled in the event of injuries

a primer to daily fantasy football - injured players - comp

We’ve all been here too:

You draft an incredible team and have high hopes and expectations for the season… when your star QB takes a hard hit, gets injured and is out for the year.

In daily fantasy football, you draft a new team each week… so your season is never ruined or stunted by injuries.

Reason #3: You can win real money

Using your skill and knowledge, you can win real money each and every week playing daily fantasy football.

Now… I want to mention again:

It’s not a get rich quick scheme. It’s a game of skill that requires research, strategy and planning…

…but like anything, with practice, you can get good and can start making real money by playing.

The 4 Types of Daily Fantasy Football Contests

There are four main contest types in daily fantasy football, each with its own rules, strategies and advantages.

If you want to skip ahead to the strategies for making money playing daily fantasy football, click here.

1. Head to Head (H2H)

# of players: 2

Minimum buy in: Free/$1

Good for beginners: Yes/No

As the name suggests, head to head is a 1 v 1, winner takes all contest between you and one opponent.

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

h2h comp

It’s the simplest version of daily fantasy football and the contest most similar to traditional, season-long fantasy football (both players select a lineup and the person with the highest score wins).

2. 50/50

# of players: 4 or more

Minimum buy in: Free/$1

Good for beginners: Yes

Think of 50/50 like a bigger version of head to head.

Now:

While in head to head, contests you just play against one opponent… in 50/50 contests, you play against anywhere from 4 to 100,000 opponents.

…And, just like head to head, winning at 50/50 is simple:

Score higher than half the total entries (50% of players) and you take home a prize.

Let’s use this 50/50 game as an example:

50 50 comp

You can see that there are 100 total players. So… to win, you just need to score higher than 50 other players (meaning you place between and 1st and 50th).

Now… here’s the great thing about 50/50 contests:

The prize pool is split evenly among the winners… so, using our example above, if rank anywhere from 1st or 50th, you’d win $200.

3. Multipliers (Double Ups, Triple Ups, Quadruple Ups)

# of players: 11 or more

Minimum buy in: Free/$1

Good for beginners: Yes

Multiplier contests are extremely similar to 50/50 contest… Double Ups and 50/50s being almost identical.

They’re different in the number of entries and the amount winners earn:

With a 50/50, you earn a little bit less than double your entry fee due to the game provider’s fee for running the contest

…but with a Double Up, the game provider makes its fee by adding more players to the contest. So… you have to beat more players to win, but you actually earn 2x your entry fee!

Let’s use a Double Up as an example:

double up comp

The field size is 113 players… in a 50/50 it would only be 100. So, you earn twice your entry fee, but have to beat 5.7% more players to earn it.

Now:

The number of winners, and the amount that they win, varies depending on if it’s a double, triple or quadruple up:

Double Ups: a little under half of players get 2x their entry fee

Triple Ups: a little under a third of players get 3x their entry fee

Quadruple Ups: a little under a quarter of players get 4x their entry fee

What the “little under” is varies depending on the fantasy website and the specifics of the contest, but it typically ranges between 3%-5%.

4. Tournament/Group

# of players: 3 or more

Minimum buy in: Free/$1

Good for beginners: No

Tournament/group contests are the big leagues of daily fantasy football… they’re hard to win, are higher risk…

…but are also the highest paying fantasy contests there are.

Here’s how they work:

Anywhere from 3 to 100,000 players enter… and the top (usually) 10%-30% of scorers win.

Now:

The rules of these contests can vary greatly. So… before you enter, be sure that you thoroughly read and understand that specific contest’s rules.

So that you can see the wide range of their differences, here are a few examples of tournament/group contests:

group 1 comp

In this contest…

To win a prize: you need to score in the top 21.6% (17,046/3,694 (field size/places paid))

Prize pool payout/rank: 1st: $2,000, 2nd: $1,250, 3rd: $900, etc.

group 2 comp

To win a prize: you need to score in the top 30.0% (10/3 (field size/places paid))

Prize pool payout/rank: 1st place: $45.00, 2nd: $27.00, 3rd: $18.00

See what I mean?

In short, understand what you’re getting into before you enter (and if you’re a beginner, skip these for now).

Side note: You know those commercials you see (frequently) on TV that say:

“You can win over $1 million playing fantasy football this week!”

The big money prizes mentioned come from winning 1st place in big tournament/group contests.

Which Contest Type Should You Start With?

Head to Head… and here’s why:

When you’re getting started, your first goal is to quickly get acquainted with the subtle differences between season-long and daily fantasy football (like player pricing in relation to a salary cap) and the daily fantasy website’s game interface.

…And since Head to Head is the most similar to season-long fantasy football, it’s the easiest type of contest to transition in to.

Now:

After you’ve played a few head to head contests, your second goal is to get consistent wins and to slowly make money playing daily fantasy football (which we’ll get into in the next section).

How to Make Money Playing Daily Fantasy Football

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To make money playing daily fantasy football, you need to start thinking about it like investing…

So… let’s consider two hugely different investment strategies:

Strategy #1: Invest all your money into one high risk, high reward stock, betting that its price will skyrocket and make you a ton of money (daily fantasy equivalent = tournament/group).

Strategy #2: Invest in something lower risk that will gradually make you money over time (daily fantasy equivalent = 50/50).

Which would you choose?

Ask any investment planner, and they’ll definitively advise you to take strategy #2… and here’s why:

While strategy #1 has the potential to make you rich… it also has the potential to make you broke. Strategy #2 will diversify your risk and will help you slowly make money over time.

So… what contest type is the most similar to strategy #2?

50/50.

It’s better than head to head because…

In 50/50 contests, you’re playing against a higher number of players.

An increased number of players means a larger sample size, which reduces the likelihood you’ll get crushed by a single, abnormally high scoring opponent (like you might in a head to head contest).

It’s better than multipliers because…

While you can make more money with multipliers, you still have to beat more players to do it.

It’s better than tournament/group because…

In tournaments/group contests, you have to beat the majority of opponents and rank in the top 10%-30% to win…

…but in 50/50, you just have to beat half of your opponents and rank in the top 50% to win.

So… here’s the bottom line:

Playing 50/50 contests, you have a lower reward… but you also have considerably lower risk.

It won’t help you get rich quick, but it will help you slowly make money over time.

Now:

To help you start making money playing daily fantasy football, follow these 7 fundamental and powerful tips for winning 50/50 contests:

Tip #1: Get in the right frame of mind

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Again… daily fantasy football is not a get rich quick scheme.

DFF is a game of skill and strategy, that incorporates a considerable amount of football knowledge, research and understanding.

If you want to win, not only do you need to practice and get good at playing daily fantasy, but you also need to diversify your risk:

Don’t put all of your money into one big game… instead, invest your money in a handful of smaller games. Don’t spend all your money in one week… instead, set yourself a weekly budget and stick to it. Don’t select the same team to play in 10 different contests… instead, select slightly different teams for the 10 different contests. Etc., etc., etc.

Realize what fantasy is and what it isn’t…

…and if you want to make money playing, get yourself in the right frame of mind.

Tip #2: Practice before you play for pay

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Every legit fantasy operator will offer play-for-free contests. These contests have no entry fee (and subsequently no prize pool).

Now:

I know that playing without the possibility of winning real money isn’t as fun or exciting… but remember:

DFF is a game of skill and strategy. Like anything else, the more you practice, the better you’ll get…

…and the better you get, the more likely you’ll be to win and to earn money playing something you love.

Tip #3: Play the right type of contest

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If you read through the different contest types above, you’ll understand why 50/50 games are your best choice.

They have a higher percentage of winners (per contest) than any other contest type…

…and due to their increased number of players (over head to head contests), the likelihood that you’ll get crushed by an abnormally high scoring team is significantly lower.

Now… here’s the thing:

There is a specific type of 50/50 contest that you want to join… find ones with:

  1. A higher number of players. Regardless of the field size you still only need to beat 50% of players to win. The reason you want a higher number of players… more entries means a greater sample size, which means less variance (and less chance of getting crushed by an abnormally high scoring team).
  2. A lower entry fee. Not only does this mean less risk, but also, since the more experienced players are drawn to games with higher payouts, it’s more likely you’ll face an even playing field.

Tip #4: Pick the right players for the right type of contest

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When you’re playing a 50/50 contest, you’re not shooting for the high points required to get 1st place… you’re just aiming to score more points than 50% of players.

So… you don’t need to take risks betting on boom/bust players, hoping that they’ll go off and get you an uncharacteristically high score…

…you just need players who are solid, consistent, and put up predictable points.

Specifically, here’s what you should look for at each position:

Quarterback

For your QB, spend the money to get a stud. The points from your QB are a huge factor in winning or losing each week… and drafting a value player hoping that they’ll perform is one of the quickest ways to lose.

You can grab a less expensive stud… just be sure to get one of the studs to collect the points they consistently earn.

Running back

Grab one stud and one solid RB who has a good matchup that week.

Wide receiver

The league’s stud wide receivers are consistent and predictably get their points every week.

