Sports Betting vs. DFS: Which is Better?

It’s a great time to be a sports fan, and even better for those who like to have a little money on a game. As more and more legal sportsbooks come online across the US, sports betting is booming. For those who were already participating in the massive daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry, it’s another added arrow in the quiver.

The number of people who take part in either sports betting or DFS is nothing short of staggering. On the sports betting side, the estimate is well over 100 million when you factor in all forms of sports betting. As for daily fantasy sports, the number has been pegged at north of 50 million.

So which of the two is the better choice? Which one has the potential for more profit? Does one offer any clear advantages over the other? Should you just shrug your shoulders and play both? We’ll dive in and answer those questions right here.

Sports betting vs. DFS: What to pick?

In its simplest form, sports betting revolves around picking the winner of a game or an event. Sportsbooks will release odds for all games they choose to, and bettors can then make their selections from there.

That’s the simple explanation, but there’s a whole lot more to it. Success in sports betting revolves around making the correct calls (and avoiding big sports betting mistakes), but there’s also the little matter of playing against the house.

In terms of fantasy sports, its roots can be traced back for decades. Early incarnations of fantasy football and baseball have been played as far back as the 1960s. By the latter part of the 2000s, daily fantasy sports made its debut and the story of its rise is nothing short of remarkable.

What started as a niche pursuit for smaller entities has evolved into big business with major companies leading the way. DraftKings has emerged as the market leader in terms of users and prize pools, while FanDuel is firmly entrenched as number two.

DFS differs from standard fantasy sports in a couple of different ways. For starters, DFS games revolve around just a single slate of games as opposed to the entire season’s worth. You can also build out a lineup of anyone you want in daily fantasy sports, provided you stay within the confines of the salary cap for the contest, that is.  In standard fantasy games, you build your daily lineups solely from players on your roster, which you manage for the full season.

As for the contests and matchups, both DFS and traditional fantasy are user vs. user (rather than against the house). Many standard fantasy leagues have head to head games, and that’s part of DFS too, but there are also bigger DFS contests to play in that attract thousands of other players.

As with sports betting, there’s both a skill and luck element involved. There are high-level DFS players who have honed their skills and can put together the lineups that consistently back it up. However, just like with sports betting, no amount of research or skill can predict exactly what is going to happen once the games begin.

That said, it’s certainly possible to become a winning and profitable player in both pastimes.

Sports betting

What kind of sports bets can you make?

There are a wide range of bet types that you can place, ranging from those that are super simple to ones that are a bit more complex. Here’s a quick run through of the main bet types you’ll come across.

  • Moneyline bets: Simple bets in which you choose the winner.
  • Point spread betting: Take the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the points.
  • Totals: A bet on the over/under for total points scored.
  • Prop bets: Bets on events that may happen during the course of a game or event.
  • Parlay bets: A bet in which you include multiple outcomes on a single slip.
  • Teaser bets: Bettors can move the spread more to their liking.
  • Futures bets: A bet on an outcome that will happen down the road.
  • Live Betting: Bets you can place after the action has already started.

You’ll be able to place all of the bet types above and more at legal TN online sportsbooks. Additionally, be on the lookout for bonuses and incentives which afford you the chance to employ a strategy known as matched betting. In a nutshell, that means you’re trying to lock in a profit while reducing risk thanks to the offers you’re taking advantage of.

What sports can you bet on in Tennesse?

At most online sportsbooks in Tennessee, you’ll find a wide range of sports offered up for betting, from the Big 4 (football, basketball, baseball, hockey) to college football/basketball, NASCAR, golf, and sports in between. But it can also reach much deeper than that, from international soccer leagues to darts and rugby.

DraftKings Setting Up for a Run in TN Sports Betting
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

These are the major sports leagues you’ll be able to bet on.

