How to Play Fantasy Football for Beginners

If you are entering the world of fantasy football for the first time, you are sure to wonder why it took you so long to come around. Playing fantasy football, whether for fun or real money, is a great way to enjoy one of America’s favorite sports, professional football. As a beginner, you will most likely be playing with experienced managers that already know the nuances of the game. This quick guide is designed to show how to play fantasy football for beginners, and maybe level the playing field just a little.

Picking a League Format

When you sign onto a free or real money fantasy football site, you will be asked to register. If it’s a real money site, you will also be asked to make a deposit. Free sites typically are used for league play where you draft a team and play that team in a league format for an entire season. Real money sites focus on weekly competitions where you pay the contest fee and choose your team for that specific contest only based on salary cap limitations. Regardless of which format you choose, you must take the time to understand the rules and the scoring in order to decide how to best develop your team.

Tips on Picking Players

As a beginner, you will most likely have a casual approach to picking players, preferring not to invest a great deal of time on statistical analysis. That’s fine and understandable, but you should be aware that some of your competition will use that information, which provides a bit of an advantage over those who don’t.

Tips for Picking Players in an Annual League Format

Note: standard leagues use offensive skilled position players, kickers and team defenses only. If individual defensive players are included, it is referred to as a “IDP” league. Beginners should avoid auction drafts and stick with standard “snake” drafts.

1. As you are drafting your team, pick the best available player for each specific position first before you start drafting backup players.

2. Draft a balanced team and try not to over-focus on one particular position. Also, you want to avoid drafting your favorite players unless they will truly benefit you in the scoring.

3. Look for a “scoring bias” in the scoring rules. This refers to the notion that some leagues sets scoring rules that might favor the QB a little. If so, you want a top QB. If not, you should give a little extra focus to running backs and wide receivers.

4. Pick kickers and team defenses towards the end of the draft as they seldom provided any real advantage over a full season.

5. Watch your “bye” weeks. You want to make sure both your QBs don’t have the same bye week, which would force you to the waiver wire or to lose points.

Tips for Picking Players for Weekly Contests

When playing for money, you should alter your focus. You are not drafting players, you are selecting the best group of players you can without exceeding the salary cap.

1. Find value by selecting good offensive players scheduled to play against bad defensive teams. On the other side of the coin, you should avoid offensive players going up against the best defenses.

2. You should read weather reports and try to avoid players who might be playing in rain or snow. If you selected your teams well in advance, go back and make adjustments as necessary before game time.

3. Look for streaking players who may be under-valued and avoid slumping players who may be over-valued. Don’t be afraid to play the trends.

4. Use every dime of your salary cap.

5. Never play with more money than you can afford to lose.

Every week, it is up to you to manage your team. In league formats, fellow managers are expecting you to show up and play every week to the best of your ability whether you are in first place or last. As time passes, you will better understand the objectives and will start making better decisions. At the end of the day, this is a game. Have a great time and enjoy.

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3 Steps to Setting a Daily Fantasy Hockey Lineup

If you’re new to daily fantasy hockey, setting a lineup can be a daunting task. However, to give yourself a fair chance of a return on investment, all you need to do is apply a few simple tactics. The research can be time consuming, but usually pays off at the end of the night. Let’s get started.

Step #1: Extrapolate potential offense

If you’re not familiar with NHL talent, you can rely on statistics to show you the way. Look for teams that give up a lot of goals and exploit them by starting one of their opponent’s lines/defensive units (step 2) that scores a lot of goals. You, however, must be careful not to rely on too small of a sample size as an indication of a poor defense or formidable offense. If a team has played under 10 games, it may be a fluke they’ve allowed 4 goals a game. Perhaps they’ve recently made a goaltender switch or have gotten an injured star back from injury. You can also utilize the previous season’s statistics. However, you must again be careful and be sure there were no major changes to the team’s roster during the off season. Also, look at the recent game log. Contradictory to what I said above, hockey is a streaky sport. If a team has scored 20 goals in 4 games, odds favor them continuing to play well. I’m not trying to confuse you, but encouraging you to look at a match up from all angles. You can also look at the Las Vegas lines to see which teams are heavily favored in games with a 5.5 over/under. The standard over under is 5, so 5.5 means the public is expecting more scoring than usual. Any team favored by more than -150 in these games (or at all really) is expected to score 3-4 goals. I recommend first analyzing the statistics, picking 2 or more teams you think will have a good offensive night and then confirm your suspicions are legitimate by looking at the game line. Relying merely on the game lines can be disastrous. Remember, odds makers set the line at the point they calculate will draw the same amount of money on each side. They are experts at predicting bettors behavior, not game outcomes. So, now that you’ve decided which teams will score sufficiently, it’s time to decide which specific players to roster.

