Sports Betting or Daily Fantasy Sports: What Should You Choose?

Two Laptops Showing a Betting Website and a DFS Website

You can gamble on sports in two distinct ways, sports betting or daily fantasy sports (DFS). Sports gambling has been around for centuries in some form or another. It’s been available in modern-day sportsbooks for decades.

Daily fantasy is a modern entry into the gambling world that came about in the early 2010s. This industry exploded in the mid-2010s amid a barrage of advertisements aimed at sports fans.

The interesting thing about both types of gambling is that they each offer an opportunity to make long-term profits. But which is the better path with regard to winning money?

I’m going to discuss this matter by looking at the pros and cons of DFS and sports betting. I’ll also cover how each works in case you’re new to either type of gambling.

How Does Daily Fantasy Sports Work?

DFS involves drafting a set number of athletes while staying under a given salary cap. You can choose any players as long as their collective salaries are under the cap.

For Example:

You might have to draft 10 NFL players without exceeding a $50,000 cap. Under such constraints, you can only pick so many stars.

The goal is to choose a team that scores more points than your opponent(s). Points are determined based on the given DFS site’s scoring system. Using the NFL again, a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown can each be worth different points depending upon the site.

You definitely want to understand the scoring rules before you start betting real money on DFS. That said, I highly recommend that you check out the rules at whatever site you choose.

What Are the Pros of DFS?

DFS may be fairly new to the gambling world when compared to sports wagering. But its benefits are well-established at this point. Here are the main advantages to choosing DFS over sports gambling.

You’re Competing Against Human Opponents

Sportsbooks are difficult to beat, because oddsmakers are good at their jobs. They have the knowledge and experience to create sharp lines that offer little value on one side or the other.

DFS, on the other hand, is played against fellow gamblers. You merely need to beat your opponents rather than a skilled bookie.

Of course, you also have to make enough money to overcome the fees. For example, many DFS sites tack on 10% to each buy-in as a fee.

Here’s an example.

  • A DFS game costs $10 + $1 to enter.
  • $10 goes into the prize pool.
  • The remaining $1 goes to the site.

This dollar may not seem like much in the moment. However, it has a definite bearing on your long-term chances of winning.

But you can still win in the long run if you’re skilled enough. After all, you’re competing against regular opponents rather than oddsmakers.

Daily Fantasy Is Legal in More States

DFS has always been treated more favorably than other types of gambling. In fact, some states act as if daily fantasy isn’t gambling at all.

Daily fantasy includes plenty of pure luck elements. However, it has enough skill to where it gets a pass in many cases.

Another reason why DFS is looked at favorably is because it’s associated with season-long fantasy leagues. The latter has been around since 1983 and is perfectly acceptable in the law’s eyes.

DFS adds more of a gambling element to the mix, especially when factoring in the operators’ fees. But it’s still viewed favorably thanks to its similarities to season-long fantasy.

You Can Use the Same Lineup in Many Contests

If you want to make multiple informed bets, then you need to handicap each specific matchup. You can’t, for example, just use the same information to wager on Clemson vs. South Carolina and Michigan vs. Ohio State.

DFS differs in this regard, because you can create a single lineup and enter it in as many contests as you like. You may have a particular roster that you absolutely love and put it in a $1, $10, and $100 head-to-head contest.

Please Note:

Aside from this, you can also tweak lineups to create more chances to win a given competition. For instance, you might enter multiple lineups that are slightly different from each other in a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool (GPP) tournament.

In short, DFS allows you to capitalize on your skills with less time involved. You don’t have to learn new information every time you want to enter a new contest.

You Won’t Be Banned for Winning

One more major daily fantasy benefit is that you won’t get banned just for being successful. This, unfortunately, isn’t always the case at sportsbooks, which are often accused of banning or limiting winners’ accounts.

In fact, professional players are encouraged at DFS sites. They accomplish two benefits for the industry.

  1. More volume and liquidity for the sites.
  2. Keep the dream alive for aspiring DFS pros.

The latter is especially important, because many daily fantasy players dream of making money through the sports they love. These dreams are tougher than perceived, but they can come true under the right circumstances.

What Are the Cons of DFS?

DFS is certainly one of the more popular forms of gambling. But it has some definite drawbacks, including the following aspects.

Commissions Are Higher

Earlier, I mentioned how DFS sites often require a 10% fee based on your buy-in amount. If you enter a $100 contest, for example, then you’ll have to pay an extra $10 ($100 + $10).

These fees can be lower, especially as you get to the larger buy-ins. But generally speaking, you pay higher commissions to DFS sites than to sportsbooks.

The latter takes 10% “juice” from the losing side of a bet. Given that only one side is paying this amount, the sports betting commission works out to around an average of 5% per bet.

Pros Can Enter Unlimited High and Low Stakes Games

The fact that one can enter numerous contests with a single lineup is both a blessing and a curse. The curse comes from the fact that professional players can easily play as many games as they wish at any stakes.

You may enter a $1 buy-in contest under the assumption that you’ll face easy competition. However, you could be up against a far more skilled player.

DFS allows anybody to create a lineup and put it in countless games with little effort. They simply need to make a few clicks/taps to enter their roster in a contest.

Contrast this situation to online poker, where a player actually has to take action in every game they play. A professional player won’t bother with $0.01/$0.02 No-Limit Hold’em, because it’s not worth their time to play the hands.

Daily fantasy is very different. Good players don’t have to worry about doing anything once their lineup is entered. They just need to take a few seconds to place their roster in a given game.

