In this DraftKings review, you'll get a fresh take on the strengths and weaknesses of the biggest daily fantasy sports site on the web. I break down everything from their range of contests to their customer support and payout policies to give you a clear picture of what to expect as a new DraftKings player.
Does DraftKings have the reputation, staying-power, and payout structure to be your DFS host of choice? Read on to find out.
DraftKings is an online Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) host that enables players to compete in daily, weekly, and season-long fantasy sports contests. Players build virtual, sport-specific rosters and compete against other fantasy enthusiasts to earn real cash prizes ranging from $3 to over one million dollars.
Currently serving over 8 million users, DraftKings supports more than 12 sports and has paid out over 5 billion dollars to fantasy players since its launch.
DraftKings Sign-Up Special
If you join DraftKings today, your first entry into a paid contest will be free.
Your first 50 contests in each sport can be played against other beginners. Avoid sharks while you learn.
The Shift from Seasonal to DFS Sites
Daily Fantasy Sports sites have been growing in popularity since the ridiculous marketing blitz we had to endure back in 2015. With the U.S. Supreme court ending Las Vegas' monopoly on sports gambling, we can expect this trend to continue.
Most people who play fantasy sports started out in standard, seasonal leagues. We drafted teams once a year, maintained rosters for the entire fantasy season, and held awards ceremonies to crown the champion of each league at the end of the year.
Nowadays, the emergence of daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings has caused a tectonic shift in the fantasy sports paradigm. No longer are you tied to a single fantasy roster for the entire season.
DraftKings (and other DFS sites like FanDuel) allow you to play in fantasy contests of variable length, from a single-game to an entire season (like traditional fantasy leagues). Best of all you can quickly win real cash, sometimes even astronomical payouts in the millions (or billions?) of dollars.
My journey from seasonal leagues to DFS
There's nothing I like better than seasonal fantasy football leagues with good friends. Starting back in 2001, I was the commissioner of a close-knit fantasy football league with friends from college.
In the early days, we did it all. We had a live draft every year, usually in a different city (road trip!). We passed around perpetual fantasy trophies, humiliated the worst fantasy owners, and generally talked smack non-stop.
But as the years slipped away, so did many of the league's original owners. Distractions, responsibilities, and disinterest all contributed to the league's eventual demise.
Although I was bummed that our long-standing league was over, I completely understood why we couldn't keep it going. People were just too busy and the fantasy football season was just too damn long.
But losing my favorite seasonal league wasn't the end of my love affair with fantasy sports. As I soon discovered, daily fantasy sports sites like Draft Kings could help fill the void.
4 key reasons why DFS sites are better than seasonal leagues
With a few DFS seasons now under my belt, I have a much better understanding of why sites like DraftKings are so popular. Here are some of the areas where I feel DFS sites provide a better experience than traditional, season-long leagues.
1. In DFS leagues you win real, guaranteed cash
Anyone who has played in a traditional fantasy football league knows the uncertainty that comes with collecting league fees and distributing winnings. We've all been a part of at least one league where someone didn't, pay and the champion got stiffed.
DFS hosts eliminate the money-management problems that plague seasonal leagues. When it comes to daily fantasy, hosts like DraftKings are the commissioner. They handle the entry-fees and promptly credit the winners.
Letting the DFS host handle the finances means we can focus less on league affairs and more on researching players, optimizing rosters, and winning real money.
2. DFS contests require less of a time-commitment
Managing a fantasy roster in seasonal leagues can be a significant time drain. Between waiver-wire transactions, fielding trades, remembering to set your roster, and researching free agents, you can easily devote 3-4 hours per week to maintaining a single roster.
Worst of all, losing your focus for just one week can be enough to knock you out of the playoffs. These leagues are a huge commitment with very minimal reward besides bragging rights.
Being a consistent DFS winner can also command a significant time investment, especially if you're playing in many contests each week. But the research and management time required to be a casual DFS player is much lower than what would be needed to manage a few seasonal league rosters.
