Explaining the Rules to Playing at DraftKings
Draftkings is locked in a dynamic competition with FanDuel to be the #1 daily fantasy sports website. For the 2015 NFL season, both companies have raised the stakes with bigger prizes. On this page, I’ll give a full review of the service DraftKings offers.
The site offers one-day fantasy contests in top sports, such as NFL football, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, and PGA golf.
Players win cash prizes anytime they beat the competition.
Those contests play out much like your weekly fantasy football or individual Rotisserie baseball contests would in a traditional local league. The only difference is the flexibility offered, because it’s a one-day commitment with no continuous lineups and no obligations if you choose to take time off from your competitions. If work gets busy or you decide to go on vacation, you simply stop playing for a while. When you return, your account is still active and you can join in the next day’s contests.
Sections in This Review
- Daily Fantasy Sports Overview
- DraftKings FAQ
- Company Profile
- Social Media Links
- Investors and Corporate Sponsors
- Sponsorships of Leagues and Teams
- Expanded Daily Fantasy Q&A
- DFS Glossary
Which Sports Are Offered?
DraftKings offers daily and weekly fantasy sports contests in 10 different sports: MLB baseball, NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, PGA golf, NCAA football, NCAA basketball. NASCAR racing, English Premier League Soccer, and MMA (UFC).
As time passes, more sporting events should become available. NASCAR was added recently, while ATP and WTA tennis might be available one day. Many gamblers would like to enter contests for boxing matches, but that seems too much like traditional sports betting for the DFS sites to offer those. MMA fights are already available. Since both forms of combat sports offer undercards, some kind of game based on boxing might be a possibility on the bigger cards.
For now, DFS contestants can enter contests involving the pro sports I mentioned above, along with NCAA football and basketball when they are in-season. Special college bowl season contests exist, while general March Madness and specific Final Four contests are offered.
Does It Involve Online or Mobile Gaming?
DraftKings allows players to use traditional online devices like desktop computers and laptop notebooks. It is also mobile friendly, so gamblers can use Android and iPhone smartphones, along with iPads and other tablet computers.
Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal?
Under provisions of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, daily fantasy sports is legal under US federal law. The legalization of the industry under the UIGEA does not mean all individual U.S. states allow daily fantasy sports, though most do.
At the moment, five U.S. states are notable for having restrictive interpretations of sports gambling laws or an outright ban on one-day fantasy sports: Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Iowa, and Washington. Utah and Hawaii have 100% bans on sports gambling, so those states take a similar dim view towards online daily fantasy sports betting.
What Does DraftKings Do?
.Contests on the site offer a much shorter duration that the season-long fantasy leagues one has played in their local fantasy football and baseball competitions. Instead, management comes down to a slate of games set on one day or one weekend.
The emphasis is on quick and self-contained gaming contests. Players fill out a starting lineup using a salary cap format in a matter of minutes. Revisions can be made all the way up to first pitch, tipoff, kickoff, the drop of the puck, or the tee-off. That allows team owners to chance their lineups according to the latest injury and team news. Contests play out in real time, with scoring updated by the minute. At the end of the contests, the best score wins.
When Am I Paid?
Contestants are paid immediately after the last game or match is finished. Winners are determined in a number of formats. Players can enter head-to-head contests, challenge events with friends, small group play, or larger tournament-style events like one would in the online poker industry.
Entry fees are commensurate with the payouts. If you enter a $2 heads-up contest, you’ll be paid $1.80 for a win, plus receiving back your entry fee. If you wagered $100 on the same contest, then the payout would be $90 plus your entry fee returned. The payouts can range all the way up to a million dollars.
What Is a Millionaire Maker Event?
This is the daily fantasy sports equivalent of the guaranteed Sunday events in online and mobile poker.
The DraftKings Millionaire Maker Event takes place every Sunday night. It is a guaranteed prize pool which attracts hundreds of thousands of sports gamblers. No matter how many people enter the event, gamblers are guaranteed a minimal prize pool. The winner is assured $1 million in winnings.
