Explaining How to Play at FanDuel
FanDuel is the #1 online daily fantasy sports site in the United States. The website offers online and mobile one-day fantasy sports contests in a number of American sports: NFL football, MLB baseball, NHL hockey, NBA basketball, NCAA basketball, and NCAA football.
Owners enter anything from a head-to-head match to a weekly guaranteed tournament event. If they pick a better starting lineup than the competition, the owner wins. The big draw for daily fantasy sports (DFS) services is the lack of commitment and the legality, though the latter advantage is about to be tested by lawsuits and opportunistic politicians in the wake of the Ethan Haskell controversy.
Unlike a season-long fantasy football league or Rotisserie baseball league, the team owner has a one-day or one-weekend commitment. Unlike online sports betting, the hobby is legal under federal law. The UIGEA has an exception or carve-out for fantasy sports in which you can win prizes.
Thus, billion dollar corporations, sports leagues, and franchises are willing to get involved in the DFS industry. When they do so, FanDuel is the service most are likely to gravitate towards.
Though FanDuel was not the first daily fantasy website, but it was an early competitor and it has used its head-start to stay a half-step ahead of its main competitor, DraftKings. The competition between the two is fierce at the moment, but a race for number one is probably healthy for both companies. It’s certainly healthy for the industry.
What Is Daily Fantasy Sports?
Fantasy sports takes real world statistics from the latest games and, using a idiosyncratic formula called a “scoring system”, converts those stats into fantasy points. In most cases, each player is treated individually. These players are assigned to teams in a number of different ways. In season-long fantasy football, for instance, league members would hold a draft or an auction to assign players.
Daily fantasy sports handles the process much differently (which I’ll discuss in a moment.) In a fantasy season, teams play a schedule leading up to the league playoffs. The playoffs tend to be single-elimination contests, with the survivor being crowned league champion. In local leagues, owners compete for prize money, trophies, plaques, signed football helmets, toilet bowls, straightjackets, bragging rights…you name it.
Usually, though, the prize pool is the ultimate sign of victory. In daily fantasy sports, the yearly league format goes out the window. Instead, players play in one-day or weekly events for winnings–that is, a cash prize. In MLB baseball, NHL hockey, NBA basketball, or NCAA basketball, the contests play out over one day. In most NCAA football and NFL football contests, the results play out over an entire slate of games.
One difference between DFS and sports betting is the need for the starting lineups to be drawn from 2 or more games. Players cannot field a team from one NFL game, and they certainly cannot field a team made up only of one’s favorite team. You couldn’t start a lineup with Dallas Cowboys or New England Patriots players alone. This is a key stipulation, but the FanDuel software assures you could never submit a legal lineup with players from only one team (or game).
How to Sign-up for FanDuel?
To sign up for FanDuel, you need to register an account with your name, address, email address, and username. Players who want to enjoy DFS for real money also need a way of funding their account.
Choosing a Contest
Anytime you want to enter a contest, the key links are going to be across the top bar: Lobby, Upcoming, Live, and History. Lobby is the list of contests you can enter. Upcoming shows the contests you’ve entered already. Live shows the contests which are already in progress, while History shows the tournaments and heads-up contests you played in which have finished. Click on Lobby to select a contest to play. Down the left hand margin of the Lobby, you’ll also notice the broad categories to help you narrow down your search. Categories exist for NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, CBB, and CFB. The pro leagues should be self-explantory, but the CBB stands for college basketball (NCAA Men’s basketball) and CFB stands for college football (NCAA football). If you want to know more, watch this video about the types of contests available on FanDuel.
Also, you’ll notice broad categories for the types of play offered: head-to-head, leagues, 50/50, and tournaments. Head-to-head is you versus one other player. Leagues is you against a hand-picked list of friends and acquaintances–sort of a challenge or call-out style of play.
Fifty/fifty allows the top 50% of the field to win, while the bottom 50% of scores lose. In many ways, 50/50 offers the zero-sum game mechanic of head-to-head play, but it provides less variance in the opponents’ scores, because you have to beat the bulk of players, not one outlier.
Tournaments are offered for large fields of contestants. These are like online tournaments for card players. You enter against a big field. A much smaller number finish in the winnings. Big prizes are offered to the top winners. The more people who enter, the bigger the jackpot and the better the prize pool.