And if you want to take a week or two off in DFS, you won't be penalized or be at a disadvantage when you return. You can start the following week with a clean slate.
3. Luck plays a much smaller role in long-term DFS success
Anyone who has played in seasonal fantasy leagues for a few years has been bitten by the injury bug. You draft a formidable team, get off to a great start, then witness your starting running back on the ground writhing in pain.
Injuries have much less of an impact on your overall success in DFS. At worst, an injury to a key player will diminish your chances of winning a limited number of DFS contests for one week.
4. Daily fantasy sports contests rarely impose roster limitations
In a seasonal fantasy league, you conduct a draft to determine your team's roster. The only way to modify your roster is to acquire them via free agency, pick them up on waivers (add/drop), or make a trade with another team.
In DFS daily contests, you can choose whichever players you like as you build an optimal roster. Having full control over your roster for every contest is much more rewarding.
Unlike seasonal leagues, making a few lousy roster decisions in DFS won't tank your entire fantasy season.
What is DraftKings and is it Legit?
DraftKings is one of several daily fantasy sports sites (known as DFS hosts) that provide an alternative to the standard, season-long fantasy leagues. Let's take a look at how DraftKings got started, why it is legal to play DFS at DraftKings (in most places), and whether you should invest a few bucks and give DFS a try.
DraftKings company profile and history
After many rounds of investments, including inking deals with major sports leagues such as Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, DraftKings eventually grew into a company of over 350 employees and over 8 million users.
Are DFS sites like DraftKings even legal?
I am not a lawyer, just a guy with a website. Any views I express regarding the legality of DFS sites are my interpretation of the law. If you want to know the actual rules and regulations in your state that govern DFS sites like DraftKings, please contact a real lawyer or check out DraftKings' legal page.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) includes clauses that permit the operation of daily fantasy sports sites under certain conditions. Although people still debate parts of the law, it has allowed DFS sites like DraftKings to thrive.
Although UIGEA was a favorable ruling for DFS sites, some states have passed laws that explicitly prohibit DFS sites to operate. Other states have ambiguous laws that make the legality of DFS sites debatable.
To remain within the law, DraftKings may deny access to users in states where the law either explicitly prohibits DFS operations or is ambiguous on the issue. The diagram below may not be 100% current but can give you a general idea of where DraftKings (and FanDuel) currently serve users.
Is DraftKings worth your time and money?
I've outlined a few of the advantages that I feel DFS sites like DraftKings have over traditional fantasy leagues. Ultimately, you'll have to ask yourself if the shorter, more frequent contest format appeals to you.
Some fantasy enthusiasts participate in seasonal leagues, but also take part in the occasional DFS contest during downtime (or if they're having a particularly bad season). Others dabble with DFS to get their feet wet with new types of fantasy sports (DraftKings' new e-Sports category is particularly intriguing).
The easiest way to gauge your interest is to create a new account and participate in a few contests. DraftKings is currently running a promotion where your first paid contest is free.
If you're considering signing up, check out my quick start guide on entering your first contest.
How Does DraftKings Work in 2018?
DraftKings melds fantasy sports with sports wagering to create a wide range of free and fee-based contests. DraftKings players can sign-up for a sport-specific contest, build a roster of players, then compete to generate more fantasy points than other contest entrants.
Based on the rules for each specific contest (there are many types), DraftKings awards one or more players a percentage of the total buy-in. Much like poker rooms collect a rake, or bookmakers collect a vig, DraftKings will take a small portion of the buy-in as a fee for hosting the game.
Signing up for a DraftKings account
Signing up for a DraftKings account is simple and only takes a few minutes. Best of all, new members get to enter a free contest in 2018.
You can sign-up using either an email address or your Facebook account. You must also comply with DraftKings' state-based age and eligibility rules.
