Thursday, September 10, 2015

You Aren't Good Enough to Win Money Playing Daily Fantasy Football

Every first-time player of daily fantasy football begins the new season undefeated, just like even the most hopeless NFL teams. But after 16 weeks of real football, most rookie fantasy players will have been separated from their money, just as certainly as the Cleveland Browns will be disabused of their playoff ambitions.

Daily fantasy is getting ready to generate more losers in 2015 than ever before. Each year in the history of daily fantasy sports has been bigger than the last, and September has become the biggest month for new fans trying the game, which combines the stats-jockeying of traditional fantasy contests with the thrills of old-fashioned sports betting. (Fantasy sports are exempted from the federal ban on sports gambling.) FanDuel and DraftKings, the two main services, will bring in a combined $60 million in entry fees in the first week of the NFL season, according to Adam Krejcik, a partner at Eilers Research. Sports books in Las Vegas, by contrast, are expected to handle about $30 million.

The rival startups prospered in football's offseason. Both companies raised huge new rounds of investment, bringing DraftKings’s total haul to $426 million and FanDuel’s to $363 million, and both are now valued at more than $1 billion. To get to the size their investors are expecting requires a continuous stream of new players lured by ever-increasing prize pools with the help of muscular advertising campaigns. These ads never spell out a simple truth about daily fantasy competitions: While any player might get lucky on the back of a handful of entries, over time nearly all of the prize money flows to a tiny elite equipped with elaborate statistical modeling and automated tools that can manage hundreds of entries at once and identify the weakest opponents.

As in poker, the top fantasy players who make off with most of the prize money are known as "sharks," and they've become embodiments of the riches on offer as well as threats to conitnued growth. “We don’t make any apologies that it’s a game of skill, and you might go up against the best in the industry,” says Nigel Eccles, the chief executive of FanDuel. “Some of the people are really good.” But new players won't stick around to keep paying entry fees unless there's at least a sense that victory is possible. Nobody wants to be a fantasy football fish.

Saahil Sud is a fake-sports apex predator. He enters hundreds of daily contents each day in baseball and football under the name "maxdalury," and he almost always trounces the field. He claims to risk an average of $140,000 per day with a return of about 8 percent. Sud studied math and economics at Amherst College and took a job in data science at a digital marketing firm before shifting to full-time fantasy. He's now the top-ranked daily fantasy sports player, according to Rotogrinders, a stats site for daily fantasy players. He says he's made more than $2 million so far this year. (...)

What Sud does each day doesn’t seem much like sports fandom—or even like much fun. He spends between eight and 15 hours working from his two-bedroom apartment in downtown Boston; the range reflects his uncertainly over whether to count the time watching games as work. During baseball season he puts about 200 entries into tournaments each night, and he can play more than 1,000 times in the weekly contests during NFL season.

by Joshua Brustein, Bloomberg | Read more:
Image: 731; Photos: Alamy (1), Getty Images (1)