Daily Fantasy: Movin’ On Up

Things change fairly quickly along the daily fantasy baseball journey. Before you know it, you’ve been playing for what seems like forever, and you can look back to the stupid mistakes you made and smile. But before you can experience this ultimate nostalgia, you must first endure the trials and tribulations that you will undoubtedly run into along the way.

For this article, I took the time to interview players with varying experience levels with daily fantasy. I asked them one simple question. “What is your biggest question about daily fantasy baseball?”

Here are those questions, as well as my best shot at giving them the response they needed—or were looking for:

ONE DAYIs this legal?

Short answer is yes. This is completely legal. But I felt the same way when I stumbled upon FanDuel. This must be illegal, it’s too awesome to be true. But it in fact is 100 percent legitimate. Here is an excerpt from the FAQ page on FanDuel:

“Yes, Fantasy Sports is considered a game of skill and received a specific exemption from the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. FanDuel uses exactly same rules as any other season long fantasy sports game, the only difference is that our games last only a day. Thanks to fantasy sports being specifically excluded from laws affecting online sports betting, FanDuel is not illegal in any way. Trust us, our lawyers drive very nice cars so that we can keep it that way. We’re also members of the The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA).”

For full text of the UIGEA of 2006 click here.

The simple fact is that you can use PayPal and your credit card to play. This wouldn’t be possible if daily fantasy baseball was illegal. I hope that it puts all your minds at ease, knowing that you won’t end up behind prison bars.

ONE WEEKWhy do I keep losing?

This is a tough, tough question to answer. There are many, many reasons that players lose early in their careers. I’ll give you a top five and, while some of these may seem silly, they are accurate—at least with what I’ve seen. Here you go:

1) Taking the time to pay, when you don’t have time to play. Um, duh. If your not gonna be around at game lock time, you might as well just not play. You can take a day off; it’s okay. And if you are a player that has been playing, and losing, you are actually winning by not playing. I know that’s a tough concept to follow, but think about it; I’m sure you’ll understand. If you don’t, stop reading my article, and please face me in daily fantasy.

2) Ignoring the obvious. Matt Holliday is two for 21 in his career off Aaron Harang, with zero extra base hits. As a daily fantasy baseball player, you need to know these types of things. The players with extreme successes or extreme slumps off other players exist every night. Identify them and make the proper decisions.

3) Matching up with the heavy hitters. If you can avoid the big boys, please take care of your bankroll. These guys are so, so tough. It’s almost impossible to win against them consistently. And on most sites, there is plenty of less experienced traffic to face-off against. Choose your matchups carefully.

4) Ignoring the outdoors. Watch the weather like your grandmother does. It’s the single easiest variable to track. Therefore, it is also the single easiest way to gain a leg-up on your opponent. There have been 30 rainouts so far this year. That’s a huge number. Monitor the doppler and you will start getting some extra wins.

5) Playing players who aren’t playing. Please check the lineups before you pick, people—for your own good. You look like an idiot when you have someone rostered who is taking the night off. And you look even worse if you pick someone like Ryan Zimmerman or Steven Strasburg, who haven’t played all season. I hope none of my readers are making these mistakes, but if you are, fix it up.

Use these five items as a simple starting place, and your financial prospects for daily fantasy are sure to start improving.

Mike Trout, Statcast Darling
What do the standard deviations of exit velocity and launch angle tell us about the best baseball player in the world?

ONE MONTHWhat are some outside resources?

A few short weeks ago I provided you all with my favorite resources for daily fantasy preparation. If you have yet to see those click here. After debating with myself for what seems like an eternity, I’ve decided to divulge to the readers my two other resources for dominant preparation. Here they are:

Yahoo! Who’s Hot: This is such a valuable resource for me. I love knowing who’s been swinging the sticks well lately, and this provides me with a perfect guide at every position.

To me, there are two primary selection criteria for hitters. First is recent performance, which can be found on the above-mentioned site. The other is historical performance. This includes everything from lefty/righty match-ups to day vs. night game averages. There are few, if any, completely irrelevant split stats to the daily fantasy player. Succeeding in this game is simply a matter of identifying which ones most accurately predict performance on any given day, and using them to your advantage. Some players go so far as to compile spreadsheets and composite scores for this type of information. While I’m not quite this dedicated, I can tell you that finding a guy who’s been performing well lately, (Yahoo! Who’s Hot) and also has good splits is almost always a great daily play.