Depositing money securely into your new account
Upon registering for an account at DraftKings, you'll be prompted to make a deposit. The minimum amount you can deposit is $5, and the maximum you can deposit is $2,000. You can transfer funds into your DraftKings account using PayPal or a credit/debit card.
You are not required to make a deposit immediately after registration. So feel free to take a stroll around the site and get acclimated to the interface before you make a deposit.
Practice before you pay
One cheap way to get your feet wet is to join one of the many free contests that DraftsKings offers. As you might expect, these freerolls get quite a bit of action.
But they provide a convenient way to learn how DFS works without any a monetary commitment. Pictured below is a free baseball contest with respectable (and guaranteed) payouts of $500.
After you make your first deposit, you'll be able to enter any $3 contest for free. Now, you may be thinking: "What in the world can I possibly win by entering a $3 contest?!"
Some of the payouts for $3 contests can be quite large, and the pots are routinely guaranteed (regardless of the number of entrants).
After you deposit $5 or more, you'll be credited with a ticket to enter a $3 contest for free. To enter a contest that accepts tickets, look for contests with the "T" icon.
Withdrawing your winnings from DraftKings
Withdrawing funds from your DraftKings account is dead simple. Just tell them how much you want to withdraw.
DraftKings does have some rules governing how it processes payouts. For instance, they always try to transfer your winnings to the same account through which you made your initial deposit.
You can find other rules regarding withdrawals on the website FAQ.
How long does it take to receive your money?
DraftKings processes withdrawals Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM. Once they process your withdrawal request, you can expect to receive funds in your PayPal or bank within 2-8 business days.
Checks take a bit longer to process and receive. Expect 2-3 weeks for delivery.
The DraftKings rake (i.e., How DraftKings makes money)
I would be great if DFS companies like DraftKings provided their services for free. But they are just like any other company and have to generate a profit to stay in business.
DraftKings generates a profit by charging a small fee for some of their contests. This small percentage of the contest's collective buy-in fees is called the rake.
The easiest way to explain rake is through an example. Let's say two DFS players are competing head-to-head in a contest with a $20 entry fee.
In this scenario, the total pot would be $40. The winner of the contest (theoretically) may receive a payout of $36, whereas DraftKings would rake $4 amounting to 10% of the total pot.
How to Play on DraftKings - A Quick Start Guide
After you deposit money into your DraftKings account, you can start to browse and enter paid contests. DraftKings supports many sports and contest types, so getting started can be a little intimidating when you first get started.
Let's walk through what it would take to enter a contest from the perspective of a new DraftKings member.
1. Pick a sport that you're familiar with
At the time I'm writing this DraftKings review, they support 12 sports. The contests you see in the Lobby area are based entirely on the sport that you choose (contests do not span multiple sports).
Here are the sports that DraftKings currently supports:
Depending on when you sign-up for an account, some sports will not be available. Typically, you can only filter by sports that are in-season (or are about to start).
In the DraftKings Lobby, you'll see a navigation bar showing the sports that are available. Sports that are faded are not currently available.
Click on your desired sport in the navigation bar. Once you've chosen your sport, the Lobby interface will change to only show contests for that sport.
2. Enter paid contests and start winning real money
Inside the Lobby, you can apply a multitude of filters to narrow down the list of available contests. DraftKings supports an enormous number of contests, so it's important to understand how to use to use filters effectively.
A player's bankroll, risk tolerance, and confidence all guide the type of contests that they enter. For example, your bankroll may last much longer playing Head-to-Head games, but you could win much more money in a Tournament.
A brief introduction to DraftKings contest types
DraftKings has nine standard contest types. Each contest type has its own rules, risks, and payout potential.