Step #2: Identify offensive lines, defensive units, and power play units

Each team rosters 18 offensive players, generally 12 forwards and 6 defenseman. Forwards play in groups of 3 for about a minute before substituting for the next group of 3 or ‘line’ (hockey is that exhausting). Defenseman play in groups of 2, but it’s not both of them substituting out as often as it is 3 forwards. Defenseman skate a lot less than forwards and, thus, can often stay in the game for longer periods of time. The point being: it’s difficult to predict what fellow players a defenseman will share ice time with throughout the game. Each team also has 2 power play units used to increase the chances of scoring when they have a man advantage. Look to add an entire line, perhaps along with a defenseman or goalie (more below), from a team you think will score goals plentifully. When considering an offensive line, check if they all play together on a power play unit as well. Check if they all receive ample time on ice (TOI). A player on a 3rd or 4th line may get a significant amount less TOI than his line mates. It may seem counter intuitive adding 3 or 4 players from the same team, but one goal scored with 3 or 4 of your players on the ice will bombard your opponent. For example, if you have 4 players on the ice and one of them scores assisted by another (or even 2), you will have already compiled enough offensive points to win many head to head games, depending on the scoring system. If the other team scores with your players on the ice, this tactic (commonly called stacking) can also lose you points quickly, but that’s the risk we take when setting a favorable lineup. Of course, having a team’s first line with a defenseman that plays with the three on the first power play unit is ideal, but budget doesn’t always allow this. Don’t be afraid to start a teams second or third line in a favorable match up. Especially if the line sticks together on the second power play unit. All in all, choosing offensive players based on match up, as opposed to talent level is the philosophy The opposite being true with goaltenders.

Step #3: Choose elite goaltenders

It’s always a good strategy to start the most talented goaltenders on talented teams when setting your lineup. They’re often the most expensive options, but for good reason. A goaltender plays the entire game (ideally) and has a chance to score at any point. In the majority of scoring systems a dominate goal tending performance will usually produce more points than a dominate offensive performance and it’s much easier to predict which high priced goaltender will allow few goals in a win than it is to predict which high priced forward will score 2 or 3 points. So, look for the most expensive options, very importantly making sure they are confirmed to play in the game. On countless occasions I’ve seen elite goaltenders with the night off in rosters. If you’re unsure which goaltender to roster, look at their career stats in comparison to their opponents. Look at their recent games. Much like step 1 above, look at their opponents offensive ability and the line on the game in Las Vegas. Occasionally, a goalie is historically great, but has faltered in recent games. This will drive his price down. If there’s not another elite talent playing, start the struggling star. Odds are he will rebound soon.

More information is always a good thing – I find this true in life and in the fantasy hockey realm. Be sure to gain as much information as possible when doing your research. Has Chicago recently lost a player to injury? Does Buffalo play significantly better at home? Does Philadelphia perform well on no rest? When its time to enter your lineup, be conservative. Only risk 1% of your bankroll on each game, and only 25% on any lineup. If you have $500, entering 25 $5 head to head games is advisable. On a bad night, you won’t lose much and on a good night you will see a very high return on investment.

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How to Play Fantasy Basketball

With the start of the NBA season underway, NBA fans across the country are lining up to play fantasy basketball. The two most popular formats being used include season long fantasy leagues and daily NBA fantasy contests. Both formats are available online through popular sports sites like,, and among others. Each format requires a different approach, which provides a little something for players of all experience levels.

NBA Fantasy Leagues

For years now, fantasy sports leagues have been run for the benefit of managers who want to manage their own team through the rigors of an entire season. While most leagues are played for fun, some league commissioners will organize leagues with an entry fee and prize money being distributed at the end of the season.

The process starts with an organized draft. The most popular draft format is the standard “snake-draft” where a players’ draft position is determined by random draw. For returning keeper leagues, the draft positions might be determined by the manager’s placing in the prior season. Over the past few years, auction drafts have increased in popularity. With this format, each manager is given a bankroll, which is used to bid on players until their roster is full.

In both formats, each manager is required to draft a full team of players based on the league’s setup configuration. Most leagues have as many as 10 starting roster positions plus bench players. Depending on the league’s rules, managers can make player moves on either a daily basis or weekly basis. Scoring is determined by league rules and the competition is head-to-head on a weekly basis. Towards the end of the season, the teams with the best overall records head off into the playoffs, which usually cover the last 2-3 weeks of the NBA regular season.

Daily NBA Fantasy Contests

For managers who like their action fast and furious with cash on the line, popular fantasy sites provide access to daily contests. These daily contest come in a variety of formats that are listed on the website. Managers can choose to compete heat-to-head with a smaller group of managers ranging from 2 to 25 contestants. These contests are usually designed and posted by one of the contestants who then open up the entry process to any contestant who would like to participate based on the contest’s setup. The entry fees range from $5 all the way up to $1,000 per contestant. While some contests are winner takes all, contests with more than 10 contestants might offer small consolation prizes. In all contests, the fantasy sports site will take a fee (usually 10%) to cover administrative costs plus profits.

The other popular format is sponsored contests provided by the website. These contests usually have thousands of entries with huge guaranteed prize packages in the offering for a relatively small entry fee. The larger the participation in these contests, the higher the number of places that will get paid. The prize packages might include large cash prizes, consumer goods or special event prize packages where something like a Super Bowl weekend might be on the line. Many times, managers can earn a free entry fee by winning smaller satellite contests along the way.

The contest rules and scoring parameters are provided by the website. Each manager gets a salary cap (normally $50,000) to use when selecting players. Each player that is scheduled to play on a given night will be assigned a salary cap value. Obviously, the better the player, the higher the value. The team structure is usually PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F, and UTIL player.

Now that you have a general idea how to play fantasy basketball, it’s time to join in the fray. If you choose to play in daily contests, you need to remember that a lot of managers have a significant amount of experience, which might leave you at a disadvantage. The bottom line is you should never put more money on the line than you can afford to lose.

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