Are you a daily fantasy sports player aiming to understand the various types of contests available to improve your strategic play? This guide covers everything you need to know.

The spectrum of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) is a wide-ranging one. Not all contests are the same, and not all strategies work as well across all forums, so as you prepare to dive in, it’s important to know the distinctions. 

As it relates to Guaranteed Prize Pools (GPP), there’s much to learn — about what it takes to compete, how they differ from other cash games and how to work your way toward the top of the leaderboard to rake in significant winnings.

What Does GPP Mean In DFS?

A GPP game is a fantasy sports competition where the prizes (i.e. the cash payouts) are guaranteed no matter how many participants enter the contest.

“Guaranteed Prize Pools” can be taken quite literally: No matter how many entrants there are in these kinds of DFS contests (also regularly referred to as “tournaments”), there is a guaranteed and set amount of prize money that goes out to a set number of winners, and it’s typically an appealing haul for a select few. 

Unlike some other types of cash games, where roughly half of the entrants split the winnings, GPP games have a significantly smaller fraction of victors, thus making them more difficult to navigate successfully — and that much more rewarding to master.

GPP Contest Strategy

GPP is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. Since so few entrants in a pool wind up walking away victoriously, it’s incumbent on DFS managers to take steps they might not otherwise take on a paid-entry venture. 

GPP games are best for risk takers. It’s not enough to pick the usual suspects or those with the highest projected points totals, since that is an obvious and common strategy employed by many who are seeking the highest point hauls. Instead, it’s about finding outliers and differentiators to separate your entry from the pack. 

Take fantasy football for example. If you're looking to differentiate your picks, some options worth considering might include: 

  • The low-cost WR3 whose line resembles that of a big-money WR1
  • The backup running back who vultures a few touchdowns or breaks a couple of massive runs en route to a monster game
  • The rookie QB who burns a weak secondary and throws for 300 yards and four TDs

These opportunities are not always easy to spot, but then again, it’s not supposed to be easy to win in GPP, either.

You’ll have to get creative with your risk-taking to set your entry apart, no matter the sport. For basketball, since stars regularly sit over the course of the season, keep a watchful eye on lineup news right up to opening tip. This could make what would seem like a risky selection appear a little bit more risk-averse, if a high-potential player suddenly has more minutes and usage heaped upon him. 

Perhaps you’re anticipating a blowout between two mismatched teams. Going big on a sharpshooting reserve in anticipation of a big night from beyond the arc due to an uptick in minutes is a way to veer outside the confines of the norm. 

It also helps to maximize correlation (i.e., the relationship between players, and one player’s fantasy success hinging on another’s) by stacking — meaning rostering players from the same team. 

If you think a team is going to blow out its competition, then it makes all the sense in the world to load up on that team’s players, especially in football, where a WR’s big day likely means a big day for his QB as well. Of course, that also comes with a significant risk. If that team underperforms, then your GPP hopes are almost certainly shot.

Cash Games Vs. GPP Games: What Are The Differences?

Cash games and GPP games both fall under the DFS umbrella, but each comes with its own set of strategies and characteristics.

There are a number of significant differences between these two types of games. The payout distribution is chief among them, with more users getting a smaller and often even slice of the pie in cash games. In GPP games, on the other hand, elite players secure a larger part of a larger prize pool, where payouts are tiered and only reserved for a select few in a heavily populated tournament.

Lineup construction is another big difference, as stated above. You won’t structure your lineups in the same way for a standard cash game as in a GPP game when you need to do better than the vast majority of the competition, not simply pass or fail.

You’ll have to embrace having a higher degree of risk tolerance. Like the saying goes, “scared money don’t make money,” and that applies here. You’ve got to be willing to go for it in GPP contests, or else you’ll be an also-ran wishing you had opted for the longshot play that paid off. 

Popularity of GPP Games

DFS games began gaining in popularity in the early 2010s, and since then GPP has become a common type of tournament on a number of platforms. However, DFS players have been increasingly participating in new types of money-based games of fantasy sports in recent years.

The most common DFS games today involve users entering contests against "the house" rather than competing for prize pools consisting of entry fees from contest participants. Sleeper Picks is an example of this rapidly growing DFS game type. Users participate in paid-entry contests of skill where they can win cash prizes by correctly picking whether players will score more or less than their projected stats (touchdowns, rushing yards, rebounds, 3-pointers, etc.). Payouts are based on statistics and scoring results at the end of professional sports games.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of DFS contests?

GPP is just one kind of DFS contest. Beyond that, there are cash games like 50/50, head-to-head and double-ups. In those kinds of paid-entry contests, you’re aiming for consistency and the most useful possible floor, where risk tolerance can be lower and you don’t need to be so contrarian in order to win. You don’t need to hit it big on all of your picks, because sometimes all you need to win is to finish in roughly the top 50 percent of entries — not the top 10% or 5%.

In 50/50, it’s exactly that: half of the entrants will split the prize pool evenly, while half will walk away empty-handed. 

In head-to-head, you’re going up against another user, needing only to best only that one other entry to win the prize money.

In double-ups, you enter a pool where almost half of the participants will win a prize that’s double the entry fee (so if you pay $10 to enter, you stand to win $20 as long as you get in the top 50% or so of users).

Sleeper offers real money games like Sleeper Picks, where you’re not playing against other users, but instead selecting two or more athletes and picking whether they will have more or less than a projected stat. 

In Sleeper PicksVS, you’re combining the two elements — making your selections of two or more athletes and then having your entry go in a pool up against the picks of other users.

Read more: Where Can I Play DFS?

How do you build GPP lineups?

You build GPP lineups in a similar fashion to other DFS games, no matter the sport. You’ll have a budget to spend on players across different positions to fill out your lineups, and how prudently you wield that money is paramount. 

Blowing your budget on star players commonly picked across the board alone (aka “chalk”) won’t set your entry apart. But identifying the top value plays that allow you to comfortably sprinkle in some more of the closer-to-sure-thing stars could help you strike that perfect balance. You’ll need to brace for a basement-level floor all while having hopes of shooting for a sky-high ceiling.

What is GPP in Fantasy Football?

As it relates to fantasy football, GPP lineup structure and rules don’t differ much from other DFS games. The same general principle holds: Field a team and outscore the competition. You’re still operating with a salary cap and building out a lineup of players by position. It’s the lineup selection and strategy that cover different ground.

How you’ll compete for a top finish is by managing to land the top performers at as many positions as possible while adhering to the budget. 

If you happened to be aboard the De’Von Achane Train in Week 3 in 2023, for instance (203 rushing yards, 2 TD; 4 catches, 30 receiving yards, 2 TD), odds are the Dolphins’ running back gave you that differentiation you were seeking. And let’s say you supplemented Achane with Carolina’s Adam Thielen (11 catches, 145 yards, 1 TD) and Houston’s Tank Dell (5 catches, 145 yards, 1 TD), then you positioned yourself well to strike gold. 

They were not the top projected stars by any stretch at their respective positions that week, but they were all value plays that went off. That’s the kind of player identification that wins.

It’s Time to Jump in the DFS Pool

If you’re a high-risk, high-reward, contrarian-attitude kind of fantasy gamer, then you should now be ready to take on the GPP landscape. As you can see, it takes a different kind of mindset and an off-the-beaten-path kind of strategy to be successful, and it’s a challenge that has a worthwhile payoff — if you can get it right. 

Kickstart your DFS journey in all facets by joining Sleeper and signing up either via the website or downloading the app. From there, you can explore the various fantasy sports options available, across football or basketball.