- Featured - The most prominent (and highly marketed) contests, almost all of which have guaranteed prize payouts (GPPs)
- Beginner - If you've played less than 50 contests in a particular sport, you can play against other beginners in that sport
- Tournaments & Leagues - Compete against small and large groups of users to win huge prizes
- Head to Head - You face a single opponent, winner takes all (minus the rake)
- 50/50s - You only have to finish in the top half of the field to win a payout
- Double-Ups - If you win these contests, you double your entry fee
- Multipliers - Win these contests, and you multiply your winnings up to 10x
- Satellites - Play satellites to win a free entry into higher stakes contests (with more massive payouts)
- Qualifiers - These contests usually award one entry into a Championship contest of some sort
Select an option in the Contest Types filter to limit the contests shown.
Additional filter options to further limit contests
After you filter by contest type, you should only see contests that fit those criteria. However, you may notice that many contests remain.
You can further filter contests based on these criteria:
- Contest Style - Classic contests allow you to choose players across numerous games, whereas Showdown contests force you to select players from one specific game
- Entry Fee - Filter by how much you're willing to pay to enter the contest
- Total Prizes - The total amount of prize money dispersed to one or more players
- Field Size- How much total entries are allowed into the contest
3. Configure your best possible lineup
Based on the contest you select in the Contest Lobby, you'll be asked to configure a player lineup. The idea is to build a lineup that will generate the maximum amount of points.
Pro tip: Use a lineup optimization tool to help you create winning rosters. Check out these Daily Fantasy Nerd reviews for details on how you can use a tool to gain a mathematical edge.
Below, you can see how I configured a line-up (on the right) for a $3 contest with a guaranteed payout of $2,000,000! I just clicked the plus next to the players I wanted to add to my roster and stayed under the maximum player salary.
4. Monitor your team and track results
Once you finalize your roster, it's time to monitor your team, track results, and total your payouts. You can manage all of these tasks through the Contests page.
This interface makes it easy to monitor contests currently being played, contests coming up, and how well you've performed in completed contests.
DraftKings Feature Reviews & Reputation
A DraftKings review wouldn't be complete without an honest evaluation of their most essential features. Let's break down the factors that are critical when comparing DraftKings to other daily fantasy hosts.
Review of contest payouts and rake percentage
It's difficult to compare apples to apples when it comes to evaluating the rake at differing DFS hosts. That's because most DFS hosts don't publish their commission structure.
To make matters worse, commission structures are frequently adjusted.
However, DraftKings is the only DFS site I've reviewed that that makes their commission structure public. For that, they should be commended.
Also, because of their extraordinarily large user base, they're able to offer some of the most massive payouts in the market. In 2017, DraftKings offered a 1 billion dollar payout to anyone who could assemble a perfect lineup.
DraftKings Payout & Rake Rating
DraftKings accessibility and usability breakdown
Being a DFS leader, DraftKings must make their platform consumable through every imaginable medium. In addition to the DraftKings website, they have three mobile apps that ensure you're able to research, enter, and monitor contests from anywhere.
The DraftKings website is excellent, but only on larger screens
The DraftKings desktop site is the best interface for active players as it provides the most data per inch of screen real estate. However, none of the desktop contest interfaces are responsive.
If you're using a small screen or browsing the desktop site on a table/phone, you're going to have to do some inconvenient scrolling. It's inconvenient and means you're better off using one of their mobile apps for smaller screens.
DraftKings mobile apps help you compete on the go
DraftKings offers three mobile apps that help you maximize your chances of making money on their platform. Let's look a quick look at each app and their main features.
DraftKings - Daily Fantasy Football App
The Daily Fantasy Football App from DraftKings includes the tools you need to research and build a winning roster quickly. You can enter contests, construct winning rosters, and manage your money conveniently from your mobile device.
At the time I'm writing this DraftKings review, this app has an impressive 4.5 average rating in the Google Play Store.
DraftKings - DK Live
DK Live is a play-by-play and news app that allows you to follow every game across the fantasy spectrum. If you want to monitor only those players on your active contest rosters, you can quickly filter that action to create an impressive, customized experience.
This app currently has a 4.8 average rating in the Apple App Store.