If it’s a big game or event, you won’t have any trouble finding odds at TN online sportsbooks. Among the niche sports available, you’ll likely find:

  • Auto racing
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Darts
  • Olympics
  • Rugby
  • Table tennis

As a general rule, if it’s a game or event that’ll attract at least a decent amount of interest, then you should be able to find odds for it at TN sportsbooks.

Daily fantasy sports

What are the different types of DFS games?

As the daily fantasy sports industry has continued to grow, so too have the different ways you can play. There are simple head-to-head matchups, massive tournaments, and many different options in between. Here’s a glance at the most popular game types.

  • GPP: Guaranteed prize pool tournaments with big top prizes.
  • 50/50 and DoubleUps: Beat up to half the field to win up to double your entry fee.
  • Multipliers: Similar to above, but reward is a multiple such as 3x or 5x.
  • Head-to-Heads: Player vs. player with best score winning the marbles.
  • Leagues: Smaller versions of tournaments with fewer players involved.
  • Qualifiers and Satellites: The prize is a ticket to another tournament or event.
  • Showdown: DFS games which revolve around a single game.
  • Tiers: You pick players from groups as opposed to building a lineup.
  • Beat the Score: The goal is to beat a designated score to win.

At the biggest and most popular DFS sites you’ll find all of the above game types.

What sports are available for DFS?

Similar to sports betting, it’s the biggest games and events which really move the needle for DFS. Here are the most popular attractions on the menu.

  • NFL
  • NBA
  • MLB
  • NHL
  • College football
  • College basketball
  • Golf
  • UFC

DFS games are also offered for other popular sports. Those in this category certainly have loyal and passionate players, but not quite to the level of those up above.

  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Nascar
  • eSports

It wasn’t too long ago that daily fantasy sports solely revolved around the major North American team sports. Today, the menu has many more choices for players to consider.

Is DFS legal in Tennessee?

Yes, it’s completely legal to play DFS in Tennessee. The legality of DFS on the federal level has been subject to question, and there are still a handful of states which prohibit the practice. The Volunteer State enacted legislation specific to DFS in 2016.

Pros & cons of DFS vs sports betting

DFS pros

  • Small buy-ins, big payouts: For some of the biggest tournaments in DFS, the prize pools are absolutely astronomical. In round numbers, the biggest events pay out a staggering $1 million to first place. That’s a pretty good payday for an enjoyable pursuit.
  • No worry about changing odds: In sports betting, the odds board is the guide. For DFS, that can be a helpful part of the research process, but it’s all about building a solid lineup that fits under the cap. Prices are set daily, and there’s no need to worry about them fluctuating.
  • Results based on individual performance: From a bottom-line perspective on fantasy sports, which team actually wins or loses a contest is of little significance. Your sole concern is that the athletes you choose for your lineups perform well on an individual basis.

DFS cons

  • Competitive landscape: DFS is far from easy. There are a number of top players in the industry, and they can be seriously tough to beat. They also have zero problem maximizing their profits by entering as many contests as possible.
  • GPP field size: The lure of hitting a big score in a GPP is enticing, but the reality is that it’ll take all of the stars aligning in your favor to take the top spot. That’s just the way it is when we’re talking about contests with tens of thousands of lineups entered.
  • Little margin for error: To make some noise in a GPP – and even to cash in games such as 50/50s – you’ll need production from every spot in your lineup. While it’s possible to cash if one of your players has an off-day, the chances go down dramatically.

In short, DFS is an enjoyable pastime in which you can generate profits, and there are a number of different ways to play and get involved. However, it’s not as simple as logging in and picking the players you like. The world of DFS is a competitive one, and it can be very research intensive to boot.

Sports betting pros

  • More research-friendly: When handicapping a game, you’re looking at the overall team vs. team matchup. For DFS, it’s a matter of digging even deeper to find the individual matchups that are most appealing. Let’s just say, that can be a little more time consuming.
  • You vs. sportsbook: For sports betting, you don’t have to concern yourself with playing against experienced players or massive fields for tournaments. It’s essentially you matching your wits with the sportsbook while looking to come out on top.
  • Wide range of opportunities: While there are a number of ways to play DFS, it pales in comparison to what’s offered with sports betting. You can stick to the most popular games and events, or go even deeper into niche offerings when looking to find an edge.