Grab two studs and take their guaranteed points. With your third WR, pick up a guy with a good matchup or a value player filling in for a stud WR who’s injured.

Tight end

Unless you pick up one of the few elite, and expensive, tight ends, it’s incredibly difficult to predict their performance.

Get a value TE who is going to see a lot of targets or has a favorable matchup.

Flex

For your flex position, grab a solid value player. Since you can choose a RB, WR, or a TE, try to find a player who is currently discounted, but has a solid track record.

Defense

At this point, we’ve picked quite a few studs, so don’t have a ton of salary cap left.

…But the good thing with picking a defense is that there are always a handful of good, inexpensive options. Pick a team with a good matchup and/or a good defense who’s playing in bad weather (a good defense playing in bad weather usually causes a high number of turnovers).

Tip #5: Draft on data, research and logic

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One of the biggest ways DFF pros set themselves apart is by the huge amount of research they do.

Why is research so important in DFF?

Research will tell you the fundamentals… that Brady averages X number of points a game, that when he plays [insert team] he averages X number of points, that he averages X number of points on the road, etc.

…But almost as importantly, it gives you invaluable insights like:

Your wide receiver is facing a weak corner this week… your strong defense is playing against a team in heavy snow… your West Coast running back is playing at 3 hours behind on the East Coast this week.

Here’s the bottom line:

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to exploit weaknesses and capitalize on strengths.

Combine your research with your logic, your intelligence, and your past experiences to make your ideal roster decisions.

Tip #6: Play the matchup

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Let’s say you’re deciding between two QBs: Brees and Brady.

Now… let’s say (theoretically) that they’re both healthy, have the same FFPG, cost about the same salary… in other words, they seem like an equally good choice.

How do you make your decision?

By being smarter than the average fantasy player! You’ve done your research… so you know that this week, Brees is facing a weak secondary, whereas Brady is going against one of the toughest in the league.

With this in mind, which QB are you going to choose?

Obviously Brees.

Here’s the takeaway:

Play the matchup. Know who’s playing who and pick your players based on where you see weak points.

Tip #7: Gain a competitive advantage by stacking

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Stacking is an advanced strategies fantasy pros use to gain a competitive edge.

To stack, you draft a quarterback and either a wide receiver or a tight end from the same team. This gives you the chance to earn double points on plays where the two connect.

For example:

You pick up the Patriots all-star QB Tom Brady and his trusted tight end Rob Gronkowski. When Brady throws a touchdown pass to Gronkowski… you get points from both players, maximizing your potential points.

 

Daily Fantasy Football Terms Glossary

Budget – The total amount of money you have to spend on selecting your team. Also known as a salary cap.

Boom/bust players – Players who are inconsistent. They might go off, and score a bunch of points (boom)… they might do nothing, and get you little to no points (bust).

Contest – A fantasy match between you and one or more players. Click here to see all contest types.

DFF – Abbreviation for daily fantasy football.

DFS – Abbreviation for daily fantasy sports.

Entries – The total number of players that have entered into a contest. The maximum number of entries that can enter into a contest is the field size.

Entry Fee – The total amount to enter into a contest. Also known as the buy in.

FFPG – Abbreviation for fantasy points per game (an average).

Field size – The maximum number of players that can enter a contest. Not to be confused with entries.

Flex – Flex is short for flexible… the player you choose for this position can be a WR, RB or a TE.

Game provider – The website that is hosting the DFS games. Also known as the fantasy operator or network. As an example, Yahoo Daily Fantasy Sports would be called the game provider.

Guaranteed prize pool (GPP) – A contest where the prize pool is guaranteed, regardless of whether the field size is full.

Management fee – The amount that the game provider takes in order to host the fantasy game. Varies per game, league and network. Each and every DFS network has a management fee.

Multi-entry contest – A contest where players are allowed to enter more than once. The total number of entries varies by contest.

Prize pool – The total purse for a specific contest. To determine the prize pool, you multiply field size by the entry fee. The percentage of the purse you win depends on what type of contest you’re playing. Also known as total prizes.

Roster – The combination of all the players you’ve selected for your team. Also known as a lineup.

Salary – The amount that each individual player costs against your budget.

Value players – Players who are lower priced, but have the potential to perform well. Also known as bargain players.

In Conclusion

Remember:

Your fantasy football season isn’t over because of injuries or a poorly performing team… with daily fantasy football, a new fantasy season starts every day.

…And if you want to win games and real money playing DFF, follow the knowledge and tips in this comprehensive guide will dramatically improve your chances.

*Please note: while the strategies outlined in this guide are highly effective, I by no mean guarantee you’ll win using them.