Daily fantasy sports (DFS) is one of the most popular ways for fans of any sport to get more deeply involved. And Virginia, you may or may not know, was one of the first US states to legalize and regulate DFS back in 2016.
While it was the first state to pass DFS regulation, dozens more have since come on board and passed legislation of their own. In fact, there are only a few US states left where you can’t legally play DFS contests online.
DFS is about picking teams of players in various sports under a salary cap. Most DFS contests include a slate of games from a particular league. Your team then collects points based on how the players perform on the field. Your team competes against other teams to see who claims the most points. The top point-earning teams split up a prize pool made up of entry fees minus an admin fee.
DraftKings and FanDuel have grown into the largest DFS sites in Virginia and across the US. Currently, those two alone now hold close to a 90% market share. Find out more about these two DFS giants, how to play DFS, what kind of contests are available, and how to win them right here in Virginia.
The DFS industry in the US is a two-horse race between DraftKings and FanDuel. There are some smaller daily fantasy sports sites that offer slightly different forms of contests, but in VA the two kingpins have by far the biggest contests and guaranteed prize pools.
DraftKings has long been the top dog in DFS because:
Contest formats include everything from huge guaranteed prize pools to qualifiers, head-to-heads, 50/50s, and multipliers. The list of sports in which DraftKings offers daily fantasy sports for cash is as long as you’ll find and includes:
DraftKings also lets players join season-long fantasy leagues and start their own. Offering the biggest variety of sports and contests has helped DraftKings build the largest player pool in DFS. Next came the biggest guaranteed prize pools. Wall-to-wall promotion of all of that has helped DraftKings grow even larger. DraftKings now dominates the DFS market in the US with only FanDuel considered a realistic competitor.
FanDuel claims to pay out more than $1 billion in prizes every year. That makes it the only other DFS operator even close to DraftKings. FanDuel concentrates on innovation and improving the user experience. Its DFS software is as clean and functional as they come, and new game formats are constantly being added.
Contest formats include Guaranteed Prize Pools, Qualifiers, Head-to-Heads, 50/50s, and Multipliers. Plus, there are innovative new formats including single-game and beginner contests. FanDuel also pioneered contest-entry limits and features like advanced entry, late-swap, and third-party software blockers.
FanDuel offers contests for all the most popular fantasy sports, including:
FanDuel offers players contests with some of the biggest guaranteed prize pools in the country. Plus, you won’t find a higher volume of cash games anywhere. For these and other reasons, FanDuel remains the only true alternative to DraftKings.
The top DFS operators in the industry offer free bonus cash to any player who signs up for a new account in Virginia. If there is a catch, it’s that you have to use the free bonus cash to enter DFS contests. But you can keep anything you win.
Sign up for DraftKings and you’ll get $20 in Free Play when you make your first deposit. Plus, you’ll also be entitled to a 20% deposit match up to $500.
Sign up for FanDuel and you’ll get $5 free with no deposit required and another $5 when you make your first deposit.
Both FanDuel and DraftKings run a variety of freeroll contests and promotions you can enter for free and win real-money prizes. They give away millions of dollars like this, particularly surrounding the kickoff of the NFL season.
Free DFS contests can be a great way to learn how to build lineups. They can also help you build a DFS bankroll out of nothing.
Pay attention to FanDuel and DraftKings advertising and promotions. Plus, read the emails they send you to find out when the next free DFS contest is on.
There are only a small handful of differences between FanDuel and DraftKings. Both have:
DraftKings may offer contests in a few more sports and leagues, but FanDuel has more contest types.
The biggest difference is found in the way they each score DFS. DraftKings hands out bonuses for players reaching various statistical milestones. In other words, you might get bonus points when an NFL quarterback throws for 300-plus yards, or in an NBA DFS contest when an NBA player racks up a double-double.
There are no such bonuses awarded by FanDuel. In NBA DFS contests, DraftKings awards a point for every ball caught while FanDuel awards only half a point.
For most DFS players, an account at both sites is pretty standard.
DFS lets you play General Manager for the night. It lets you put your knowledge of who is hot and who is not up against other fans. Plus, it gives you a little skin in more than just a game, but an entire day’s slate of games.
DFS allows you to build your team, under a salary cap, from a pool of all players competing in a specific sport on any given day. Then, you can enter that team in paid contests where you collect points based on the statistical performance of your players. The top-earning teams chop up the prize pool based on how the team performs that day.
It’s a lot like season-long fantasy sports, except it all happens over a single day or even a single game. You do the research, make the decisions, and put together lineups trying to outscore your opponents in much the same way.
It’s just that it only involves players playing on a single day, you dissolve your squad once the games are through, and have the chance to do it all again tomorrow.