Sports betting cons

  • Oddsmakers are tough to beat: Sportsbooks are for-profit entities, and those who set the odds are quite good at what they do. Operators aren’t in the business of giving money away, so it can take some doing to beat the bookmakers consistently.
  • Generating profits can be a grind: You’re not going to win all of your bets, and the price you pay via the odds board can eat into your overall profits. When you add those two factors together, it can be challenging to build out consistent profits with sports betting.
  • Market movement: Live betting odds don’t stand still. While you may research a game at one set of odds or a specific spread, market activity can shift the landscape. If it moves more than a little, what was once an appealing opportunity may vanish.

Sports betting continues to surge in popularity, and it’s not too hard to figure out why. You can earn some money off of rooting interests, and learning how to handicap isn’t as tough as it may seem. However, actually turning a profit over the long haul is a lot more challenging than that. Oddsmakers are very good at what they do, and there’s simply no way to make the right call every time.

DFS vs. sports betting: Head-to-Head

At the top level, DFS and sports betting are similar pursuits. In both cases, you’re putting money at stake in hopes of generating even more. However, there are also distinct differences that you need to factor into the equation.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest points of variation between the two pursuits.

ItemDFSSports Betting
Playing fieldCan be as simple as head-to-head, but also much larger for GPPs and other contestsYou vs. the sportsbook
Results based on
Individual player performanceTeam-based, but also based on players via props and individual sports
Research/HandicappingCan be labor intensive, but there are resources to lean on to cut down on timeSlightly more streamlined as you're worried about overall results as opposed to fantasy scores
Competition levelHigh. GPPs attract massive amounts of users, and other game types can be filled with prosVery challenging. Oddsmakers at sportsbooks are quite talented
Profit potentialVaries. Possible to generate consistent returns on 50/50s and other games, but nailing high finishes in GPP is tough and far from something you can rely onTakes time to generate consistent returns, and it can be a grind to do so. Big scores possible from parlays and other bet types, but most returns are smaller than that

While there are a number of differences to consider between DFS and sports betting, there’s also a good amount of crossover appeal. Here are some of the most notable similarities to keep in mind.

  • Market prices/Salary cap or odds: In DFS, you’re building out a lineup while looking to stay under the salary cap. Monitoring prices for fantasy players isn’t that far from watching the odds board, which effectively tells you the price being offered by sportsbooks for various wagering opportunities. A good eye for value helps in both regards.
  • Prop betting akin to fantasy projections: For a great entry point from DFS into sports betting, prop bets on individual players is the ticket. The same applies in reverse, as sports bettors with prop experience won’t have a tough time moving to DFS. In both cases, you’re making decisions based off of the projected performances of individual athletes.
  • Skill sets translate nicely: If you can research and build a DFS lineup, then you can learn how to handicap games. Solid handicappers also won’t have a tough time figuring out the nuances of DFS play. The two pursuits really aren’t as far apart as they may seem at first glance, and the skill set needed for success in both transfers quite well.

Understanding the differences and similarities for DFS and sports betting can help you make a much more informed decision between the two, but you’ll also find that there’s room for both in your overall strategy.

Last word on sports betting vs. DFS

Sports betting and DFS are two incredibly popular ways to get even closer to the games that you love. Even better, there’s a chance for you to earn some profits along the way.

While you can certainly have a preference between the two, the reality is that there’s a lot of crossover appeal. As such, it can make tons of sense to incorporate both of them into your overall wagering strategy.

In fact, while doing research for both, you may come across nuggets of intel that you may not have spotted if you were solely focused on one over the other. That only makes the time spent researching and handicapping all the more valuable.

DFS and sports betting may be different approaches for getting to the same endpoint, but they are also closely intertwined.