Fantasy sports have always been an entertaining, yet frustrating, endeavor for me. Every year after my league’s draft, the optimistic thoughts consume me and lead me to believe that this year is my year and nothing can go wrong.
However, injuries and players underperforming are the unpredictable and inevitable realities of professional sports. For people who spent high draft picks on players like Dez Bryant, Tony Romo or DeMarco Murray, their season might already be in free fall. But fear not, there is an alternative out there and it is called daily fantasy sports (DFS).
FanDuel and DraftKings, who mind you are being investigated by the New York Attorney General after claims their employees could gain an inside edge on the competition, are the two leaders in DFS. Their advertisements can be seen everywhere from commercials, to billboards to social media. The leagues offered on these sites require no long-term commitment, and there is a league for all major sports, including collegiate sports.
The concept is simple: After making a deposit and choosing a league, participants then assemble a roster of athletes while staying under a set salary cap. Each athlete is given a price based on their projected statistical output. For example, on FanDuel reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers is “worth” $9,200 while former backup turned starter Kirk Cousins is given a price of $6,400.
There has been great debate recently of whether or not daily fantasy sports should be considered illegal gambling based on luck or a game of skill, which rewards knowledge. The federal government, along with 45 states, consider fantasy sports a game of skill.
“All winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants and are determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of the per- formance of individuals (athletes in the case of sports events) in multiple real-world sporting or other events,” the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act says.
I could not agree more.
I entered a league in FanDuel for the first time this past football Sunday. I have always considered myself a knowledgeable sports fan, so I did no research whatsoever and only slightly considered factors such as weather, matchups or any other analytics that would have put me in a favorable position. While there is a considerable amount of luck involved, it is the people who consider all of these factors and put in a great deal of research consider- ing a number of variables that take home the giant checks. My only winnings of the weekend was a $5 return on a $2 entry fee, where I came in 26,562nd place out of 229,885 contestants.
And to start the day, I really thought I had a chance at the $25,000 first-place prize.
Skilled players also make profit by selecting high-risk, high-reward players that could catapult owners to a greater payout. This means taking a chance on a player like Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who rushed for 68 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, rather than piling up a roster of players that casual fans are likely to choose, like Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady, who put out consistent performances week to week.
DFS are no more of a gamble than playing the stock market, or any other sort of investment for that matter.
There is research to back this position, as well. Ed Miller and Daniel Singer published an analysis of daily fantasy leagues in Major League Baseball in the Sports Business Journal. They found that in the first half of the 2015 MLB season, 91 percent of DFS player profits were won by just 1.3 percent of players.
There is no luck in that statistic. There are people who are choosing to make a living off of DFS because they can. But not with luck—with skill.
Matt Zeigafuse is a communication studies major from Phillipsburg, N.J. He can be reached at matthew. firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattZeigafuse.