It would be nice if all of us fantasy footballers who took David Johnson with the first overall pick could have a redo. When the Arizona Cardinals starting running back and top-rated fantasy stud went down with a wrist injury in Week One, the fantasy hopes of many went down with him. Turns out we can have a redo. On daily fantasy sites like DraftKings and FanDuel, you get a fresh start every Sunday. These sites have wildly grown in popularity since their introduction just a few years ago.
FanDuel was founded in 2009, and DraftKings did not become a major player until 2013. Now these two companies are the behemoths of the daily fantasy world. They offer tournaments in football, basketball, baseball, golf, NASCAR and a number of other sports. For companies that started as relatively small start ups, it’s impressive to see that they now spend millions on advertising. Around 56 million people play fantasy sports each year, and approximately 10 million of those participate in daily fantasy.
The way it works is pretty simple. Once you create an account and deposit a minimum of $5, you can scroll through a lobby of contests that range from free to over $10,000 for the entry fee. You can play head to head or in bigger tournaments against thousands of others. And like with everything else in life, the more you are willing to risk, the more you stand to win. This week on DraftKings, their feature tournament has a $20 entry fee with a top prize of $1 million.
Here is where it gets scary. The daily fantasy world is full of sharks, or professional gamblers who enter hundreds of lineups everyday and stack the odds in their favor. They use formulas and analytics to predict what players to use and in how many lineups they should be in. About 1 percent of daily fantasy players are winning almost all the prize money which makes the chances of having a huge payday in daily fantasy a lot like picking a winning scratch-off ticket. The science behind winning at daily fantasy lies with the amount of money and number of lineups you are willing to invest.
There have been some legality issues with daily fantasy. Currently it is banned in nine U.S. states. The reason most states allow the businesses to operate is due to a loophole in the law consisting of two things. In short, the results of a contest can not rely on the outcome of a single game, and the results must reflect the knowledge of the participants. Basically, it needs to involve skill rather than chance. To be truthful, it relies heavily on chance. There are way too many fluky plays that happen throughout any given Sunday to say it doesn’t. Again, you have to be willing to invest if you want to win consistently.
At the end of the day, in all likelihood, you will not get rich playing daily fantasy sports. However the odds are definitely stacked in your favor that you will enjoy it. I put in a few lineups each weekend during the NFL season, and once the NBA rolls around, I usually play a few per night. I always set rules for myself to only allow for a certain amount of money, which I normally break by the end of the first night. Hopefully, I can leave myself enough money for the therapy, pills or booze that it will take to get over when I pick Greg Olsen who gets hurt in the first half, or when I take Carmelo Anthony who decides five minutes before tipoff he can’t play that night. But it is still fun to be in the action.
To a certain extent, most sports fans live vicariously through their favorite athletes. We buy jerseys, give Direct TV an extra $50 per month for the Sunday Ticket, and spend our weekends in a good or bad mood based off how our guys perform. This is another way to live through these athletes, and it’s pretty fun. It’s thrilling to open up your laptop and see that you’re currently winning $4,000, and it’s infuriating to watch your winnings dwindle after some quarterback you didn’t pick throws a 90 yard bomb to another guy you didn’t pick. The lesson here is daily fantasy is a lot of fun, but it’s probably not going to pay your bills.