How to Compete for Cash and Prizes in Online Fantasy Sports Leagues

Published: October 3, 2017 - 9:00am EDT

Sports on a smartphone device

Calling all sports fans! Whether you're someone who casually watches sports for fun, or a statistics junkie who knows every team and athlete inside and out, a popular pastime for those who follow the sporting world is to join fantasy sports leagues. You can put your knowledge of your favourite sports to the test and compete with other diehard fans for prizes, including cash at the really serious tournaments! And getting involved in fantasy sports is easier than ever, thanks to many websites on the Internet hosting online leagues.

But let's assume that you're a complete newcomer to fantasy sports. We're sure you have a lot of questions about them, including how they work, where you can go to play or learn more about them, and what you should do when you’re just starting out. This article will aim to answer those questions as part of a general introduction to the world of online fantasy sports. You'll learn:

  • How the two different types of fantasy sports work
  • The best 7 websites to visit if you want to play or learn about fantasy sports
  • Some tips and tricks for when you start playing fantasy sports

Let’s jump right in, so you can join a league today!

How do fantasy sports work?

Fantasy sports are basically games of mathematical probability. They task you with predicting the outcomes of matches, or the statistics of players or teams, in their respective sports leagues. There are two general kinds of fantasy sports leagues: daily "predictors" and season-long "team drafts."

What are "predictors"?

"Predictors" (or "Pick 'ems") are fantasy sports leagues where you make daily predictions on the outcomes of matches in specific sports. Correct predictions win you points, or add to your streak of correct predictions in a row. The person with the most points or longest streak at the end wins.

Usually, "predictors" simply task you with predicting which player or team will win a match. However, there can sometimes be other criteria, depending on the particular league you're participating in. For example, you may be asked to guess things like whether:

  • One team (or player), or both teams, will score a certain number of points during a match
  • One team (or player) will win a match by a certain score margin
  • Teams from a particular league grouping will win more games than another group that day

What are "team drafts"?

In "team drafts," you take turns with a limited number of other participants selecting different players from a particular sports league at the beginning of its season. You then compare the statistics of those players over the course of the season, and whoever ends up with the most points wins.

Depending on the particular pool you participate in, the rules may vary slightly. For example, you may or may not be able to trade selections with other participants, or drop some of your selections and choose from other available ones. If you are allowed to do these things, you may be able to do them only before the season starts, only while the season is in progress, or sometimes at any time.

Football game

There are also two different primary scoring systems in team drafts. One is "rotisserie," which automatically awards points to participants based on the performance of their selected players across all statistics categories being measured.

"Head-to-head" scoring, meanwhile, pits pairs of participants in a pool against each other and asks them to predict what statistics categories they think their selected players will perform best in during a match (or series of matches). They then compare who had the most correct guesses, and points are awarded based on wins, losses, or ties.

Best 7 fantasy sports sites

So where do you go if you want to get in on the fantasy sports action, or learn how to up your fantasy sports game with advice that will give you the competitive edge? These 7 sites are good places to start.

1. DraftKings

DraftKings logo

DraftKings is the largest fantasy sports provider on the Internet today, providing more contests for more sports leagues than anyone else out there. The one thing to note is that most of its events are single-day only, so you'll have to draft new players or teams from week to week (so it's kind of a predictor and team draft hybrid). However, you can always just create a custom fantasy sports league, invite your friends, and then pick the same players or teams every week if you want to hold a season-long team draft that way.

Sports covered: Football | Baseball | Basketball | Hockey | Soccer | Golf | Mixed Martial Arts | Auto Racing | E-sports

DraftKings button

 

2. FanDuel

FanDuel logo

Launched a bit earlier than DraftKings (2009 as opposed to 2012), FanDuel is its biggest rival. Like DraftKings, it features daily team draft contests, rather than season-long ones; again, though, you can create private leagues with friends and stick to set rosters. A neat feature of FanDuel is its "experience badge" system, which prevents veteran players who've had a lot of success from entering beginner tournaments. That way, you won't get stuck playing against someone who hopelessly outclasses you, or vice-versa.

Sports covered: Football | Baseball | Basketball | Hockey Golf | Soccer

FanDuel button

 

3. Yahoo Sports

Yahoo Sports logo

Internet giant Yahoo includes fantasy sports games in their sports news section. You can play traditional season-long team drafts in hockey, football, baseball, and basketball. Or play daily team drafts in those sports, along with golf or auto racing. Yahoo Sports also has lots of daily football predictor games, as well as predictors for college basketball tournaments.

Sports covered: Football | Basketball | Baseball | Hockey | Golf | Auto Racing

Yahoo Sports button

 

4. ESPN

ESPN logo

It should come as no surprise that ESPN, one of the top sports news and programming networks in the world, also has its share of fantasy sports games. It has standard team draft leagues for football, hockey, baseball, and basketball; it also has football predictor leagues. It even has some unique specialty leagues, such as the "Streak" predictor league that may ask you to predict things other than just match outcomes! There's also the "Eliminator Challenge," a football predictor league with a twist: you can only pick each team once!

