Unless you have been living under a rock (or without access to TV or the Internet, which is basically the same thing these days), you have probably seen an ad for one of the many Daily Fantasy Sports websites out there today. This segment of the online gambling industry took the world by storm a few years ago, and even though it has seen its share of ups and downs during its short life, the game is here to stay. At giomagnani.com, we want to give you a primer on the action, how you can get involved and what you should be looking for when you are choosing a DFS site.
Let’s start with the most important part of this page: our recommendations. Our team of experts reviews every DFS site that comes on to the market, and from that we can recommend the following sites for you to try:
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We will show you how we came up with these recommendations further down this page.
Daily Fantasy Sports came to prominence out of demand and necessity. After the Department of Justice shut down the majority of online poker sites in 2011, many American poker players were left in the lurch. As many of those professional players were also big sports bettors, and options were limited as to how they could gamble online, it was time to find a new way to get their fix.
Fantasy Sports have been around for ages; you can join a league covering most major sports, draft a team and play out the season with your specific team. This activity was explicitly protected in the changes to the sports betting laws in the United States. Some crafty folks figured out, however, that the lawmakers had forgotten to define the length of a season. Combining that loophole with the liquidity that is easily reached with tournament-style software, and the Daily Fantasy Sports world emerged.
It didn’t take long for players (and investors) to warm to the idea of playing a new fantasy “season” every day. For those of us who have drafted bad teams in the past, getting a chance to redraft every day or week was a welcome change. Quickly, the money started flowing in, and the advertising dollars were being spent at breakneck speed. You couldn’t turn your head without seeing a logo of one of the top 3 sites, which finally caught the attention of the U.S. Attorney in New York. In that state, along with several others, the popular game was deemed to be more chance than skill, forcing the sites to shut down their access to those residents. When the dust settled, the two top players attempted unsuccessfully to merge businesses, and the industry continues to be open to players who live in applicable jurisdictions.
As we mentioned, we have a team full of industry experts that are always looking at sites to review them and ensure that our readers have an up-to-date, honest recommendation on where to play. This goes for DFS sites as well, although what we look for is slightly different than what we might use to judge an online casino.
This is really the most important item on our checklist. With so many sites to choose from, finding one that not only offers the sport you are looking for but also the style of game is critical. First off, you want to find a site that offers all the major sports, including:
You may find other fringe sports listed at some sites, but honestly, the DFS model tends to work best for the sports listed above.
As for the types of games that are offered, all of the DFS games are set up to be played in tournament fashion. If you have played online poker, you will find the DFS offering very similar. There are many different types of events, such as:
As you can see, many of these events mirror poker events. No matter what you are looking for, there is bound to be an event for you on a DFS site. One other feature you want to look for is the ability to set up a private tournament. This allows you to avoid the professional players in some of the big jackpot events and makes for an excellent addition to your current season-long fantasy league.
We have given this a separate category because we feel it is so important for players who aren’t comfortable with the whole DFS setup. Getting a chance to win some money without having to put any up front is a great way to learn how DFS works, and heck, who doesn’t love free cash? Many sites will offer small, free events on a daily basis.
Typically these will involve thousands of players, so the odds of winning are pretty slim, but it is still worth a shot. Plus, seeing as most events, free or not, allow you to enter multiple teams, this is a good way to train yourself on how to make minor adjustments to your lineups to maximize potential.
An overlay is when a site puts a guarantee on an event (say, $1 million on a weekly NFL DFS tournament) regardless of the entrants. Now, the site doesn’t want to lose money on this, but in many cases, a company will push the limit of the guarantee as it is an excellent marketing tool. For those of us who have had years of experience specifically in the poker world, we know the value of finding an event with an overlay. Let’s use some figures to show you how it works.
Say there is a tournament that costs $10 with a $10,000 guarantee (this is pretty typical). If the event meets the guarantee, then your $10 is worth exactly that, $10. If, however, the guarantee misses by 50%, and there is only $5,000 of entries, then your $10 has two times the Expected Value (the site has to give away $10k still, meaning your $10 is now worth $20). Of course, you still have to enter and make the money for these numbers to hold up, but with half the entries you have two times the odds of doing so.
We look at all the DFS sites to find the ones that have the best overlays. Be careful though: a site that has too many overlays or ones that are too large will burn through money, and may find themselves with a shortfall after a while. While some overlay is nice, too much is a red flag.
As with all other forms of online gambling, DFS sites try to get you to make deposits by rewarding you with bonuses. For your first deposit, you are probably going to be offered a match bonus of some sort (giving you bonus dollars to be earned by playing in real money tournaments). Also, you may get entry into a free event only open to new players. These are nice because they are usually limited in size, giving you a much better chance of making money.
On an ongoing basis, you will receive offers to reload your account; these are typically match bonuses but at a lower percentage than the initial offer. Also, you will earn points while playing games that you can redeem for tickets into future events. When we review sites, we are looking for the sites with the best value for our players, combining all of the above bonuses into our evaluation.
When you are playing Daily Fantasy Sports, your team could change at a moment’s notice. In many sports, a team may change the playing status of one of their players at the very last minute. While this is a bit of gamesmanship between the teams on the field, the results can be catastrophic for your DFS team if you cant make a change quickly.
Most of the sites out there have a mobile app that you can download to your phone, giving you access to your games and teams without having to use a browser. We look at these apps and the browser games to see how quickly we can update line-ups, etc. to ensure you aren’t going to get stuck with a dead spot in your lineup as the games tip off.
We always want to make sure the site you are dealing with has excellent customer service, especially considering that games start at all hours of the day based on our time zone. In most cases, we will look to see if the site offers 24/7 care (most do) and then we will test out their agents by asking a couple of simple questions. Many of the sites also offer a full FAQ section which can deal with the majority of generic questions from players.
It is safe to say that DFS is here to stay in one form or another. With companies like Yahoo and ESPN getting involved, the game has more legitimacy than ever before. Even though some states have prohibited play for their residents, we are sure that once there is some regulation put in place those doors will once again open.
In the meantime, you should always do your research before making a deposit at any DFS site. Better yet, you can read our reviews and follow our recommendations; we are here to make the gaming experience safe, secure and most importantly FUN for our readers.