To add a challenge to the events, every player is given a $50,000 salary cap. Every potential starter has a price value assigned to them, as if you are signing them to a contract. When you add a player to your starting lineup, their salary takes away from your cap space. So you can sign Andrew Luck, Anthony Davis, or Mike Trout, but you’ll have to pay their contract figure.
This keeps the game challenging and prevents owners from simply picking the best player at each position. Tough decisions have to be made. Those who know the match-ups and injury situations of the entire field can often find cheaper value picks, so the salary cap ads a significant level of crunch to the game. This is why daily fantasy sports is as much of a game of skill as a game of chance.
Types of Events
Below are the basic types of events you’ll encounter. When you enter the games lobby, you’ll find these terms used a lot. Abbreviations are also common, so I including an abbreviation key when needed. DraftKings also color-codes certain events, to help players navigate.
- Head-to-Head – This is a mano-y-mano, one-on-one contest. These involve challenges and non-challenges alike.
- Guaranteed Prize Pool Contests (GPP) – The size of the prize pool is guaranteed, no matter how many people enter the contest. These are highlighted in orange in the games lobby.
- Leagues – These close as soon as they fill to capacity. If the league does not fill up, then the contestants are issued refunds. These are highlighted in white.
- 50/50 – This is a favorite of mine. Teams which finish in the top-half of the field are paid, while teams finishing in the bottom-half lose.
- Qualifier Contests – These are like the satellite events in online poker. You can win free entry into an event with a bigger prize pool, if you win this contest.
- Steps Events – These have several qualifiers, so you have to continue to win to cash. The steps events are good ways to enter for small fees ($2) and win a big prize (after winning Step 4).
- Multi-Match Head-to-Head – This is a bizarre round-robin event in which 21 people enter, but only 20 win prize money.
- Multiplier Contests – When you enter these, you can win anywhere between 3x to 10x of your entry fee.
- Beginner Events – For your first 50 events in each sport after registering, you get to play against other rookie players. Once you complete this stage, you no longer can play in the beginners. This helps you avoid the professional players.
- Freerolls – Once again, those familiar to the online poker industry are going to know what these are. You gain free entry and essentially play with house money. If and when you win and collect a prize, it is paid out using Entry Tickets or DraftKings Dollars.
Name for NFL Events
Besides the broad types of events, NFL fantasy football players are going to see specific designations for events in the Lobby. Below is a guide to those events, though new distinctions are added all the time, so this is far from complete. These are simply nicknames for marketing purposes and to easier find the type of games you want to play, but have no meaning otherwise.
- Redshirt – Name for a $500 guaranteed event.
- Hot Route – Name for a $25,000 guaranteed event.
- First Down – Name for a $40,000 guaranteed event.
- Slant – Name for a $50,000 guaranteed event.
- Gridiron – Name for a $75,000 guaranteed event.
- Play-Action – Name for a $200,000 guaranteed event.
- Millionaire Maker – The name for the $10 million guaranteed event held every week of the NFL regular season. The top prize is worth $2 million, and this is usually the most-hyped event of the week during the fall.
- World Champ Qualifier – A satellite event for a larger tournament. The winner gets a free entry into the DraftKings Fantasy Football World Champ field, which has a $15,000,000 prize pool. The World Champ event has a jackpot even bigger than the weekly Millionaire Maker events.
DraftKings Abbreviations Explained
DraftKings’ abbreviations are important to know, though it’s hard to figure them out without knowing which part of the site’s expansive FAQ section to search. The following questions have been asked to me through the emails (comments) section of my website.
What Is the OPRK Column?
The OPRK column stands for “opposition rank” against a particular player’s position. This indicates how many fantasy points a defensive unit is giving up.
For instance, if you’re scouting a receiver for the New York Giants and he’s playing the Washington Redskins that weekend, the OPRK would indicate how many points the Skins Defense is giving up to opposing receivers, or better put, through the passing game.
The easy thing to remember is a Green OPRK is a good match-up, while a Red OPRK is a bad match-up. A White OPRK is average, or neither good nor bad.
What Is the FPPG Column?
