What is Fantasy Sports? A Beginner's Guide

What are fantasy sports and how can you take part in this popular type of competition? Find out how to play and what you need to do to win.

It’s a term you’ve probably heard before, but what is fantasy sports and how can you take part in this activity legally?  This is a hugely popular pastime that involves creating a fantasy sports team filled with real-life players. While it began back in the 1960s, fantasy sports games have exploded in popularity this century, mainly thanks to the internet making them easier to play.

With an estimated 62 million fantasy sports players in the US in 2022, this is something that many people love doing. It’s getting more popular too, as the ease with which we can choose fantasy sports online and track the results is encouraging more fans to give it a try.

What is Fantasy Sports?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What are fantasy sports and how do they really work? We can start with a basic definition; fantasy sports are where you create a virtual team from a pool of real-world players. You earn points depending on how your chosen players perform in their real games, with a league table comparing your team to those picked by others.

This started as a fun pastime among friends but has grown into a massive industry. With many online sites allowing real money play, it’s estimated that this business is now worth billions of dollars each year.

The basic idea is to use your sports knowledge to build a winning team. Of course, there are different ways of doing this. Some players will do a lot of research into the latest statistics for the players involved or watch more sports on TV than before, to get a feel for how each of the players is doing.

Another option involves just playing for fun and choosing players you like or have seen play well in the past. In this case, you wouldn’t be dedicating too much time to the selection process at the start, but if you enjoy playing you might decide to spend more time when updating the team later.

How Does Fantasy Sports Work?

Each fantasy sports game that you play will have its own rules and gameplay. While they tend to be very simple games that you can start playing without any delay, it’s always a good idea to read the rules before getting started.

What is fantasy sports like in terms of the ease of getting started? The process of playing fantasy sports isn’t difficult, as you get started by looking at an online pool of eligible players. Their skill level, position, and value are often among the details listed. If you have to work with a fixed budget, making sure that you get the players you want without overspending will be an additional issue to take into account.

Your points total will then be updated as your players take part in real games. The points they score during games and other factors will determine how well your team does and whether you climb the league table or not. What are fantasy leagues? They’re made up of other players like you and will have specific prizes on offer for the winners.

You might also be offered the chance to change your team regularly, which means the opportunity to replace any players who get injured or are playing poorly. In terms of prizes, they may be awarded weekly, monthly, or at the end of the season, to the players whose teams have built up the most points.

Popular Fantasy Sports

As for specific sports, what fantasy sports are available on right now? As you can imagine, the most widely-watched and best-loved sports in the world are also those that people most enjoy playing fantasy sports on. You can usually pick players from the biggest and best leagues although the popularity of fantasy sports means that it’s also becoming increasingly diverse. The following are some of the most popular sports you’ll come across.

  • Fantasy Rugby
  • Fantasy Football
  • Fantasy Basketball
  • Fantasy Baseball
  • Fantasy Soccer

Is Fantasy Sports Legal?

The issue of whether fantasy sports is legal has been widely debated, particularly in countries like the US where betting is heavily regulated on a state-by-state basis. At the time of writing, fantasy sports games are legal in the majority of American states, even those that don’t allow sports betting.

This is because 2006’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act mentions that fantasy sports are allowed because it’s a game of skill rather than relying on chance. However, this includes certain conditions such as not gambling on individual games. In those few states where fantasy sports aren’t allowed, the industry continues to lobby as they try to get this decision overturned.

Getting Started

It’s not going to take you long to get started, even if you’ve never bet in any way before or if you aren’t a particularly big sports fan. Since each type of fantasy sports competition is slightly different, we’ll look at the process for a specific game, on the Oval3 fantasy rugby site.

  • Sign up as a new player, which is free to do.
  • Choose your competition. In this case, you can choose a specific competition such as the Rugby World Cup, or else pick the All-Star option with the best players from worldwide leagues all included. It’s free to get started.
  • You now get asked to build a team. Since we’re looking at a five-strong rugby team, you’ll be asked to choose a player for the front row, a scrum-half or fly-half, a back, a second or third-row position, and an extra player.
  • You can search for your favorite players or look at the best players for each position that are listed first on the site. Each player has a card that contains useful information such as their recent scores and their value in each of the different skills needed in this sport.
  • You need to pick a captain for your team too. This is a crucial step, as these players get an extra 20% added to their scores.
  • Confirm your team when you’re happy with it. But remember that you can change any of your decisions during the week, as long as you do it before the player involved has taken part in a game.

As the games are played each week, you’ll automatically be awarded points for the performances of your players. You can then see how your team is performing by checking out the league table after the real-life games are played.

Managing Your Fantasy Sports Team

How does fantasy sports work in terms of ongoing roster management? Will you decide to take a hands-on approach and change your team regularly, or stick with the same team? It’s up to you how you choose to manage your team, but if you’re serious about trying to win then it makes sense to check the league table regularly and see how your players are performing.

You could then take advantage of the chance to switch players before the next games are played.  For those people who love fantasy sports, checking the stats and tweaking their team becomes an important and hugely satisfying part of each week.


As we’ve seen, fantasy sports are now hugely popular and provide us with a fun, simple way to compete against others. This is a great way to add extra sports action to your life and also gives you a chance to try and win cash prizes by competing against other fans.


Do I Need to Be a Sports Expert to Play Fantasy Sports?

No, anyone can play fantasy sports. It’s entirely up to you how much time and effort you put into choosing your players.

What Is a Fantasy Sports Draft?

This is a part of some fantasy sports competitions. As in real life, fantasy team managers can choose the best rookies before the new season begins.

Are There Different Types of Fantasy Sports Leagues?

Yes, all of the world’s major sports and leagues are available, so it’s worth taking some time to find the sport and league that most interests you and that you feel confident picking players for.

Can I Trade Players in Fantasy Sports?

There are usually opportunities to trade players as the season progresses and we see how everyone is performing, although when and how this can be done will vary by game.

Are There Strategies for Winning in Fantasy Sports?

As a game of skill, it’s clear that you can influence your chances of winning. Factors such as choosing the league wisely, picking the best players, and deciding when to make changes are all vital to your chances of success.

Want to Learn More?

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Who Invented Fantasy Sports: Uncovering the Origins

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