FD Lineup Tips: Narrowing Parameters
People can use the sidebar menu to adjust which types of games they play. Adjust the size of the field of the contests you want to enter. Adjust the entry fee level, from free to $50,000. Yes, high rollers can play for $50K on every contest. Visitors can use the advanced option to find more specific contests, including the next up and those which start on the day one is selecting. Along the top of the Lobby page, a ball icon at the far left shows which sport each option involves, while a short description shows the kind of contest, the day it occurs, and how much is at stake. Next, you see pertinent information, such as the number of entries who have entered each contest already and the size of the field. It also lists the entry fee you must pay to enter, while showing the total prizes available. Note that the prizes stat is not the 1st place prize (unless it’s head-to-head), but is instead the total winnings offered for all who win. Finally, you’ll see a quick list of vital stats: the day the game starts and what time it begins.
Building a Starting Lineup
Once you’ve entered a contest, you’ll notice a list of players at each position. Each player has the information you need to make decisions, including their salary cap cost, relevant statistics, daily or weekly opponent, injury status, and when their game starts. Use this to build a lineup within the $50,000 salary cap limit. Some fantasy football owners who’ve played in auction leagues or more advanced redraft leagues might have encountered this before. Fantasy baseball sometimes has something similar. Fantasy basketball and fantasy hockey owners certainly have dealt with salary caps before.
DFS players follow a wide range of decision making strategies. Casual players eyeball the costs and go with their gut instinct. More serious players prefer to look at the injury news and backups who might be lower cost. Others focus on matchups, or simply try to add what they consider elite players at as many positions as possible.
The professional daily fantasy sports owners, called “grinders”, have detailed databases and use analytics to decide whom to start. I suggest owners play at low entry fee levels until they grok the differences between daily fantasy and their traditional yearly local leagues.
Rules and Scoring
Rules and scoring are a bit complicated to explain for all 6 types of contests, so I’ve included a link for potential competitors to read themselves. For the most part, FanDuel tries to keep the scoring rules to the conventional high-performance scoring which is prevelent in today’s fantasy football. Baseball, basketball, and hockey use conventional scoring systems. No doubt, the service wants to appeal to as many players as possible, so they do not make controversial decisions on how points are accumulated. Once again, you’ll want to take a look at the scoring system for each position before making roster decisions. Keep in mind the point-per-reception rules in NFL and NCAA football, while paying close attention to how scores are tallied for pitchers and goalkeepers. These are always tricky in fantasy sports.
How Are Contests Scored?
Since we’re near the start of the NFL, I thought I’d discuss the NFL scoring in a bit more detail. Each type of contest is scored differently on FanDuel. I’ll give an example of the most popular form of contest: NFL football. When you sign up for an NFL weekly event, the entrance fee is deducted from your FanDuel account. Then you are given the ability to select a lineup using a $50,000 salary cap. Each NFL player is assigned a salary cap figure, so adding Aaron Rodgers is going to cost more than adding Ryan Tannehill, for example.
Thus, owners have to select the most competitive lineup, using their knowledge of match-ups, injuries, and other NFL rubrics. Team owners are allowed to make changes up until kickoff of a particular game. So if you choose Tony Romo, you’ll be able to change Romo to any other QB (who’s game hasn’t started) up until the Dallas Cowboys kickoff time.
In NFL contests, owners fill out a lineup with 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 Kicker, and 1 Team Defense. Scoring is handled in a straightforward fashion with a high-performance format. High-performance means players get points for a wide range of statistics, including touchdowns, yardage, receptions, return yardage, and field goals made. Also, players lose points for fumbles or interceptions lost. Team Defense scoring is based on holding the opponent to a lower score, and if they give up too much, points will be deducted. Below is a full list of scoring rules for FanDuel’s NFL contests. Don’t worry, because the DFS site’s software keeps up with the scores in real time. No adding is necessary.
Points: Offensive Player Scoring
Rushing yards made – 0.1 points Rushing touchdowns – 6 pts
Passing yards – 0.04 pts
Passing touchdowns – 4 pts
Receiving yards – 0.1 pts
Receiving touchdowns – 6 pts
Receptions – 0.5 pts
Kickoff return touchdowns – 6 pts
Punt return touchdowns – 6 pts
Own fumbles recovered touchdowns – 6 pts
Two-point conversions scored – 2 pts
Two-point conversion passes – 2 pts
Fumbles lost – (-2 pts)
Interceptions – (-1 point)
Field Goal Kicker Scores on Fanduel
Extra-point conversions – 1 point
Field goals from 0-19 yards – 3 points
Kicks from 20-29 yards – 3 pts
FGs from 30-39 yards – 3 pts
Kicks from 40-49 yards – 4 pts
FGs from 50+ yards – 5 pts
Defense/Special Teams Scoring on FanDuel
Sacks – 1 point
Opponent’s fumbles recovered – 2 pts
Safeties – 2 pts
Blocked kicks – 2 pts
Interceptions – 2 pts
0 points allowed – 10 pts
1-6 points allowed – 7 pts
7-13 points allowed – 4 pts
14-20 points allowed – 1 pt
28-34 points allowed – (-1 points)
35+ points allowed – (-4 points)
Interception return TDs – 6 pts
Fumble return TDs – 6 pts
Kickoff return TDs – 6 pts
Punt return TDs – 6 pts (excludes blocked punts)
Invite a Friend to Play Head-2-Head on FanDuel
One reason many sports fans don’t join a site like FanDuel or DraftKings is they hear about the professionals or “grinders” who play. They assume they’ll play against people with more time and resources to do research, so they’ll lose moe than the win. The grinders can be avoided, though.