The FPPG stands for “fantasy points per game”. This simply shows what the player has scored on average each week throughout the season. The higher, the better. Keep in mind that backup players are naturally going to have a lower FPPG than starters would.
Before they were promoted due to injuries last year, the FPPG for Knile Davis or C.J. Anderson would have been really low. While this is a good gauge to see what kind of value a player represents under the salary cap system, it cannot be used as the end-all, be-all indicator of future success. Players’ situations can be different at times.
What Does PMR Mean on DraftKings?
Once contests are in progress, “PMR” stands for “Player Minutes Remaining”. If the Sunday games are finished and you have 1 player going on Monday Night Football, then your PMR would bet at 60 minutes. For two players, it sits at 120 minutes. This is a real time tracker of player minutes remaining, so it will change minute-for-minute throughout the day. It’s a good gauge on how many points a team has left to score.
For instance, one week in a $500K event, I played all 9 players whose kickoff was at 1pm Eastern Sunday. At one point at about 2:45 pm, I noticed I was 15th overall. Unfortunately, that didn’t account for all the teams with players going in the afternoon, Sunday Night Football, and Monday Night Football games. I ended up placing at 121st, but it sure was nice to see the score that high early in the day. Just don’t get your hopes up, if you don’t have a lot of PRM time left.
What Is # Draft?
“# Draft” stands for percentage drafted on DraftKings. If 22% of owners added Jamaal Charles to their lineup in a contest, the # Draft stat would be 22.
This is the statistic central to the Ethan Haskell inside information scandal racking the DFS industry in October 2015. Rotogrinders and other sites wondered how much the DraftKings employee knew and when he knew it.
Those are the basics of the games you’ll be playing and the industry as a whole. Some people might want a more comprehensive primer on DraftKings, though.
Those wanting to decide whether to choose DraftKings or FanDuel might want to know about the company itself. Below is a detailed company bio, which should give you an idea of DraftKings’ personality, associations, and corporate culture.
DraftKings Beginnings: Jason Robins and Friends
In 2011, three Boston-area guys–Jason Robins, Paul Liberman, and Matt Kalish–founded DraftKings. The three men originally ran the company out of Paul Liberman’s apartment. By 2012, the service had customers and revenues, which is when people tend to date the company’s founding.
Only a year after signing up its first customers, DraftKings was signing a deal with Major League Baseball to be its “official fantasy game”. Since Nigel Eccles and Tom Griffiths had a 2- to 3-year head start on their competition, Jason Robins and his co-founders have been scrambling to catch-up with FanDuel for several years. In 2015, DraftKings might be taking the steps to finally make that happen.
- Launched in 2012
- Paid out $50 million in Prizes in 2013
- Over 50,000 Active Daily Users
- Over 1 Million Registered Players
- Users Spend an Average of 2 Hours per Day on the Site
- Mobile Friendly
- Just 32 Employees (as of late-2014)
- Top Weekly Event: The Sunday Millionaire Maker ($27 entry)
At least in the mainstream media, Jason Robins tends to be portrayed as the leader among the co-founders. He gives most of the interviews and seems to shake hands with team and league executives when deals are signed. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the company’s attitudes and favorite associations, spoken by Jason Robins himself.
Jason Robins: Opinions
Jason Robins on His Hometown of Boston: “When you look at Boston, it’s pretty clear that the fans understand the teams and the sports more. Fantasy sports rank higher relative to the population in Boston than in almost any other city in the country.”
Jason Robins’ Favorite Sports Viewing Place: “Boston Beer Works is my favorite place to watch a game. I was there when I watched the Celtics’ epic comeback against the Lakers in the NBA finals a few years ago. Now I’m superstitious and try to watch big games there as often as possible.”
Jason Robins’ Favorite Quote on Business: “Most entrepreneurs want to make a lot of money and to run the show. New research shows that it’s tough to do both. If you don’t fgure out which matters more to you, you could end up being neither rich nor king….Founders’ choices are straightforward: Do they want to be rich or king?” (Noam Wasserman, The Founder’s Dilemmas)
Differences between DraftKings and FanDuel
Each company has a lot to suggest itself. Both companies started operations a little over 5 years ago. Both companies started to gain on the rest of the industry in the years 2012 and 2013. Both companies started to search for mainstream investors in 2014; each was successful.
