Online fantasy baseball is the statistician’s dream come true. It’s true that traditional fixed-odds baseball betting is a great way to put your knowledge to use, but daily fantasy leagues take it a step further. In drafting a fantasy lineup, there is so much information to take into account. Those who study the game truly have the advantage.
Today, I’m here to talk about the beautiful game that is fantasy baseball. The primary objective is to help you find a few trustworthy and high quality sites to play in real money contests. In addition to that, I’ll explain how it all works for those of you who may be completely new to the game. Let’s get started.
Where to Play Fantasy MLB Online
We’ll get into all the nuts and bolts of actually playing in a league soon, but let’s start with a quick overview of the main MLB fantasy sites today. Most sites host daily MLB leagues by default. It’s just one of those mainstay sports like football and basketball that is covered by default by any large fantasy site.
That already starts us off on a positive note. Having options is always a good thing. Not only does that make it easier to find a site that fits your needs but it also leads to increased competition for your business. Every major fantasy site on the internet is dying to have your business. What this means for you is a whole plethora of bonuses, promotions, large guaranteed tournaments and never-ending variety in league formats.
What I’ve found is that fantasy baseball works best at the sites that have the most active members. More active players means more contests and bigger potential prize pools. So who do I recommend? My top two picks are FanDuel and DraftKings.
|Baseball Leagues Covered||MLB||MLB|
|Contest Buyins||$1 to $5,300||$0.25 to $5,300|
|Noteworthy Contests||$3 Million DFBC (see below)||$3.3 Million FBC (see below)|
|First Deposit Bonus||5 Free Contest Entries||1 Free Contest Entry|
FanDuel is the single largest daily fantasy site right now, although DraftKings has been gaining ground of late. The single greatest advantage you get with FanDuel is a massive selection of contests. FanDuel has tens of thousands of registered players and hundreds of baseball leagues hosted every day during the season.
Daily MLB leagues at FanDuel are available at a wide range of buyins. At the lower levels, you can compete for your share of nearly $20,000 in nightly contests with a $2 buyin. At the higher levels, FanDuel hosts massive tournaments with first place prizes of $1,000,000 or more. Speaking of which, let’s take a look at FanDuel’s flagship baseball event.
$3 Million DFBC
FanDuel hosts a whole series of large baseball events every season with six figure prizes going out to all the winners, but the $3 Million Daily Fantasy Baseball Championship is the king of them all. This one awarded $1 million to first place, $300,000 to second place and $100,000 to third place last year. It will most likely be even larger next year.
Last year, 70 people qualified for the grand finale which was hosted at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. These 70 people got free travel and lodging, access to a private party, a private viewing party for the day’s baseball games and at least $5,000 in cash no matter their final standing in the tournament.
All baseball leagues at FanDuel are hosted as salary cap drafts. That means you get a predefined salary that you can use to draft your players. You’ll need to pick a pitcher and eight other players. Points are tallied based on your players’ performance in the following categories:
|1B: 3 points||W: 12 points|
|2B: 6 points||ER: -3 points|
|3B: 9 points||SO: 3 points|
|HR: 12 points||IP: 3 points|
|RBI: 3.5 points|
|R: 3.2 points|
|BB: 3 points|
|SB: 3 points|
|HBP: 3 points|
DraftKings is the second-largest fantasy baseball site and growing larger every day. Just like FanDuel, DraftKings is home to many active players and hundreds of contests every day. The scoring system and roster system is a little different at DraftKings but it still uses the same salary cap format for drafting players.
What I found surprising about DraftKings is that its flagship baseball events award even more money than those hosted at FanDuel. I still think FanDuel is the best for beginners because it uses a simpler scoring system and roster, but DraftKings is worth a serious look if you’re already comfortable with fantasy betting.
$3.3 Million FBC
The 2014 Fantasy Baseball Championship (FBC) culminated in a $3.3 million event that sent 50 players to Atlantis on Paradise Island to compete in the main event. There, players spend five nights in the Bahamas and earned at least $7,500 just for showing up. The person who took first place left one million dollars richer.
Players won seats to the 2014 FBC by playing in qualifier events online. Buyins ranged from just a couple bucks to $200. Out of the 50 players who qualified, $1 million went to first place, $350,000 to second place, $200,000 to third place, $150,000 to fourth place, $100,000 to fifth place and on down from there to a minimum payout of $7,500 for 50th place.
Fantasy baseball rosters at DraftKings consist of 10 players: two pitchers, 1 catcher and players for first base/designated hitter, second base, third base, short stop and three outfielders. You get a salary cap of $50,000 and must choose hitters from at least 3 MLB teams.
