Fantasy Poker: A Comprehensive How-To Guide

By Connor Whiteley
April 25, 2024

Fantasy sports are enjoyed by many football, baseball, and other traditional team sports fans. Between full-season leagues and daily fantasy sports, its popularity is vast. Fans of poker also have a chance to get in on the action with fantasy poker.

Since 2011 some of the biggest names in poker like Shaun Deeb, Daniel Negreanu, and Maria Ho have taken part in the annual 25K Fantasy league for the World Series of Poker. This is a fantasy poker league with a $25,000 buy-in. The number of entrants has ranged from 8-20 over the past decade. After the completion of the 2023 WSOP, the largest first prize ever of $250,000 was awarded to Team DPMC, picked by longtime poker media veterans Donnie Peters and Matt Clark. While you may not have a spare $25k laying around, you and your fellow poker fans can create your own fantasy league and get in on the fun.

When to Play Fantasy Poker

The 25K Fantasy and other leagues operate during the WSOP each year. The players drafted earn points based on their finishes in all WSOP bracelet events, both online and live. While most leagues use only WSOP bracelet events in their fantasy poker leagues, there is nothing stopping you from doing this for other tournament series. You could, for instance, hold a fantasy poker league for series like the WPT World Championship.

It may be more difficult to use a non-WSOP series, however. There will be no guarantee that every big-name player will attend, and there won’t be as many tournaments as there are during the WSOP. Additionally, there won’t be websites allowing you to track fantasy scores, so you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way with a spreadsheet and calculator. If you are just starting with fantasy poker, you should start with the WSOP and look to expand if you’re hungry for more fantasy poker action.

Fantasy Poker League

The Fantasy Poker League Draft

Once you have established which tournaments are going to count in your fantasy poker league, you need to assemble your team through a draft. There are a number of ways you can hold a draft. The 25K Fantasy league gives each team a $200 budget and players are bid on in an auction-style draft. Each team drafts eight players to make up their fantasy poker roster. The 25K Fantasy group publishes a player list and costs per player, which can be used as a base for how to bid on players.

You can also hold a serpentine draft where there is no budget involved. To make it more interesting, you can set parameters on your players’ lifetime earnings. For example, in the league I created with friends, we draft nine players instead of eight and use a serpentine draft. You need three players with $10 million or more in earnings, three between $5 million and $9.99 million, and three under $5 million. This rule adds a little more depth to your drafting strategy, as you’ll need to know more players than just the all-stars and high rollers.

You can watch the 2023 WSOP 25K Fantasy draft below so get a better idea of how you want to hold your own draft.

Draft Strategy

If you are using auction draft rules where you have a budget to bid on players, you must know how to allocate that. Many players seek out those who will chase Player of the Year. Two notable names are Shaun Deeb and Daniel Negreanu. Since they both chase POY they will play as many tournaments as they can in the summer and likely accrue a ton of points. Due to the grueling schedules they keep, these two are always the most expensive players regularly going for well over $100, accounting for more than half the team’s total budget. Since these players are so expensive, many teams avoid them by bidding on one or two players in the $50-$80 range before filling out the rest of their roster with cheaper names.

In a serpentine draft, you don’t have to worry about a budget, so going for those big names early is important. Deeb and Negreanu would make for a fitting #1 and #2 overall almost any year. Other names to look out for are Dan Zack, Yuri Dzivielevski, Benny Glaser, and Phil Hellmuth. Picking up these players in the first round is important, if you see any of these players slipping into the second or even third round they’re a steal.

No matter what draft rules you use, it is very important to look beyond No Limit Holdem. The WSOP is such a massive series and many of the tournaments do not feature Texas Hold’Em. In order to maximize your draft, you need well-rounded poker players who will play the mixed games and PLO events. All of the previously mentioned players have good results in a variety of poker variants, thus maximizing your potential for points.

Another type of “good player” to pick up is a high roller. You’ll see in the scoring breakdown that there are multipliers for bigger buy-in tournaments. Additionally, the big points are reserved for the top nine spots, and high roller events have much smaller fields. While the competition is tougher, it will be easier to final table an event with 100 runners than to make it to the final table of the Main Event. Drafting someone like Chance Kornuth or Alex Foxen will help round out your roster with someone who tends to do well in small-field high-roller tournaments.