In fact, you can play against people who have the same skill level as yourself…people you know have that skill level, even. Players can also invite a friend to play head-to-head contests on FanDuel.
Pending Bonus: How Are Winnings Paid?
You can make withdrawals from FanDuel in one of two ways: PayPal or check. If you choose to use PayPal, the payment enters your PayPal account within 48 hours. This time is used to assure the withdrawal is made by the real person who owns the account.
Those not familiar with PayPal should know that it has been owned by Ebay for the past 10+ years, that it is the preferred method of payment on the world’s largest online auction site, and it is considered trustworthy, legitimate, and legal. Also, PayPal would not handle transactions for an iffy website, so FanDuel is considered a legit transaction.
Those who want payment with a bank check simply ask for that on the withdrawal form. It takes 7 to 10 business days after cashout for the check to arrive to you. Obviously, this is going to be the most secure way for many people, but it takes time. Anti-fraud checks are made based on your prior activity. Your history of deposits and your funding habits for contests are going to be reviewed. Sometimes, if suspicious activity appears to be happening, you’ll be asked to provide additional information.
Should I Report my Winnings to the IRS?
If your annual net winnings are $600 or more, FanDuel is required to file a 1099-MISC tax form using your social security number. Therefore, if you plan to be a consistent winner, you’ll need to file taxes on your FanDuel winnings. Keep in mind this is net winnings over the course of a year. If you win $600 on one individual weekend, but lose $1000 throughout the rest of the year, you would not be required to report those winnings.
Are One-Day Contests Rigged?
Daily fantasy sports is not rigged. That would be an insane act on the part of the gaming operator, in this case FanDuel. As the industry currently exists, FanDuel has the legal right to collect a 10% fee on contests. If you enter a DFS contest and pay $10 to compete against 9 other players, then FanDuel would collect $1 from you and $1 from the other 9 players, essentially making $10 in revenues from the contest. The rest of the prize money goes out to the winners in the competition, while FanDuel keeps their cut. You never play against FanDuel, but against other players. Several players-versus-site daily fantasy sports services exist, but FanDuel is not one of them. Banked games are not considered legal in many locations and it inhabits a gray area, so top sites like FanDuel and DraftKings never offer banked games. At the end of the day, FanDuel has major corporate investors like NBC Sports and Comcast. It would be pure madness to risk prosecution and big corporate partnerships for the sake of your $10 entry fee.
Are There Any Tips for Playing Daily Fantasy Sports?
- Rotoworld – Basic fantasy news in all sports.
- KFFL – Another general news source, this one with nothing but words. Owned by USA Today these days, it feeds into its own DFS contests.
- The Huddle – Owners forum for cross-talk on fantasy subjects.
- Rotogrinders DFS Football – Rotogrinders is a respected indie tips site.
- SI Daily Fantasy Baseball Tips – On pitching/hitting match-ups and other important daily advice.
- NBA Basketball Tips for DFS – This is a short checklist you should use each night of the NBA season.
- USA Today Daily Fantasy Hockey Tips – A particularly useful article for hockey in particular and sports in general. The tip about hockey minutes is key.
Also, that article helps us remember that half of fantasy sports is about the opponent. In typical season-long fantasy sports, you draft a guy with an eye towards the schedule, but the weekly opponent is otherwise a matter of chance. In DFS, playing the match-ups is a much better strategy. It’s not so much getting the best players, but getting the best players who happen to be playing the worst opponents. In a daily contest, this is always a possibility. Exploit this ability ruthlessly.
Daily Fantasy Sports Quotes
If these do not explain the DFS industry, these quotes below from three disparate sources might give an indication of our topic. TechCrunch: “Think of it as a one-night stand for fantasy sports.” Fox Sports: “The numbers of those participating are exploding”. The Wall Street Journal: “A normal week on FanDuel…has $6 million up for grabs.” (Note: Since that WSJ quote, That number has risen to $20 million.)