Points are earned for your fantasy team according to the following rules:
Is it legal?
Real money fantasy leagues are legal under federal law. A piece of legislation called the UIGEA was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in 2006. The UIGEA’s primary aim was to crack down on unlawful internet gambling. It also had major ramifications for fantasy sports leagues, although not for the reason many of us expected at the time.
Buried within the text of the UIGEA was a little section that declared online fantasy leagues to be completely legal and not subject to the provisions ascribed by the UIGEA. The UIGEA simultaneously cracked down on traditional internet gambling while opening the doors for online fantasy.
It took the industry a few years to catch on, but we’re in the full swing of things now. Daily fantasy sports sites are catching on in a big way. Last year, FanDuel alone paid out more than $400 million in winnings to players.
It wasn’t all that long ago that major sports leagues such as the MLB actively opposed fantasy sports. They considered it just another form of gambling and claimed that it threatened the integrity of America’s Pastime. Things have come a long ways since then. In 2014, the MLB announced a partnership with DraftKings and instead of comparing daily fantasy to gambling, they compared it to a strategic game of chess.
These types of partnerships between professional leagues and fantasy sites are coming into being increasingly often of late. This is good news on the legal front because the MLB, NFL and others are powerful allies to have in the courtroom. The more the big leagues get invested in fantasy betting, the more likely it is to remain legal for a long time.
Things look good on the national front. However, some state laws appear to restrict real money fantasy betting. Most of the big sites do not allow residents of the following states to play:
- Louisiana (note Louisiana is in the process of legalizing DFS in most parishes)
The main thing to understand before getting started is how daily fantasy baseball works. Traditional fantasy leagues have you draft a team at the beginning of the season and keep that team all the way down to the end. Daily fantasy games last for just a day (or maybe a week). Every contest lasts
If you’ve made it this far, you’re already past the hardest part (choosing where to play). The rest is easy. What you need to do next is sign up for an account at the site of your choice and make a deposit. Just click on the “join now” button on the front page of your fantasy website and fill out the signup form. Make sure to use your real information when signing up because your name and address will be used to process payments of your winnings.
You can start with a few free-to-play contests to get the hang of things before you deposit. Free contests are hosted every day and sometimes they even award actual payouts to winners. Both FanDuel and DraftKings hold frequent freeroll contests during MLB season.
There will eventually come a time when you decide you’re ready to play for real money. Free games are nice and all, but the real money is won by playing in paid contests. Real money leagues are where you can start winning serious cash. Scroll back up a ways on this page and read about the Fantasy Baseball Championships hosted at FD and DK for an example of just how much money is flowing around these days.
Deposits are made by signing in to your fantasy account and clicking on the “deposit now” button at the top of the page. The main sites all accept credit cards, debit cards and PayPal among other payment methods. I personally prefer PayPal but credit/debit works just as well. The main reason I prefer PayPal is because it works well for receiving payments.
You can deposit as much or as little as you like. The minimum deposit is $5 and the maximum for new players is around $10,000. However, you can always request increased limits if you have a hankering for high stakes fantasy baseball action.
Participating in Your First Contest
Once you have an account and money to play with, it’s time to join your first daily baseball league. Visit the “lobby” section of the website to view all available contests. On the left side of the screen, you should see a filter for the MLB. Click on that button to have the lobby show only MLB leagues.
The lobby listings provide you with all the basic details of each contest. You’ll see the guaranteed prize pool, buyin amount, number of entrants and the start time. You can also filter the lobby by type of contest (tournament, heads-up, 50/50 and so on – see our fantasy football guide for a rundown of different types of contests). Click on the name of any contest to see an overview of that contest’s rules, entrants and prize structure.
Note: A 50/50 contest would be a great place to start if you’re new to fantasy baseball. This type of contest gives you the full fantasy experience but the payout structure is set so that you have a very realistic chance of winning. In a 50/50 contest, half the players win double their money.
If everything looks good, click on the “join” button to start your draft. This is where the fun begins. Depending on where you play, you’ll be asked to draft a roster of 9 or 10 players from around the league. You’ll pick at least one pitcher and a variety of other positions. You will need to draft a complete lineup without going over your salary cap.
Once you have a lineup, click on the “enter” button to confirm your buyin and join the contest. Now, it’s time to watch baseball and see how your picks perform in the real world. As the actual players achieve important stats (strikeouts, base hits, home runs), your virtual team is awarded points. If you end up with enough points to place highly in the tournament, you’ll be paid within 24 hours.