Daily Fantasy Sports ("DFS") has been under heavy attack. First, from certain states (Nevada, New York, Illinois) which have attempted to prohibit DFS by enjoining sites like Fan Duel and Draft Kings from operating within their borders. More recently, it seems the media has joined in the frenzy, pointing out that only a select handful of players actually make money playing DFS, and that the average Joe has no shot at winning. Some articles, like this recent NYT Article, raise some pretty suspect issues with DFS sites. From my perspective, I recognize the inherent problems with the business model and the issues that make the game difficult for most players to beat. Yet, my experience has been that DFS still IS beatable. I deposited $200 back in 2013 and, as of this past Monday, have withdrawn $6,800. More importantly, DFS has gifted me hundreds of hours of entertainment, often making games in which I'd otherwise have zero interest must-see TV.
I first deposited $200 on Fan Duel in 2013. I played NFL, College Football and, in my weaker moments, some MLB. I've never had much success with MLB contests and am a clear net loser. I'm great at season-long fantasy baseball. Like, deadly. Over the course of a season, beginning with a draft, and continuing with trades and FA pick-ups, I can build a team that, by playoffs, is nearly unbeatable. I play in one league. It's competitive. Like, very competitive. Like, by the time Rotowire or some other publication posts a blurb that Player X is coming up from the minors, et cetera, someone has already snagged that guy two weeks before. I've won the league two of the past 3 years (winning a sweet $1,000 each time), and finished 2nd the other year. I know fantasy bases. But, I just haven't been able to figure out the strategy for DFB. Last year, I played the first month of the season, and had a bit of success. But, once player values starter to adjust, I found I could not beat the game. And I stopped playing, deciding to preserve my account for football.
As for football, I've had a great deal of success. I started out playing the 50/50 contests. In these, lets say 1000 players enter the contest and pay $20; the top 400 or so double their money, winning $40. I did OK in these, but not great. Then, one day I finished first out of a multi-thousand player field. I won a smooth $20. And felt sick. I realized, of course, that had a entered my line-up in a multi-entry tournament, I would have won $10,000! FML. So, I adjusted my strategy. Instead of entering a few $20 or $25 DON's, I'd submit 10, 15 or 20 tournament entries, for $2, $5 or $10, hoping for that one line-up that hits.
Last season, based on this strategy, I crushed NCAA Football, including two first place finishes in 1,149 entrant events. At the end of the season, I cashed out $2,500, and left my initial $200 deposit for the next season.
This year, my strategy was to play between ten and thirty $5 to $10 contests each week, hoping for that one line-up that strikes gold. My win rate was well below .500 (as would be expected in this type of tournament), and most of my "wins" were for $12.50 or $15 or, if I did really well, $30 or $40. These tournaments, after all, had very top-heavy pay structures, similar to on-line poker.
But, I also had some decent wins, and a few "near misses." I finished first in a Saturday "Late" Tournament in October, winning $500 . . . I had a couple of additional $100+ finishes (all off $5 entries). And I had some painful evenings where I just missed striking lightning, most notably a 12th place finish out of 14,488. There, my line-up put up 130 points, and I won $300. First place put up 137 points, and won $7,000. Yep, one damn TD separated me from another $6,400. Winning $300 never hurt so much.
This past weekend, I was painfully aware that football season was drawing to a close. I started Saturday with approximately $250 in my account. I decided to "go for it," and entered 32 college bowl contests for a total of $160. I failed to cash in 31 or them; but I scored 187 points in one, good for an 8th place finish out of 4,597, and $157 cash. First place, scored 195 and won $2,500. Again, FML.
Sunday, one day closer to the end of football (last Sunday of regular season NFL), I went at it harder. I woke up at 9:00 and, between 9:30 and 11:30, entered a total of 41 contests, costing a total of $205. I tried to build my teams on a core of a handful of solid players, and then mixed in some speculative plays. I mixed and matched line-ups. The results paid off.
The contest ended up with 287,356 entrants. First place was $100,000. My best line up finished 16th with 181 points, good for a $3,500 score. I also hit 113th for $400 and 389th for $150. I won $75 with another two line-ups, and had a bunch of $12 to $15 cashes. All told, my $205 in entry fees paid out $4,512. Of course, 190 points took home the $100,000 first prize. Had I started Matt Ryan as QB in this particular line up, instead of Drew Brees . . . . yep, I would have won the $100,000 by a handful of points. It's hard to complain about winning $4,500; but, damn! How many times am I gonna finish top 20 out of 220,000+ ? This was my chance to strike lighting; and I fell short.
Anyway, Monday morning, I withdraw $4,400 from Fan Dual to PayPal, and, from there, transferred the money to my checking account, were it arrived this morning. I still have my one-and-only $200 deposit in my account, and will be entering a handful of line-ups this weekend.
I one-hundred percent believe DFS is a rigged game. At least to a degree. High volume players utilizing algorithms are bound to dominate. I mean, if you enter 500 line-ups and have some clue what you are doing, you're eventually going to hit the right combination for a big score. But I also still believe there is room for casual players to participate and even profit from DFS. I'd love to see some regulation. I'd love to see much lower caps on allowable number of entries . . . and a complete ban on use of computer programs. That would be ideal. But, more than anything, I just want the option to play the game . . .