Playmaker Betting Guide: Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is another form of sports gambling, but with a twist. Unlike traditional forms of sports betting, DFS focuses on player output rather than teams. There are a few factors involved that make DFS interesting and fun for the casual sports fan and bettor.

If you are unfamiliar with DFS the most popular sites to wager on are FanDuel and DraftKings. While both offer sportsbooks now for traditional gambling, they were made famous for being pioneers in the DFS arena. These two have laid the foundation for Yahoo Daily Fantasy, Monkey Knife Fight, and others to get in on the DFS action.

DFS Tutorial: Getting Started

Both DraftKings and FanDuel offer similar games and services. I will focus on DraftKings for this portion because it is the site I am most familiar with. Firstly, DraftKings offers a variety of different games that can be played across sports leagues. They even go as far as to allow one to put in a lineup for video games like Call of Duty and CS: GO professional competitive leagues. Furthermore, the site allows users to put in lineups for EA Sports Madden Football simulated games. Yes, you can literally bet on AI versus AI players in video games.

For this tutorial, we will focus on the major sports leagues and how they work. You first have to be in a state that allows legal sports gambling and that allows wagers on DFS sites. For a list of states where sports gambling is legal, please refer to my previous article which provides every state’s up-to-date legal betting status.

Once you have determined that you can legally set up an account, the next step is to create one. Most DFS sites offer a promotion to new users. It may be something like matching your first deposit or giving users a risk-free wager for up to a certain amount. Either way, it’s beneficial to take advantage of these promotions.

DFS: Game Options

At the top of the image above from the DraftKings website, you can see the various leagues and games associated with each. Highlighted in white are the leagues that currently have game offerings. At the bottom of the image are the game styles offered for those leagues. Below are some examples of the different game styles for the NFL.

Classic Game Mode

Diving deeper, the Classic mode is what is considered the “traditional” style of Daily Fantasy Sports. To put it in the simplest terms, the user has a fictional salary cap. Each player is issued a value based on analytical data determined by the site. Depending on the league, you have specific positional slots in your lineup you must fill. You field a lineup with each position required while not going over the designated cap amount. For DraftKings, the cap is set at $50,000 per team. Meaning, the user can spend up to that amount on their total team. The player pool classic mode varies depending on the contest. It may consist of a limited number of games that day/week, or the entire slate of games for that sport.

Example of an NFL classic game mode on DraftKings.

Showdown Captain Mode

Moving along, this game mode differs from the classic one in a few ways. First, you are not restricted to a set number of positions, a captain and five “flex” spots must be filled. Also, kickers are options, unlike the aforementioned mode. Lastly, and quite possibly the largest difference, is the salaries, captain designation, and player pool. Since only six total slots are filled, the salaries for each player are much higher. The captain’s salary is 1.5 times higher, but they earn 1.5 times as many points. This style additionally consists of choosing players from a single game and you must choose at least one player from opposing teams.

Similar to classic, you are required to stay under a salary cap in showdown captain mode.


The tier gameplay mode completely deviates from the first two. There is no lineup or salary cap. Moreover, the player pool is very limited. Lineups must consist of one player from each tier and must include players representing at least 2 different games. The number of tiers may vary based on the game set. DraftKings determines the players in each tier, usually providing at least four options per.


According to Fanduel, in a Snake Draft, you draft your lineup in real-time against your opponents. The pick order is random and reverses each round (e.g. if you have the first pick in round one, you will have the last pick in round two). You have 30 seconds to make each pick. If you do not make a pick in 30 seconds, a pick will be made for you.
Once a player has been drafted, no one else may draft that player.
You cannot edit your lineup after the Snake Draft ends unless you draft an active player who later becomes inactive. See the section ‘Player Swap’ for more details.

Like tiers, there is no salary cap. Like classic mode, there are a definitive set of player positions that must be filled. The player pool, like many contests, depends on the number of games offered. For multiple game slates, the following positions must be drafted:

Multiple Game Slates

Single Game Slates

Best Ball (Preseason)

The best ball format is similar to fantasy football in many ways. The league size may vary, but you are randomly placed in a lobby until it fills with other live drafters. Then, your draft position is randomly decided. Like the previous game, the draft is a snake draft. The number of draft rounds varies by league. You also have the entire league to choose from with no salary cap. There are designated positions that will be filled each week by the highest scorer on your team for that positional slot. Best ball contests are usually season-long and cumulative points over the duration of the season.

Unlike traditional fantasy football, there are no head-to-head matchups. Another dissimilar feature is the drafter is done managing the team after the draft is complete. There are no free agents pickups, setting of lineups, or trades.

Contest Types


These are contests across many leagues that the website promotes.


Beginner contests are self-explanatory. They are designed for people new to various DFS games. These contests allow new players to start their careers against other rookies. Beginner contests are open to less experienced players who haven’t earned an experience badge and have played under 50 contests.


Casual contests are open to players who have played in more than 50 contests but haven’t earned an experience badge. Experience Badges let you know exactly who you’re playing. Experience badges signify contest entry milestones for accomplished players. Anyone with an experience badge is ineligible to enter beginner and casual contests.


These are various contest styles that have a set number of maximum participants. The payout also varies along with how much is won. All are provided in the information about the contest.

Head to Head

These contests depend on the sport and type of game. This is contest is another self-explanatory one. You play against another player in a winner take all matchup.


For these matches, half the field wins a payout or prize. So in a twenty-team field, the top ten players will win.

Double Ups

A double up provides entrants a chance to double their entry fee. For instance, if you pay $2 to enter a designated number of top players will earn a $4 payout.


These games offer different levels multiplying your entry fee if you qualify for a payout.

Satellites & Qualifiers

Satellites and qualifiers are usually tournament-style contests that start out with winners receiving a ticket to larger, higher stake contests.

Other Insights

Some contests allow multiple entries, some only allow single entries. Most contests have a limit on how many total entries they are allowing.

The dollar amount for contests that payout varies greatly. Some contests are free to join while others can be in the thousands of dollars range.

A person can create their own contest or league. For example, say you and some friends want to do a weekly winner take all contest. You can set it up and invite them to participate. Also, you can invite other random users to join.

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