Sports covered: Football | Basketball | Baseball | Hockey | "Streak" game covers various sports

ESPN button

 

5. CBS Sports

CBS Sports logo

CBS Sports also has fantasy sports games to play for the major sports in North America. For most sports (except baseball), you can join beginner's leagues to get your feet wet. Then, when you're more experienced, you can create or join custom leagues and play by your own rules. Note that only fantasy football leagues are eligible for cash prizes.

Sports covered: Football | Basketball | Baseball | Hockey

CBS Sports button

 

6. FantasyDraft

FantasyDraft logo

FantasyDraft is a fantasy sports website dedicated to "putting players first." To maintain a level playing field, they use a similar "experience badge" system to FanDuel to keep beginners from playing veterans and vice-versa. They also restrict the size of leagues and entry fees, and award prizes to a larger portion of the league – so you have more chances to win! You may even end up playing against celebrity sports analysts, or even the players you're drafting!

Sports covered: Football | Baseball | Basketball | Hockey | Golf

FantasyDraft button

 

7. MyFantasyLeague

MyFantasyLeague logo

While MyFantasyLeague only does fantasy football, they do it better than anyone. Their leagues are fully customizable, from participant pool sizes to player position requirements to scoring rules, right down to how the interface looks! Plus, they keep track of your previous leagues and settings, so you can run the same type league over and over, or even hold a long-term competition over the course of several seasons!

Sports covered: Football

MyFantasyLeague button

 

5 pieces of fantasy sports advice for newcomers

1. Make sure you are legally allowed to participate.

The U.S. federal government, along with most state governments, considers fantasy sports to be games of skill based on mathematical probability. However, there are some states – notably Arizona, Montana, Louisiana, Iowa, and Washington – that consider them to be forms of gambling, and have currently outlawed them on those grounds. Some fantasy sports websites will automatically block you from accessing them if you are from an area where playing fantasy sports is illegal. However, you should still check your local government policies before you play to make sure that you won't be breaking the law.

2. Play in mock or low-stakes tournaments first, and then move up to paid leagues.

Some fantasy sports leagues only require providing some registration information to join them. Others require you to pay money as well. So be sure to check the league rules so that you know what you're getting into.

Try playing in free or low-stakes leagues when you just start out. The prizes won't be as valuable (maybe just gift cards to popular retailers), but you'll get a bigger return on investment – or at least won't have as much to lose – than if you try competing in a high-stakes league without the experience to make a good showing. In fact, if you want to play team draft style, try doing "mock drafts" first to practice and get a feel for what players to go for, and when.

3. Stick with a particular play style and scoring format to get comfortable.

As we mentioned above, different fantasy sports leagues can have different playing styles and scoring systems. "Predictor" leagues may score based on total correct predictions, longest streak of correct predictions in a row, or some combination of both.

Team draft leagues can be even more complicated. Some leagues may only score certain statistics, or award more points (or penalties) for some statistics than others. Team requirements based on player positions can be loose or strict, and sometimes a "salary cap" rule will be used to prevent participants from selecting players with combined predetermined costs that exceed a certain limit.

The bottom line is to stick to joining leagues that have similar rules and scoring systems. That way, you can get used to knowing what kind of information you need to look for in order to make good predictions.

4. Do your homework, but trust your instincts.

The skill part of fantasy sports is making choices informed by research. Follow the sport for which you want to join a league for a couple of weeks, noting the trends, news, and analysis. Go to information websites dedicated to fantasy sports to see the statistics and projections that will influence your decisions. Talk to veteran players – or even play against them in low-stakes leagues – to get their advice and analyze how they make their picks.

When it comes down to it, though, it's ultimately your pick. If a player or team has been performing well lately and is a popular pick, but you see a trend that may mean they're about to cool off, maybe it's time to go against the grain with your selections.

By the same token, if you're playing in a team draft league that has a salary cap rule, pick the players whom you think will perform well enough to justify their costs. Don't just pick high-cost players simply because they're popular or you personally like them. You may miss out on mid-cost players who might ultimately score you more points because they're projected to perform better.

5. Remember to keep learning and have fun!

Sometimes, even the newest fantasy sports players can hit a hot streak of good luck, while seasoned veterans can get mired in slumps that last for weeks. Be aware that either scenario (or both) could happen to you, but don't take any of it too close to heart. Just remember to always reflect on what you're doing well and where you need to improve.

More importantly, remember that fantasy sports are games, and games are meant to be fun! If you start finding that playing them seems like more of a chore than an enjoyable pastime, take a break! Don't force yourself to play just for the sake of making picks if you're not in the right frame of mind to make the right ones. Take a step back, clear your head, and come back when you're ready to focus.

 

We hope this has been a helpful introduction to what fantasy sports are all about. Remember to play responsibly and keep things fun! And If you want to get really close to the action, we can show you how to buy baseball tickets online

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