Odds of Winning Are Deceptive

The daily fantasy industry is built upon the idea that any average sports fan can win. But as John Oliver once poked fun at, this idea is more illusion than fact.

Average fans aren’t the most skilled players. They don’t put enough work into researching players and creating lineups to win on a consistent basis.

Instead, only a small percentage of DFS gamblers actually earn long-term profits. The rest are merely dreamers who, at best, have fun drafting players from their favorite sports.

How Does Sports Betting Work?

Sports gambling involves wagering on outcomes rather than player performances. You need to read the odds and choose the outcome that you think has the best chance of winning.

One common type of bet is a moneyline, where you choose which team will win a given match. Here’s an example line.


The disparity in the line creates more betting parity on both sides. This setup makes both the favorite and underdog valid wagers.

One fun thing about sports gambling is that it offers a wide variety of bets. You can wager on propositions (a.k.a. prop bets), live action (in-game), point spreads, and totals (over/under). In essence, it features a lot more variety than DFS.

What Are the Pros of Sports Betting?

Sports wagering is highly popular, because it creates a link between fans and gambling. One can bet on a sporting contest and watch the action afterward. Here are some other benefits of sports gambling that go beyond just the entertainment value.

More Markets

The average DFS site only covers a handful of sports, such as baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. Even if a site goes beyond this selection, they don’t normally offer too much variety for less popular games.

Sports betting, in contrast, features dozens of markets. Not only can you wager on the popular sports, but also more obscure games like darts, badminton, and water polo.

Not every bookmaker goes this deep in terms of markets. But the largest sites will cover almost anything that can draw some betting action.

Lower Commissions

As mentioned before, bookmakers take 10% juice from the losing side of a wager. Assuming one splits their wins and losses equally, they’ll pay around 5% juice total.

Daily fantasy sports are different, because most sites typically charge an extra 10% with each buy-in. In the end, you must win at a higher rate than with sports betting to overcome these substantial fees.

Far More Sportsbooks Than DFS Sites

You don’t have to look very hard to find an online sportsbook. Countless sports betting sites are available to gamblers.

With many countries adopting regulated sports betting markets, gamblers can now wager at safer bookmakers. Even the US, which has always been served by offshore bookmakers, is seeing regulation, with New Jersey recently legalizing online sports betting.

DFS may be more widely available across America, but it has very few prominent players. DraftKings and FanDuel absolutely dominate the market, with Yahoo! being a distant third.

What Are the Cons of Sports Betting?

Sports gambling doesn’t appear to be slowing down in terms of popularity. Instead, it only continues to grow each year as regulation spreads. But despite its popularity, sports betting still has some disadvantages to consider.

Oddsmakers Are Very Difficult to Beat

Oddsmakers are highly trained at analyzing matchups and crafting sharp lines. Therefore, you’ll have difficulty finding value in most sports wagers.

You can become an expert handicapper with enough experience and practice. However, you may become frustrated and give up before ever reaching this point.

“Sharps” are a rare breed of bettors that can beat bookies and win long-term profits. I emphasize the word “rare,” because sharps make up such a small percentage of sports gamblers.

Low Betting Limits Are Common

Many online sportsbooks limit bet sizes so they don’t take on too much risk. For example, smaller bookmakers might only allow NFL bets worth up to $2,000.

Some industry giants, such as William Hill and Bet365, accept massive six-figure wagers. However, these sites are exceptions to the norm.

DFS, in contrast, has no limit to how many lineups can be entered. You could theoretically wager hundreds of thousands of dollars per day.

You May Be Banned for Winning

Even if you become a successful sports bettor, you could be banned or have your account limited. Bookmakers especially hate when you use a technique called “arbitrage betting.”

This practice refers to looking for different lines on the same match that offer a guaranteed profit. You simply need to find two bookmakers that differ enough on a specific match to where you’re guaranteed money.

You can also be banned or limited for regularly winning, especially with huge bets. Sportsbooks don’t like facing too much sharp action on one side. If you’re making big wagers, winning, and creating unbalanced action, then your bet sizes will assuredly be limited.


It’s hard to make a definitive statement on whether sports betting or DFS is the more worthwhile pursuit. After all, both have their advantages and disadvantages.

DFS is great from the perspective that it gives you the chance to compete against other opponents. You can sometimes find really good value in these contests as a result.

Assuming you become good enough, you can also look forward to entering the same lineup in a number of contests. This ability helps you gain more value out of your efforts with each lineup.

DFS is also legal in the majority of states. Therefore, you don’t have to deal with seedy offshore betting sites.

Sports gambling offers its own set of advantages as well. First off, you’ll have more markets and bet types to choose from.

Another benefit is the lower commissions. You’ll only pay an average of 5% per bet to sportsbooks, versus 10% to DFS sites.

You also won’t be at a loss for options regarding sportsbooks. Any relevant Google search will turn up countless online bookmakers.

In the end, you simply need to review the differences between both types of gambling and pick what you value most. Neither pursuit is easy, but each can be profitable in its own respect.
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Tim Johnson / Author

Tim has been a sports fan for as long as he can remember. The Vermont native has lived in Las Vegas for the last two decades, and he uses his experience in the industry to try and give readers the best possible advice when it comes to betting on sports. Football is Tim’s primary area of expertise, but he also dabbles in other sports like horse racing and basketball. Tim uses his wealth of knowledge to try and make the reader a better bettor.