Below are questions newbies might want to know about FanDuel in a question-and-answer form. What Is FanDuel? FanDuel is an industry leader and innovator in the DFS industry. FanDuel claims it pioneered the daily format, which is no overstatement. While other daily fantasy sports sites existed before FanDuel, it was the first to innovate many of the winning market strategies which has propelled it to the top of the industry. These days, FanDuel has daily contests for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college football, and college basketball.
Those who want to keep track of the latest news while making final decisions should consider reading “FanDuel Insider”. Most pages on the site link to this sports blog, which is written by staff members. If you can’t find it anywhere else, the link is at the bottom of the page under “More”.
Hubdub: Nigel Eccles and Friends
FanDuel began as a web-based prediction market game called “Hubdub”. The prediction markets focused on the probability of an event or the expected value of something with a set parameter. The prediction market is also called information markets, decision markets, idea futures, or virtual markets.
Hubdub created an online platform which allowed people to play games based on such predictions. In January 2009, Hubdub’s owners received $1.2 million in venture capital funding from Scottish Enterprises and Pentech Ventures.
Scottish Enterprises is a non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government, which sponsors business ventures. At their behest, Hubdub launched an internal review and decided to shift from Hubdub’s business to the online daily fantasy sports market. The investors’ money was put towards the rollout of the daily fantasy sports website.
On July 21, 2009, the FanDuel website was launched. Over the next two years, the company would show steady growth.
By April 2010, FanDuel was successful enough that Hubdub was shut down, so the owners could focus on the one-day fantasy sports market entirely. To get ramp-up business in 2011, the new DFS site took $4 million in venture capital funding from Piton Capital, along with previous investors Pentech Ventures and Scottish Enterprises.
By this time, the prize pool had grown to $10 million per year, but an explosion of the market soon happened. According to its official website, FanDuel has paid out $560 million to winners to date. Take a look at the numbers below to realize the website needs to be updated.
It has had 30,000-plus daily leagues and offers $20 million in weekly contest payouts, while collecting $88 million in capital funding from some of the most respected investors and sports companies in the world. All this, it did with only 125 employees.
- 2014 Prize Pool: Over $400 Million
- 2013 Prize Pool: $150 Million
- 2012 Prize Pool: $50 Million
- 2011 Prize Pool: $10 Million
SB Nation National Basketball Association (NBA) Los Angeles Lakers Memphis Grizzlies Detroit Pistons Cleveland Cavaliers Milwaukee Bucks Chicago Bulls Brooklyn Nets Orlando Magic Charlotte Hornets Atlanta Hawks Miami Heat Dallas Mavericks Utah Jazz Tampa Bay Buccaneers Chicago Bears Detroit Lions Indianapolis Colts San Diego Charges Philadelphia Eagles Buffalo Bills Houston Texans Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars New York Jets Green Bay Packers Baltimore Ravens St. Louis Rams Washington Skins
Social Media Presence
In September 2015, Google added a FanDuel downloadable mobile app to Android Play, also known as Android Market. That means players with smartphones and tablet computers from Samsung, Sony, Asus, Lenovo, HTC, and LG can play one-day fantasy contests with their Android smartphone.
Daily Fantasy Sports FAQ
Who Invented Fantasy Sports?
Fantasy football was created in a New York City hotel room in the fall of 1962 by Wilfred “Bill the Gill” Winkenbach, Bill Tunnel, and Scotty Stirling. The Oakland Raiders were in town to play the New York Jets in an old AFL contest. Wilfred Winkenbach was an Oakland-area businessman. Bill Tunnel was the Raiders’ public relations staffer. Scotty Stirling was a reporter for the Oakland Tribune.
Present at the Creation: Fantasy Sports
The three men decided to create a game-within-a-game based on NFL football stats. Winkenback, Tunnel, and Stirling created a rulebook with the scoring system and other details. Individual players would be drafted off of AFL rosters. Their stats would translate to scoring in their fantasy football league, allowing average citizens to pretend to be football general managers (“owners”) while competing against their friends. This became the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League or the GOPPP League, which exists to this day. It is the oldest fantasy sports league in the world, about to enter its 53rd year of existece. The GOPPP is still a touchdown-only league.
Over the years, other leagues have made a great many changes to the basic scoring system. Now, you have high-performance leagues, point-per-reception (PPR) leagues, keeper league, dynasty leagues, empire leagues, best ball league, zealots, challenge. You name an NFL stat and people have a scoring rule for it. Unique house rules for drafting, free agency, trades between franchises, regular season standings, and playoff games have been formulated in a thousand locations around the USA. A general set of scoring rules and other league parameters are the conventional method, which tends to involve points for yardage and special rules for defenses. The Internet changed the hobby from a niche game into a mainstream hobby with over 30 million Americans playing each year. That number of now estimated to be 50 million players, roughly one in every 6 Americans.