How to Score Your Fantasy Poker League

Now that you have your team, it’s time to score their performances. The following scoring rules are taken from the 25K Fantasy league. Points are awarded based on the player’s finishing position, with multipliers based on buy-in size and bonus points for field size.

1 50
2 45
3 40
4 35
5 30
6 25
7 20
8 15
9 10
10-18 5
In the Money 1


In addition:

  • Buy-ins under $1,000 have a multiplier of 0.5x
  • Buy-ins $1,000-$4,999 have a multiplier of 1x
  • Buy-ins $5,000-$9,999 have a multiplier of 1.5x
  • Buy-ins $10,000+ have a multiplier of 2x
  • The Main Event has a multiplier of 3x

These multipliers are only awarded on the above scoring table, bonus points do not receive the same multiplier.

Bonus points are awarded to each player who finishes in 18th place or better. For every 100 players in the field (rounding down) there will be 1 bonus point awarded to those who finish 1-18. So a tournament with fewer than 100 players has no bonus points and a tournament with 578 players will have 5 bonus points awarded. The maximum bonus points anyone can receive is 100. So in a tournament like the Colossus which has received over 13,000 entrants in the past, the field bonus would be 100 instead of 130.

There is also a field bonus which adds an additional nine players in the bonus category for every 1,000 entries. For example, a tournament with 2,200 entrants will have the same payout table for places 1-9, but the last category will be 10-36 instead of 10-18. This means an additional 18 players will receive the 5-point score plus any applicable bonus points based on field size. This is capped at 9,000, so a maximum of 81 players will receive 5 points plus the field size bonus points.

Fantasy Poker League: Examples from the 2023 WSOP

Chance Kornuth

Image credit: WPT

Event # 2 – $25,000 High-Roller NLH

Chance Kornuth finished second in this event at the 2023 WSOP.

Buy-in: $25,000 = 2x multiplier

Entrants: 207 = 2 bonus points, no field bonus (so only 1-18 get bonus points)

Place: 2nd = 45 points.

TOTAL SCORE = 45 (x2) + 2 = 92 points

Daniel Negreanu

Event # 17 – $300 Gladiators of Poker NLH

Daniel Negreanu finished 72nd in this event at the 2023 WSOP.

Buy-in: $300 = 0.5x multiplier

Entrants: 23,088 = 100 bonus points, field bonus points awarded to places 1-81

Place: 72nd = 1 point for cashing.

TOTAL SCORE = 1 (x0.5) + 100 = 101.5 points rounded up to 102 (25K Fantasy rounds up for half points).

How to Keep Track of Your Fantasy Poker League

The scoring system may seem a little complicated, but once you get the hang of it you’ll find it is fairly easy to calculate. The real issue with scoring is having to constantly check the tournament standings and search through hundreds or thousands of players to find yours.

Fortunately, the 25K Fantasy website posts results as the WSOP is played out. You can check this daily and keep a spreadsheet with your league’s fantasy teams. If you don’t want to use this scoring method, but rather create your own, you can check the Hendon Mob daily for live cash results. This won’t allow you to score online bracelet events, but will still help with the live ones. To make your life easier, we suggest starting out by following the rules of the 25K Fantasy league and checking their website daily to update your team’s scores.

How to Join a Fantasy Poker League

Fantasy poker is still in its relative infancy, having only been around since 2011. There aren’t many leagues operating and no apps currently offer an avenue to create one. If you happen to have $25,000 handy, you can join the 25K Fantasy league. If you don’t want to invest that much, David “ODB” Baker also runs a $2,500 fantasy league as well as the ODB fantasy contest.

However, if you do not have that much money to invest, all you need to do is reach out to your poker-playing friends. This can be a great way to engage a home game or poker study group. My first fantasy poker league was with my poker study group. There were only four of us, but it was a great way to stay invested in the WSOP when none of us could attend in person.

Whether you are betting on a fantasy poker league or just making a team for fun, creating a fantasy poker league is a great way to stay invested in your favorite poker pros. I have no doubt that fantasy poker will continue to grow in popularity and we’ll have more options to get in on the fantasy action in the future.



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Connor Whiteley poker author
Written By.

Connor Whiteley

Connor Whiteley is a financial services professional and freelance writer who spends as much time as possible on the felt. Previously, Connor was a dealer in various underground Los Angeles poker games, but left the city and those games to raise his daughter with his loving wife Jennifer. Connor is constantly staying up to date […]

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