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Setting Up or Joining a League: League Varieties

As fantasy sports have become more popular, the number of varieties of fantasy game has exploded. The core type of game has stayed the same, and most leagues fall into a few different categories. The most common differences deal with how players score points for a team.



Rotisserie Scoring: Teams are ranked in multiple different statistical categories (e.g. home runs, stolen bases, RBI for baseball, or goals, assists and penalty minutes for hockey), based on the aggregate performance of that team’s players. A team gets points based on its ranking in a given category. For example, in a twelve team league 12 points would go to the top- ranked team in home runs, 11 points to the second-ranked team in home runs, down to 1 point for the twelfth-ranked team in home runs. As teams change rank through the course of a season, they gain and lose points. The team with the most points at the end of the season is the winner.

Fantasy Point Scoring: Points are associated with different actions (e.g. 6 points for a rushing touchdown, 1 point for 20 yards rushing, -2 points for a fumble), and your team acquires points based on your players performance over the course of a season. The team with the most points at the end of the season is the winner.

Head-to-Head Format: This is actually a subset of the former two systems. A head-to-head league can use either fantasy point scoring or rotisserie scoring. Head-to-head scoring is different in that each week all of the fantasy teams are paired off against one another. In a fantasy point scoring league which is also head-to-head, the team of a particular pair which scores more points in a given week gets a “win” for that week. Team success is measured by the number of “wins” in a season. In a rotisserie scoring head-to-head league, a team gets one point for every category in which it is better over the course of the week than the team it has been paired against. A team’s success is measure by the number of points it collects over the course of a season. Typically, head-to-head leagues use a “playoff” system to determine the league winner. Prior to the last several weeks of the season, the top teams are seeded into a playoff bracket, where these teams are matched against each other based on their rankings at that point. The last several weeks, these teams play in an elimination-style bracket, where the winner of each pairing in a particular week goes on to play another team which also won its pairing.



There are countless other varieties of fantasy sports leagues, but these four are the most common. The stereotypical NFL league is a head-to-head fantasy point league, and the stereotypical MLB, NBA or NHL league is rotisserie scoring (not head-to-head), although all four of these varieties can be found for all four major sports.

There are significant differences between leagues using different scoring systems. A head-to-head league heavily emphasizes late season performance (because the winner is determined in the “playoff” part of the season) above performance over the rest of the season. A head-to-head league has a much stronger luck component than a non-head-to-head league because so much rides on such a small portion of the season. One benefit of the head-to-head league is that it facilitates rivalries between fantasy managers – if you are joining a fantasy league with a bunch of friends who like to talk trash, a head-to-head league is a good choice. Success in a rotisserie format requires some concept of team balance across all or most of the different categories, while the fantasy point system requires far less. We will speak more about strategy in different kinds of leagues, but it is important to know that there are vast differences in optimal strategy depending on your scoring system.

Next Section - Setting Up or Joining a League: Choosing a Fantasy Sports Website




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