DraftKings - Sportsbook
The DraftKings Sportsbook app and DraftKings DFS services are mutually exlusive. The sportsbook is an app supporting DraftKings' sports gambling business. Use this app to place traditional sports wagers and win cash in states where sports gambling is legal.
This app currently has a 4.8 average rating in the Apple App Store.
DraftKings Accessibility & Usability Rating
Reviewing contest variety at DraftKings
At current count, DraftKings has nine different contest types. These contest can be further broken down into more specific categories. If the contests offered by DraftKings aren't enough, you can also configure your custom contests.
Want to play daily fantasy sports, but favor leagues with only your close friends? The new DK Leagues feature allows you to create contests in which you get to invite the players.
When it comes to contest variety, DraftKings has you completely covered.
DraftKings Contest Variety Rating
DraftKings support and customer service
For customer service related support, DraftKings checks most of the boxes. They offer support seven days a week, but not between the hours of 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM.
In addition to email support, you can also get help via chat during support hours. Their FAQ page is passable but could use some improvements.
One thing you won't get at DraftKings is phone support.
DraftKings Support Rating
Positive DraftKings reviews on the web and in the press
If you browse the web and read DraftKings reviews, you'll see some common themes emerging. Here are some of the most prevalent, positive themes among players that support DraftKings:
- Massive prize payouts - DraftKings awards some of the most substantial prizes in daily fantasy sports
- Comprehensive platform - They provide exhaustive tools to research players, build rosters, and track your results
- Broad sports coverage - DraftKings supports every sport on the DFS spectrum
Common customer criticisms of DraftKings
DraftKings has its share of naysayers, especially among heavy users. Let's look at some of the reasons that player have historically avoided DraftKings.
- Too many expert players - Sharks with powerful analytics tools can exploit beginners
- The rewards system is overly complicated - It can sometimes be difficult to determine how to earn or use rewards
- No more deposit matches - They used to match cash deposits on new users' deposits, but no more
Big Changes at DraftKings in 2018
Every year, DraftKings introduces new, innovative features to improve their DFS platform in a market that is becoming more and more competitive. Let's look at some of the changes DraftKings has made for 2018.
1. Establishing a transparent commission structure
During the early years of daily fantasy sports, commission structures were not made public. Because the industry was so volatile in the early stages, commissions were frequently changed.
For high volume DFS players, you can imagine that this was very frustrating. Players who participated in a large number of contests needed to understand commissions to adjust their strategy and maximize winnings.
Starting in 2018, DraftKings has made their commission structure public. This level of transparency (and consistency) when it comes to commissions goes a long way toward preserving their player base.
2. Single-game contests known as "Showdowns"
Single game contests (called Showdowns) require entrants to build a roster from a player pool that is limited to a single game. In the past, contests always spanned multiple games.
Now, entire contests are constructed around a single game.
The rules governing showdowns are a little different than classic contests. For instance, they adjust the salary cap limits and roster sizes for the single game format.
There is also a new Captain (or MVP) position that commands more salary, but also scores 1.5 times the points that he usually would.
For DFS players looking for a quick contest that doesn't require much preparation or attention, showdowns are a great alternative to standard contests.
3. New DK Rewards program replaces the VIP program
DraftKings has replaced their old VIP program with a new rewards program called DK Rewards. Although some users have complained that this new system is excessively complicated, most agree that it is an improvement.
The new rewards system introduces new concepts such as crowns, daily rewards, levels, achievements, and missions. Each of these rewards is designed to reward you for playing more, wagering more, or even logging in more.
You can convert rewards into cash, contest entries, or merchandise.
4. Potential entry into online sports betting space
The Supreme Court's recent strike-down of a 1992 ruling that banned commercial sports betting has opened the door for sites like DraftKings offer sports wagering in addition to their fantasy sports contests.
Currently, the DraftKings Sportsbook is only limited to New Jersey. But it's possible that this service will begin expanding around the country in 2018.
