DFS 101: How to Play on FanDuel

DFS 101: How to Play on FanDuel

By TJ Hernandez (Associate Editor), last updated Sep 12, 2016

TJ Hernandez's picture

TJ is a former full-time poker player who has been playing fantasy football for more than a decade. After online poker was outlawed, TJ ended his poker career and dedicated himself to fantasy football. His background in poker statistics and analytics translates to success in both daily and season-long fantasy football.

Follow TJ on Twitter: @TJHernandez.

An expanded explanation of all topics covered here can be found in The Daily Fantasy Playbook

Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is an exploding industry, and while all fantasy football players have likely heard about DFS, the overwhelming majority of season long players have yet to make their first deposit on a DFS site. For those thinking about trying out DFS for the first time, this walkthrough will explain the fundamentals of daily fantasy football and, specifically, how to navigate and get started on FanDuel.

What is Daily Fantasy Football?

Daily, or weekly, fantasy football is a salary cap format fantasy football league where you compete against other owners under the restrictions of a fixed salary cap. FanDuel’s games have a $60,000 salary cap and rosters are made up of the following positions:

1 Quarterback
2 Running Backs
3 Wide Receivers
1 Tight End
1 Kicker
1 Team Defense

Players are individually priced based on recent performance and expected production that week. The player pool consists of all players in a given slate, or set of games. Slates can vary in size and can consist of every game from Thursday night through Monday to slates that contain only players from the prime time games. The most popular slate is the Sun-Mon slate, or Main Slate, made up of all games played on Sunday and the Monday night game.

After building a roster by filling each position with a team of players that fits under FanDuel’s $60,000 cap, users can submit their roster into any game as long as the lineup built fits the slate. (If a lineup is built for a Sunday Only Slate, it cannot be submitted into a Sun-Mon slate, even though all players are available in both slates.)

After a lineup is submitted into a contest, users can adjust their roster until the first game of the slate starts. Once the first game starts, players on FanDuel cannot be changed, even if their game has not started yet.

Game Types

FanDuel offers a wide variety of contests, but when discussing game types, DFS players break contests up into two distinctive categories: cash games and tournaments, or GPPs (Guaranteed Prize Pools). 

Cash Games

A cash game refers to games where your chances of winning are much higher compared to other contests, games that give you roughly a 50% chance to win. Some DFS players consider slightly riskier games, such as games with a  33% chance of winning*, cash games as well. Cash games are the foundation of a long term winning DFS strategy and are broken up into the following subcategories:

  • Head to Heads
  • 50/50s
  • Double Ups

*FanDuel offers Leagues, which many experienced players consider cash games as well. As a beginning DFS player, I strongly recommend sticking to the contests listed above for cash games.


Head to Head Lobby Walkthrough 

Head to Heads

A head to head game is exactly what like it sounds. Users are matched up against one other player in a winner take all contest, where the prize is slightly less than double your entry fee, as the site takes a small fee known as the rake. Head to heads are considered the safest form of cash games because even if your lineup performs poorly, you still have the chance of winning against one lineup that did even worse.


50/50 and Multipliers Lobby Walkthrough


A 50/50 game is similar to a head to head, in that if your lineup finishes in the top half of the field, you win slightly less than half of your money. The difference is that you are competing against multiple opponents and, unlike in a head to head, if your lineup performs below average, you have no chance at winning money. This is why these games are considered more risky than head to heads. 50/50 contests can contain as few as four entrants up to hundreds of thousands of entrants. 

Double Ups

In a double up, FanDuel users compete against a group of opponents for a chance to double their entry fee. Unlike head to heads or 50/50s, where half the field wins slightly less than double their money, double up winners actually double their money, but less than half of the field wins. Because you have to beat out more than 50% of the field, double ups are generally even riskier than 50/50s. Due to the fact that not exactly half of the field finishes in the money, fields range from 11 entrants to over 50,000 entrants.


Tournaments Lobby Walkthrough


GPPs, or Guaranteed Prize Pools, are large field tournaments where the site promises to payout a specific dollar amount, regardless of whether or not the contest fills. The terms “GPP” and “tournament” are used interchangeably when discussing these large field contests.

Compared to cash games, the chances of winning money are significantly lower in GPPs. FanDuel tournaments usually pay out as much as roughly 20% of the field to as little as 10% of the field, depending on the contest. While cash games pay out the same amount of money to all winners, GPP prizes increase the higher you finish in the rankings. Regardless of the specific GPP, any large field tournament pays out a significantly higher amount to the players that finish near the top compared to players that barely finish in the money. 

When entering GPPs, it’s important to note that not all games are created equal. Although GPPs with huge prizes to first place are intriguing, that big payday at the top comes at the expense of the other winners pay outs, and often means a smaller percentage of winners overall. 

Before entering GPPs, be sure to research the  payout structure. The GPPs that offer the best value pay the highest percentage of entrants and have a “flat” payout structure, meaning that winnings are distributed more evenly amongst the winners, rather than a huge portion of the prize pool going to the top. As a general rule, newer users are often best suited sticking to smaller field GPPs until they gain more experience.

Satellites and Qualifiers

Satellites and Qualifiers are special types of GPPs that award entry into larger, more expensive contests. While the payout structure often looks the same as other GPPs, on the surface, these contests are usually very top heavy and a large portion of the prize pool goes to tickets, rather than actual cash prizes. Some qualifiers even only give out tickets to larger events and offer no immediate cash return. Because users are competing for a chance to play in a larger tournament, and often are guaranteed no winnings in that larger tournament, qualifiers are usually the riskiest games to play on FanDuel.

Single-Entry and Multi-Entry Tournaments

FanDuel offers two distinctly different tournament games: Single-Entry and Multi-Entry.

Single-Entry games are contests where each user can only submit one lineup into the contest. FanDuel explicitly states Single Entry games in the lobby by placing “(Single Entry)” after the contest name. These games can be beneficial to new users because everyone is on an equal playing field, in terms of lineups submitted.

Multi-Entry games are contests where users can submit as many lineups as they choose, up to a predetermined maximum entries set by FanDuel. Multi-Entry games are denoted by an orange dot to the left of the contest name. Users can see the maximum number of entries allowed by entering the draft lobby of that contest. (You are not required to pay the entry fee to enter the draft lobby)


Draft Lobby Walkthrough


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