DraftKings collected $41 million in backing in its Series C investment from Raine Capital. The venture capital firm joined previous investors like GGV Capital, Atlas Ventures, and Redpoint Ventures in funding the company. In the 2014 funding wars, though, FanDuel more than doubled its competition when it collected $86 million. With Comcast and NBC Sports on its side, FanDuel appeared to be pulling ahead in the competition.
Then the 2015 wave of corporate deals began. Disney Corporation upped the ante by agreeing to a massive deal with DraftKings, one which increased by a factor of ten the previous years’ activity. Since Disney owns ABC and ESPN, DraftKings gained important backing for the stations which carry a large percentage of the sports programming in the United States. FanDuel said it would continue to advertise liberally on ESPN, but many in-game broadcasts would provide DraftKings with exclusive rights.
Note: It appears I spoke too soon. Disney appears to have pulled out of its impending deal with DraftKings, due to squeamishness about the legalities of online daily fantasy sports sites. While Disney understands the hobby is legal right now, the family-friendly company might have been concerned about their company image, or they might have been concerned about investing in a business in which future laws might make the business illegal. It’s my guess that will never happen, but I don’t have a legal department to advise me on these things.
In the wake of the Disney news, Fox Sports is said to have jumped into the breach and become the big-name investor for DraftKings. This is obviously a fluid situation and I’ll continue to update, as information becomes available.
DraftKings Social Media Pages
While DraftKings and FanDuel both have Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages, DraftKings seems to be more savvy on the social media platforms than its rival. It is active on more social websites, while FanDuel still allows lone individuals to dominate its brand on Tumblr and Youtube.
The social aspect of DraftKings has helped the industry leader stay competitive. Starting in 2014, the company allowed people to send private challenges to friends. One problem with the early years of DFS was the fact a few experts could dominate the competition. Anonymous strangers simply destroyed their competitors, which drove away players. These days, gamblers can send challenges to friends, so they know who they are gambling against.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings avoid that problem for new gamblers by offering special privileges to new customers. FanDuel allows new registrants to play against rookies-only for 50 gambles. This keeps them from playing the usual suspects, who might run them off the platform in their first few dozen one-day fantasy bets. DraftKings offers a similar feature. As for the player challenge innovation, it proved very popular. On the first day of operation, the percentage of challenged declined dropped by 70%.
DraftKings Android Fantasy Sports App
In early September 2015, Google approved the release of a DraftKings app for Android devices. If you use a Samsung Galaxy, LG-G-2, Asus Zenphone, HTC-One M9, or Motorola Droid Maxx smartphone, you can use the downloadable application to play DK contests on your phone. The same goes with Samsung Galaxy Note, Sony Xperia Tablet Z, Amazon Kindle Fire HD, and Google Nexus 10 tablet computers.
It’s a big moment, because Google now recognizes the massive gaming potential of one-day DFS services.
Investors in DK
DraftKings “lost” the 2014 investment phase, collecting $41 million in investments while FanDuel collected $86 million. Both represented big coups for their industry, allowing the two competitors to distance themselves from their rivals. In early 2015, Disney invested $250 million in DraftKings, so it would be hard for FanDuel to top that connection–and that commitment.
- The Walt Disney Company ($250 million)
- GGV Capital
- The Raine Group
- Boston Seed Capital
- Redpoint Ventures
- BDS Venture Fund
- Atlas Venture
This somewhat goes back to the business-related quote Jason Robins cited earlier. One can choose to be rich or be the king. Jason Robins decided to lure the biggest names in sports to his company, perhaps giving away some of his personal control in order to grow the business by leaps and bounds.