Popular DFS Alternatives to DraftKings
DraftKings may be one of the largest DFS sites, but there are other daily fantasy hosts in the increasing-popular DFS market. Some of these sites are very similar to DraftKings. Others have a unique twist on how they configure their contests.
Let's compare DraftKings to each of these DFS alternatives so you get an idea of the weak and strong points of each site.
FanDuel is DraftKings' primary DFS rival
FanDuel and DraftKings hold the vast majority of the daily fantasy market share. Their combined 90% market share largely prevented them from merging into a single company.
Although FanDuel lags behind DraftKings in total membership, they still boast a user base of over 6 million players.
If you're starting out in DFS and trying to decide between Fanduel vs DraftKings, FanDuel could be a better choice because of their sign-up bonus. Currently, new users who deposit $5 will receive a $20 bonus AND a Play Till you Win voucher.
For a new DFS player, that's a no-lose proposition.
FantasyDraft.com nets sharks with limited contest entries
FantasyDraft.com is another DraftKings alternative that has a smaller user base but offers contests and promotions tailored to DFS players that enjoy contests with limited entries. Check out my Fantasy Draft review for an in-depth analysis of this DFS host.
For example, Fantasy Draft configures GPP (guaranteed prize payout) tournaments so that 25% of players will win some cash payout. So you can enter more tournaments without blowing through your bankroll.
Fantasy Draft also limits the number of times users can enter certain contests. This prevents sharks from entering a single tournament many times to gain a substantial advantage.
If you're looking for a DFS host that caters to smaller contests (and less shark-infested waters), check out FantasyDraft.com.
FanPicks still offers 100% initial deposit bonus
FanPicks is another emerging DFS host that launched in 2015 and has been steadily building its user base ever since. Much like FantasyDraft.com, they offer unique angles to attract users who may not prefer the larger DFS sites.
While sites like DraftKings and FanDuel have moved away from offering significant deposit matches to attract users, FanPicks offers one of the best sign-up offers in the industry. For new players, FanPicks is currently offering a 110% deposit match bonuses plus a free entry into a contest to win another $100.
That's the best deal I've come across for new player sign-ups.
Yahoo! Daily Fantasy is a new player in a familiar market
Yahoo! has been a mainstay in seasonal fantasy leagues for ages and only recently entered the daily fantasy sports market. Although they have some ground to cover to catch-up with DraftKings or FanDuel, their future in DFS is promising.
While Yahoo! is a relative newcomer to DFS, they boast one of the largest user bases for seasonal fantasy football. As such, Yahoo! is banking on converting some of their season league enthusiasts into DFS players.
To lure DFS newbies, Yahoo! is currently offering $1000 Yahoo Sports Rewards Points (YSRPs) with your first deposit (a $10 value). If you're an existing Yahoo! seasonal fantasy player and want to experiment with their DFS contests, Yahoo! Daily Fantasy is worth a look.
Monkey Knife Fight is daily fantasy sports using player props
Although not necessarily a daily fantasy site, Monkey Knife Fight allows player to make predictions in the form of player props. For instance, they may allow you choose whether Drew Bree will throw for over 350 yards or not.
You can then combine that prediction with many more to create a parlay contest of sorts. This game style lets you win up to 14 times your contest entry fee, but without playing thousands of other player or having to conduct tons of player research.
Use my Monkey Knife Fight promo code to earn a 100% match on your first deposit.
Summarizing this DraftKings Review
DraftKings is a heavily marketed DFS site with a massive user base to show for it. Because of a large number of free contests, it's an excellent place for DFS beginners to get their feet wet.
At DraftKings contests are always full, payouts are frequently astronomical, and the competition is of a high caliber.
This DraftKings review has highlighted both the good (and not-so-good) aspects of this DFS powerhouse. As the world of sports wagering and gambling evolves, DraftKings seems to remain on the bleeding edge of innovation.