Disputes Over Who Invented Fantasy Sports
In the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary “Silly Little Game“, it was suggested a group of New York City writers, led by Daniel Okrent, invented the game. Okrent’s group dined at the La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant in NYC invented Rotisserie or fantasy baseball, and thus all of fantasy sports, in 1980. This ignores the previous invention of fantasy football in 1962.
It can be said that fantasy baseball might have existed first, as records from the New York Public Library suggest famed author Jack Kerouac might have invented such a game early in his life (born: 1922). Also, The IBM 1620 computer, invented by John Burgeson of IBM Akron in 1961, may have played fantasy sports (baseball) the year before the Oakland group. Also, a “tabletop baseball” game called Strat-o-Matic was marketed in 1963, which allowed fans to play out baseball seasons using stats from previous years. Thus, it can be said that the idea for fantasy sports was invented and reinvented many times over the years by enterprising Americans–often without any knowledge of the other’s contribution.
How Did Daily Fantasy Sports Begin?
Daily fantasy sports is firmly an invention of the 21st century. Sites like FantasySportsLive were playing around with the idea as early as 2007 and 2008, though the truly successful sites were launched in 2009 and 2010. All came about after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
What Is the UIGEA?
The UIGEA was a law to ban online gambling practices in the United States. The law was passed by U.S. Congress in September 2006 and went into effect on December 31, 2006. The UIGEA stated that online payments made on forms of gambling which were made illegal under the 1961 Wire Act were illegal under the UIGEA. The problem with that wording is the 1961 Wire Act was vague on the types of gambling that meant. The only specific form of betting mentioned was sports betting, so no one argued that online sports betting was illegal under the UIGEA. Online casinos and online poker sites were a different matter.
UIGEA and The Wire Act
The Wire Act deals with gambling over the telephone wires. People could not wager on casino table games and poker over the phone lines, so the Wire Act never specifically forbade such gambling. When the UIGEA was passed, though, the Justice Department under George W. Bush claimed casino gambling and poker over the phone lines were made illegal in 1961, or at least would have, had the lawmakers of that time known about the Internet. From 2007 to 2011, that was the law of the land. In 2011, the Illinois and New York lotteries asked for a clarification of the UIGEA. The Obama Justice Department took a narrower view, saying the law only banned sports gambling. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah currently have a bill before the US Congress which would clarify the wording and make all forms of online gambling illegal.
FanDuel vs DraftKings: Which Is Better?
Like any industry, the two major competitors are going to have their supporters and detractors. Coke is my favorite, but plenty of people prefer Pepsi. Some people prefer Walgreens, while others like CVS better. Even Macy’s had Gimball’s. In the daily fantasy sports industry, the question comes down to what you’re looking for.
Beginners are likely to prefer FanDuel. It has a simple interface, fewer gaming options, and more traditional lineup rules. If you want games which most resemble the fantasy sports you’ve played all these years, then FanDuel is probably the best option for you.
Those who like a lot of options are going to want DraftKings. It has contests for all the sports FD does, but also offers PGA Golf, EPL Soccer (English Football), and MMA fights. For that reason, I tend to prefer DraftKings, but some people don’t like their scoring and salary cap structure. If you prefer to spend at an American-owned site, then the Boston-based DraftKings is likely to be your preference over the Scottish-owned FanDuel.
When you start discussing these things, you’ll find a lot of other options. StarsDraft is the successor to Victiv, which was bought in July 2015 by Amaya Gaming of PokerStars fame (thus, StarsDraft). Yahoo Fantasy Sports Daily, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and a host of other companies offer DFS gaming, too. Sample them all, eventually.
Is Daily Fantasy Sports Legal?
What is certain about the UIGEA is that three forms of gambling remain legal: online horse betting, lottery gambling, and fantasy sports betting. These three industries received carveouts, because of the large and powerful constituencies they represented. Horse racing is a key part of Kentucky’s culture, along with the wealthy and powerful who support the Republican Party. Lotto gaming is controlled by the individual US states in the United States, so no one wanted to cost their own states hundreds of millions in revenues each year.
Fantasy sports entailed 20 to 30 million Americans in 2006–50 million Americans now. No one wanted 30 million fantasy football and baseball owners angry at them when election time came up again, so fantasy sports received an exemption. Therefore, from the perspective of the federal government, daily fantasy sports is legal in the United States. State and local governments can pass anti-DFS laws, though, and some have.