In 2013, Major League Baseball became the first major American sports league to sign a corporate deal with a daily fantasy sports service: DraftKings. Two years later, DraftKings and Major League Baseball extended their exclusive partnership (on April 20, 2015). The service will continue to be the “Official Daily Fantasy Game” of MLB. The deal allows the fantasy service to extend participation with MLB clubs, including an extension into market-specific in-ballpark experiences. They two sides called the deal “the most comprehensive league partnership in daily fantasy sports history”.
No specific language suggested that MLB was investing in DraftKings, like the National Basketball Association agreed to do when it signed FanDuel as the official DFS game of the NBA. Sources told Forbes that Major League Baseball did make some kind of investment in the product, though. The Washington Post claimed in 2015 that the original 2013 deal involved an investment of some sort. That outlay of cash likely was small potatoes, given that the industry has had a serious escalation in revenues since then.
New England Patriots
New York Giants
Golden State Warriors
New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden
New York Liberty
The Breeders Cups
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)
The World Series of Poker
The World Poker Tour
National Hockey League (NHL)
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Major League Baseball (MLB)
New York Yankees
Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Angels
New York Mets
Kansas City Royals
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
Chicago White Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
San Francisco Giants
As you might suspect, FanDuel also has a significant presence in the arena of league and team sponsporships. FanDuel has about half as many major sponsorship deals as DraftKings, though it focuses heavily on the NBA and NFL, which isn’t a bad way to go. One gets the idea that DraftKings preferred Major League Baseball, perhaps because the baseball schedule stretches 8 months throughout the year, from March to October every year, if you account Spring Training through the World Series.
The NFL includes an August to January schedule, but the NFL Preseason (August) is more notable for its handful of pivotal injuries and suspension, while the Playoffs (January/February) represents only a handful of games. The NFL is a 4-month regular season. The NBA has a longer regular season, but many people do not tune in to the NBA until after the Super Bowl, when the season if half-over. That is when the fantasy basketball season becomes important from a one-day perspective, because daily NBA and NCAA basketball is a natural bridge to the baseball season for fantasy owners.
Official Deals for DFS Services
A few lesser-known competitors also have their sponsorship deals, but these are few and far-between.While the notes below are not comprehensive, they make a decent beginning.
Draft Ops is the official sponsor of Barclays Center and Bellator MMA. DailyMVP is the official DFS site for the Washington Capitals.
Mondogoal, the leading UK daily fantasy sports site, has sponsorship deals with European football (soccer) powerhouses like FC Barcelona, Chelsea FC, Liverpool, West Ham United, Manchester City, and AS Roma. In Europe, fantasy football means the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga, and all the other UEFA soccer league.
Daily Fantasy Sports: Expanded Q&A
Potential new signups might wonder a few things about their ability to gamble on fantasy sports, so I’ve answered a few more frequently asked questions below. This FAQ is far from complete, but as I get more questions about DraftKings to this site, I’ll add to the Q&A format below.
Is DraftKings Mobile-Friendly?
Yes, players can interface with the contests using their mobile devices. Android smartphones and tablet computers are compatible. So are Apple iPhones and iPads. BlackBerry smartphones, Windows Phone device, and even some Symbian cellphones work with the DraftKings software. DraftKings is a billion-dollar company affiliated with FoxSports
Disney Corporation, ESPN, ABC Sports and other legit publicly-traded companies on the New York Stock Exchange. It has the funding, resources, and tech support to make one-day fantasy sports contests available for all users.
Do I Need to Download Software?
Unlike online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks, players do not need to download a software package to play in online daily fantasy sports contests. A downloadable mobile daily fantasy sports app sometimes is required to help with the interface, but that is all which is ever required.
Is DraftKings Legal?
Yes, DraftKings is legal in 45 states. The U.S. federal government sees daily fantasy sports as a legal activity, due to a carve-out in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. When the UIGEA was written by retired U.S. Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), the law contained exceptions for three forms of gambling: horse racing, lottery gaming, and fantasy sports. At the time, no lawmaker would have envisioned fantasy sports could be turned into a daily gaming proposition. The only type of fantasy sports which existed were the yearly, season-long forms of fantasy football and fantasy baseball. A few years later, enterprising businessmen came along and invented a new form of gambling, which was perfectly legal under the UIGEA.