Bodog — MLB Player Props: Very rarely do I admit that anyone is more sports-knowledgeable than I. But I must concede—oddsmakers know what they are doing. With that being said, I think that Bodog’s individual player props might be as accurate a predictor of nightly player performance than any other resource. Odds are presented on such things as HR probability and combined RBI, Runs and Hits for most of MLB’s top players. This should give you a good indication of how a player will do versus their opponent for that day.

There are countless ways that this can be weighed, measured and utilized. If you would like to discuss the value of this site with you further, please feel free to drop me a line.

These sites are sure to come in handy for you in the daily fantasy world. All I can say is, your welcome. And remember me if you win big.

SIX MONTHSWhat’s the best wager model?

The decision to be made here is tournaments, or head-to-head—or a variety of both. Tournaments offer large payout opportunities, but are far harder to win at consistently. Head-to-heads. on the other hand, can be won quite a bit, though a bad night could ruin a week of profits. Its a tough decision to make, and a personal one, but I can offer my opinion on the matter.

I play to win money, but I also play because daily fantasy is fun and makes Mariners’ games more exciting. With that being said, I try to structure my wager model around this philosophy. What does this mean? It means I play primarily head-to-head games to make a profit. I then use this hoped-for profit to play in large field tournaments, with the goal of getting the big payday.

It’s worked fairly well thus far, so I would highly recommend this to others. But your personal betting tendencies will almost certainly be different, based on bankroll and risk analysis. Good luck to you, and let me reiterate that strategies presented here should be applicable to all players.

ONE YEARHow can I maximize my money?

There are three things that you must find in order to maximize your earning potential. The first is to find the site that has features you feel comfortable with, and offers the games that you feel you can be most successful. Next, you must identify the scoring system that best suits your skills. All sites have their own unique scoring system that values, or devalues, certain individuals. Knowing and applying the scoring system properly is one of the most important, yet overlooked, aspects of playing successful daily fantasy baseball. Last, you must select a specific game format that seems to fit your style of play. Do some trial and error, because there are a lot of options out there. Sites have salary cap games, live drafts, autopicks and other different variations. By picking the right game format, you will ensure your best chance of success.

I hope that you found this little survey helpful. I encourage you all to go out and form some questions of your own. Here are the best places to give it a shot:

FanDuelDraftStreetDraftZoneFantasy Sports LiveSportsGeek

Feel free to shoot me a line if you have a question of your own. See you next time!

newest oldest most voted

So, our gubmint considers fantasy baseball a game of skill, and therefore legal, but considers online poker a game of luck and therefore illegal?

That makes no sense.

Derek Ambrosino
Derek Ambrosino


Actually, individual states have differing stances on poker. Some have determined it a game of luck and others a game of skill. The recent shut down of the online poker sites in the US was a federal ruling that overrode state opinion. An individual state could challenge such a ruling, and it might actually win, but it is hard and expensive to beat the feds regardless of whether you are in the right or wrong.

Chad Millman discussed this with a sports gambling legal expert on his Behind the Bets podcast last month – 4.26.11


Derek Ambrosino
Derek Ambrosino
Here’s my question, Kevin. How viable is it to make anything approximating a living by doing this, and what sort of bankroll would one need to begin? The problem I’ve always had with playing daily fantasy is that it seems like a whole lot of work for what are fairly low stakes. If I have to spend a hour and park myself at my compeuter for an hour to win (or for the change to win) $25, is that even worth my time? I get that the more you play, the less the cost of research vs. the profit potential,… Read more »
Kevin Cearnal
Kevin Cearnal
Derek- I’m definitely considering a column on this. Thanks for the question. Let me give you this in the mean time: So far on Fanduel in 2011 (as of May 16th): -28 players have net profit of over $1,000 (all sports combined) -59 players have net profit of over $500 (all sports combined) -15 players have net profit of over $1,000 (MLB only) -34 players have net profit of over $500 (MLB only) So far on Draftstreet in 2011 All Sports: -20 players have net profit of $1,000 or more -41 players have net profit of $500 or more MLB… Read more »
Derek Ambrosino
Derek Ambrosino
Hmm. Okay, so going off Fanduel’s 15 players at $1,000 in MLB only, that would mean that 15 players have made an average of at a minimum of about $140 per week since the beginning of the season. The question there is, how many hours worth of work does it take somebody to make $140 a week doing this? I don’t know what people consider “high stakes” fantasy sports, but even in the leagues I’m in where top payouts are more than $1,000, you pretty much have to win first place to make participation economically rational when weighed against the… Read more »