This Sunday two bitter rivals will meet in an epic showdown. Their multi-million dollar rosters will be filled with names like Rodgers, Gronkowski, and Jones. Millions of us will gather around flat-screens in sports bars and living rooms or (significant other willing) phone screens, to see who comes out victorious. Then, maybe in-between, an NFL football game will break out. We’re of course talking about the brutal battle being waged every Sunday between DraftKings and FanDuel for daily fantasy sports (DFS) supremacy. We know you’ve seen the commercials. How could you not? Both billion dollar start-up companies have spent more than $100 million dollars to air their commercials 30,000 times since Aug. 1. DraftKings alone has spent $82 million on TV ads in 2015, that’s one commercial every 1.5 minutes and more dollars spent than McDonald's.
For some, the inescapable ads will have us grabbing for the remote, while others will see a beaming beardo in cargo shorts holding an oversized check for $1 million dollars and say “Hey, I love fantasy and I could do that!” If you’re one of those guys (yes, we definitely are), read up; we’ve tested them both out, done the research and determined a winner. Here’s how the two match up head-to-head.
THE PLAYING FIELD
Besides the fun factor, the appeal of one-day fantasy sports games is simple: huge prize pools, same day payouts, basic fantasy rules and no season-long commitment. First, you’ll create an account and deposit funds using a credit card or PayPal. Before you do all that, do your due diligence and search online for promo “bonus” codes as either site will match (up to a certain amount) what you deposit.
In terms of sign up bonuses, DraftKings offers a bigger bonus (up to $600) compared to FanDuel (up to $200). But be warned, these bonuses aren’t necessarily “free money” because it is distributed incrementally the more you play. This is one of the reasons why DraftKings is geared more towards the avid, multi-sport player who knows they will bet more games over time. This is important because DraftKings goes beyond the standard betting pools (NCAA football and basketball, MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL) by offering PGA, NASCAR, MMA, Soccer leagues and eSports (competitive video gaming). DraftKings also offers more high-stakes contests, while charging a lower rake (the tax to play). In addition, Draft Kings has a VIP loyalty program (much like casinos) where high-volume players get access to special customer service, private contests and exclusive entry to DraftKings Fantasy Sports Lounges inside the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden. FanDuel’s Fantasy Sport Lounges are in Memphis and Orlando. Enough said.
There are a ton of games to choose from (“Head-to-Head,” “50/50,” “Leagues”), which include varying buy-ins, pools and prizes. The strategies behind DFS are much different than season-long games because your focus shifts from “who to pick” to an individualized weekly strategy based on matchups and utilizing a set budget.
Both sites have nine roster spots, but the biggest difference is FanDuel has a kicker while DraftKings has a flex position (RB/WR/TE). It’s a matter of preference, but we felt that in terms of lineups, DraftKings gets the edge because let’s face it, a flex player is way better than a kicker and it allows you a better chance of calculating a player’s output.
The biggest difference between the two in game-planning is that FanDuel locks in your entire roster once the first game kicks off (usually on Thursday), which puts you on a level playing field and let's you sit back and relax (well, sort of) for a day of game watching. On DraftKings, you can tinker with your rosters (based on injuries, match-ups, etc.) right up until each individual player's game time. This is a HUGE advantage to fanatics who tune into ESPN 24-7 and are constantly crunching numbers or insiders who may have behind-the-scenes information not available to the public. Most of us have lives outside of fantasy sports so this factoid cannot be overlooked, especially considering that there are sharks lurking, armed with algorithms and spreadsheets, looking for any advantage they can get. Flexibility up to game time could, though, be a positive for the stat hounds following very closely. For us, not so much, but it depends on how you are looking to play.
X's AND O's
FanDuel’s interface not only looks great but is exceedingly simple to use. Scoring is also much more straight-forward (no random bonuses for statistical milestones like a 100-yard rushing game). DraftKings' UI looks like it was designed by an AOL engineer from 1994 and can seem overwhelming to the untrained eye, especially if you don’t have a PayPal account to make withdrawals.
THE FINAL SCORE
Before we call this one, know that a lot of these factors can be personal preference. For some, a percieved benefit may be too much and for others, a possible overwhelming detail might be a selling point. That being said, it’s obvious that FanDuel is geared towards the more casual player with lower buy-ins, simplified scoring, and statistical nuance. DraftKings has more to offer DFS gaming pros with expanded betting opportunities, bigger prize money and more fantasy gaming complexities. So, ultimately, if you’re serious about playing, we recommend checking out both. For us though, we preferred the ease of use, a better design, and a more streamlined playing experience.
OVERALL WINNER: FanDuel
Daily Fantasy Sports has basically become the new online poker, albeit with bigger reach, deeper pockets, and a built-in fanbase primed for the action. Thus far, it has managed to stay on the right side of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by claiming to be a game of “skill” and not one of “chance,” but regulation is, no doubt, looming. While there are some heavy-hitting investors on both sites (ESPN, Fox Sports, Google Capital, Patriots owner Bob Kraft), we recommend getting in on the game soon as the DFS landscape is changing rapidly and could look vastly different next season.