Five individual states take a dim view of daily fantasy sports: Montana, Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, and Washington. Each of these states have laws or enforcement policies which make it illegal to play on DraftKings, FanDuel, or their competitors. Legitimate DFS sites have geolocation software which assures no one using ISPs in one of those five states can gamble on them. Illegal operators might allow you to gamble from one of those states, but I do not recommend people doing it. Instead, lobby your state senators and representatives to introduce new, less restrictive laws. Louisiana has a state lawmaker, Rep. Joseph Lopinto, who introduced HB 475 to the state legislature in 2015. Unfortunately, that law did not receive the votes it needed to become law.
It is possible that state and federal politicians might one day try to change the laws of the United States to make DFS gaming illegal. If they do so, many corporations which otherwise are anti-gambling are likely to line up on the side of the daily fantasy sports websites, instead of against them. Many corporations have investments and corporate sponsorships with DraftKings and FanDuel, as of 2014 and 2015.
As I mentioned earlier, the laws of the United States are fluid and ever-changing. I expect the UIGEA to stay in place for a long time to come. Many corporations have invested in the business model, even if Disney did not. Also, more states legalize daily fantasy sports all the time. While 50-state legality might never happen, most Americans should be able to enjoy DFS gaming for many years to come.
Why Are the NFL, NBA, and MLB Pro-Daily Fantasy Sports?
For instance, the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA currently are in the middle of a series of court battles with the State of New Jersey over the future of traditional sports betting. Since 2011, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and State Senate President Steve Sweeney have tried to make sports betting legal in New Jersey. To do so, they have challenged the 23-year old Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which has been the federal law governing sports betting in America since 1992.
The PASPA says it is illegal for people to bet on sports contests in 46 states, while allowing legal sportsbooks in Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and Delaware. New Jersey wants Atlantic City casinos and NJ racetracks to have the right to host legal sports betting, in hopes of helping the failing AC casinos, but the leagues are against that initiative. The sports leagues have won every round of the battle, but a key decision is expected in the summer of 2015 which could settle the sports betting laws in New Jersey and the wider US.
No such lawsuits ever will attack the daily fantasy sports industry, though. The sports leagues will not sue companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, because they have sponsorship deals with them. The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA all have corporate contracts with the DFS sites. Beyond that, over a dozen individual teams in all four sports have sponsorship deals with them. Also, Disney, ESPN, ABC, NBC, and Comcast are investors in those businesses. Thus, if politicians ever try to mess with the DFS industry, a vast network of corporation will line up on the side of the industry, to protect their investments.
Daily fantasy sports does not appear to be going anywhere.
Here are some terms and abbreviations you might encounter when playing on DraftKings. These are commonly used in one or more of the major American sports leagues, but are used on the DFS sites to help owners make personnel decisions.
- 15Day – The 15-day DL or disabled list.
- 60Day – The 60-day DL.
- 7Day – The seven-day DL.
- DTD – Day-to-day.
- IR – Injured resereve. NFL term.
- P – Probable, meaning you have a 75% chance of playing.
- Q – Questionable, meaning you have a 50% chance of playing.
- D – Doubtful, meaning you have a 25% chance of playing.
- O – Out. The player already has been ruled “Out” of the game.
- Opp – Opponent
- OPKR – Opponent Rank. This tells you how many fantasy points this opponent gives up against a position, on average.
- FPTS – Fantasy Points.
- FPPG – Fantasy Points Per Game.
- PMR/PIR/PHR – Player Minutes, Innings, or Holes Remaining. This tells you how much time you have to catch up, if behind.
The Complete Guide to DraftKings Daily Fantasy Sports has been a brief overview of the service, with a liberal amount of information on the industry as a whole. As events on the ground change, I’ll continue to update this page and expand upon it.
We are entering a pivotal time in the history of online daily fantasy sports. No one knows exactly how it’s going to shake out, but most people in the industry have a gut instinct this thing is going to be huge.
I hope they’re right, and I hope you join in this still-expanding hobby.