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Fantasy sports is a wildly popular game that gives people the chance to act as professional sports coaches and set about picking imaginary rosters and making key decisions – usually throughout the course of a season. Points are award based on stats gathered and a set of bespoke rules, to provide a ranking system where the fantasy player with most points may be rewarded with a prize.
Fantasy sports first appeared in the scene in the 1950s, with the launch of a fantasy golf league that had coaches pick a team of golfers. Since then fantasy sports has been adapted to every popular sport on the planet, and elevated to such a level of prominence in some peoples' lives that it dominates hours of their time each week.
In America, and throughout the world, avid players of NFL fantasy games will come together (physically or virtually) to conduct fantasy NFL drafts each season, where players are picked for each team. We've also seen a new type of daily fantasy game emerge, where players stand to win cash prizes for playing one-off game based on a single day's sporting action.
The Internet exploded fantasy sports in the 1990s, by making leagues global and allowing for complex software to run scoring and take things to the next level. Real-time fantasy scoring is now available if you're playing a game like the NFL's official fantasy game, or the official Premier League fantasy game.
How does a typical fantasy game work?
The format of a fantasy sports game depends a lot of the sport, but here is a general guide of what to expect.
Step one is to register at a fantasy sports site and choose your team name. Sometimes there will be an entry fee; sometimes it will be free.
The next step is to set about picking your roster. If you're playing a draft-based game this will take place during a draft process. If you're playing a non-draft game, you will typically involve managing your assigned budget to select the players you want on your team. Most games set a limit for what you can spend, and also a limit on the number of players from a particular pro team you can pick for yours.
Once you team is selected you await the first game day. When it comes around you will score points based on the real-life actions of the players in your fantasy team. Some actions may accrue negative points. Many fantasy sites allow you to track your team scores in real-time.
Depending on the game rules, you may be allowed to change your team on a weekly basis, or between game days. Or you may have a set number of changes you can make during a season.
As the season plays out your team will score points based on the real-life actions of the players you have in it. The aim is to score as many points as possible.
At the end of the season the top-scoring player will typically win a prize of some kind. There may also be other prizes awarded on a weekly or monthly basis.
Fantasy sports leagues
When you play fantasy sports you are typically putting your score up against a huge number of other players around the world, so finishing top is a big ask. To keep things interesting, and to promote the kind of interaction fantasy sports players so love, you can build individual leagues to include just your friends. That way you can track who is performing best out of a certain group and, if you desire, hand out prizes based on the end-of-season tallies achieved.
Daily fantasy sports
A relatively new phenomenon, daily fantasy sports condense the excitement of fantasy into a shorter time span. There are free and paid games available, and some huge prizes to be won. The idea of daily fantasy sports particularly appeals to those who lose interest during a full-season game – especially if their team isn't doing that well.
How do I get good at fantasy sports?
The best fantasy sports players are nearly always avid fans with a real flair for stats and analysis. You need to know the players, know their form and fully understand the nuances of the particular fantasy game you are playing.
How do I get started with fantasy sports?
The best way to get started is to visit a respected fantasy sports portal and read up on the games out there that interest you. Be sure to research as much as possible before leaping in and making the commitment to play.