How to play DFS depends on which type of DFS contest you are playing in. However, most involve building lineups of players competing in a single day’s slate of games in a specific sport.
DFS operators will set a price on each player set to play that day based on projected performance. You have to build your team under a salary cap and the other parameters of the contest, which usually include several players and position restrictions.
You pay to enter that lineup in the contest. You can usually put together and enter multiple lineups up to the contest maximums. Each of your lineups earns points based on statistical performance.
The goal is to enter the line up that earns the most points. However, DFS contests are like poker tournaments in that most of the time the top 10-20% also earn prizes. Of course, the more points you earn, the higher you will finish on the leaderboard, with the biggest percentage of the prize pool reserved for the top finishers.
The debate over whether DFS is sports betting rages on across the country as more and more states are legalizing and regulating both activities. There’s certainly a fine line between the two, and depending on how you look at it, DFS may just be an alternative way to bet on sports.
Traditional sports betting is single-game wagering, where you can bet on the outcome of games and props involving players or teams within those games. DFS is more akin to player prop betting with lineup building involving a certain skill.
Those that say DFS is not gambling argue that this lineup-building skill is the reason why. Those that say DFS is gambling argue DFS players are simply betting on the statistical performance of athletes, something that was previously the territory of sportsbooks.
What it boils down to is that you might be able to do many of the same things you do playing DFS at a sportsbook. However, you won’t be able to do everything you can at a sportsbook playing DFS, and therein lies the difference between the two.
In other words, you can bet on almost everything involving sports at a sportsbook, but DFS is only about building lineups of players, pitting them against other lineups, and keeping score using the real-life statistical performance of those players over a single day. That said, some DFS operators have sprouted up offering what is single-game prop betting, crossing the line between DFS and sports betting.
When it comes to building your first DFS team, you want to start with a sport you already follow.
Good lineup building is always based on good research. If you’re looking to play DFS for the very first time you should start with a sport you’re already researching regularly as a fan anyway. That means one you watch and read about all the time.
Build your first DFS lineup based on what you already know about the games and the players in that sport. Plus, make sure you use up-to-date knowledge. See who’s hot and who is not heading into the day’s games.
Next, look around for a contest with easy-to-follow rules, payout structures, scoring, and lineup configuration restrictions. As a beginner, you’re probably better off in a relatively low buy-in beginner contest. That way you won’t be risking big money or competing against pro-DFS players your first time out.
Once you’ve found a suitable contest, start building different lineups under the contest’s salary cap and various rules and restrictions. The best thing about most DFS software is you can fiddle around with different lineups before you find one that fits.
Slot in a few high-salary players you know are going to perform well that day and a few hidden-gem type low-salary players you figure will give you some bang for your buck. Try a few different lineups, let your knowledge of the game and research guide you, and pick the one you figure gives you the best shot at competing.
Different DFS contests feature different contest formats. Here’s a look at the basics available for most major team sports:
Traditional season-long fantasy sports and DFS are similar in many ways and different in many others. The similarities include:
The most obvious difference is that season-long fantasy sports is about competing in leagues over an entire season. DFS is about competing in contests that can be as short as a single day or single game.
DFS has grown into a billion-dollar industry. That means hundreds of thousands of people are putting billions of dollars into various DFS contests over a year.
Season-long fantasy sports are peanuts compared to that. Some leagues play for high stakes, but for the most part, season-long fantasy sports is played for nominal amounts amongst friends. In comparison, you’ll find million-dollar DFS prize pools surrounding the NFL every Sunday, and big money entered into contests for all kinds of sports all year round.
The top GPPs in DFS get up to 100,000-plus entries every week. Most season-long fantasy sports leagues have fewer than 15 teams run by groups of friends.
Of course, DFS operators run season-long fantasy sports leagues and give you the ability to create your own, but the number of players involved pales in comparison to those playing DFS.
Season-long fantasy sports also require much more of a time commitment than DFS. It may not tie together a group of friends like a season-long fantasy sports league can, but DFS is flexible, fast, and instant fun.
The largest and most popular DFS contests all surround the NFL. DraftKings and FanDuel host big GPPs for every major sport, but the NFL contests draw bigger than any others. These include:
Winning is no easy feat in the world of DFS. When you enter a lineup in a typical contest on FanDuel or DraftKings you’ll be up against thousands of others. Plus, a lot of them will be coming from pro-DFS players with big bankrolls entering as many times as they can.
Winning at DFS is hard, but it’s not impossible. Here are five tips that can help:
Yes, DFS is legal and regulated in Virginia. In 2016, the Virginia Legislature passed the Fantasy Sports Act, making DFS legal and regulating the activity and operators. The basic tenets of the act: