Today’s Daily Fantasy Sports Controversy

I first learned about it from industry friends, who pointed to a story in today’s New York Times.  The story originally broke in a discussion forum at

It seems a Draft Kings employee who writes about ownership percentages (how many Draft Kings players rostered particular NFL players in any given week) at Draft Kings finished second in a Week 3 contest at FanDuel and took home $350,000.

This same DK employee had accidentally published the ownership percentages before the DK games had locked that same week, demonstrating that some individuals have access. This wasn’t known before.

Big fantasy tournaments have thousands of entries, and there is a competitive advantage in avoiding commonly-rostered players. So the first question is whether the employee was using his Draft Kings information at FanDuel?

The second question is who actually has access to his information and, while they’re not allowed to play on the sites they work for, do they use it to play on other sites?

The answers are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, murky. Daily fantasy sports is an unregulated (so far) business. And while that seems likely to change, for now players are reliant on their trust of the game makers themselves.

The website has an excellent What we know now about the situation, which attempts to answer all the questions raised here.

It’s hard for me to believe that these games are intentionally crooked. There seems to be too much money to be made for them to cut corners, but it is also true that if there is a way to get an advantage somehow someone is going to figure it out and take it. Which is why the legal gambling industry works hard to maintain a squeaky clean reputation. Trust is important.

Trust is unraveling in DFS, today, and the operators are going to have to work to earn it back.

The Ecstasy and Agony of Daily Fantasy Baseball.

My friend Ron Shandler does a good job describing the daily fantasy game in this story at Shandler Park, about a near-win in Tout Daily at FanDuel last week.

justinbourThe question is whether he did better because he put more time and effort into making those picks. It looks to me like you can certainly make bad picks by taking guys who don’t play that day, for instance, but there is so much variance from day to day that the reasonable picks (Bour versus Adams, on any particular night) are essentially a crap shoot.

Once you throw out the bad picks, the way the games play gives winners the illusion of control, while losers can only wish they’d picked better.


Tuesday Bloody Tuesday. A Daily Fantasy Sports Story.

I’m new to DFS. So new I still have to think about what DFS means. Daily Fantasy Sports. I’ve just started playing DFS this year, beginning with a FanDuel Opening Day Challenge to beat Rotoman. Only four did, beat Rotoman I mean. I finished fifth, and took home $20. That was fun.

Since then I’ve played in the two Tout Wars Daily contests and finished in the middle of the pack, and a freeroll in which I picked fairly capriciously and didn’t do very well. But I hadn’t really tried, so whatever.

In the meantime, I also set up an account at Draft Kings, because I wanted to compare the two games and it bought me a Baseball Prospectus membership. In my first game there I finished fifth, won $15, and thought, gee, this is easy!

Actually, not. What I mostly thought was that I’d done well in small stakes games in which I spent some real time making real decisions after real effort to set a good lineup. To do that and make $10 or $15 each time is simply not worth it. Who has the time?

Yesterday, thinking about this, I got interested in two big contests, one each at FanDuel and Draft Kings.

At Draft Kings some 38,300 $3 entries would be competing for $100,000, paid out to 785 places.

At FanDuel, 6,850 $5 entries were chasing $30,000, paid out to 1,296 places.

brettandersonI’m not going to go into details about my rosters, but the only common players on the two teams were Bret Anderson, pitcher, who was a late replacement for Taijuan Walker, who I chickened out on, and Alex Rodriguez, who seemed a likely beneficiary of a stiff breeze out to left field at Comerica Park against Kyle Lobstein.

Notice how his name starts with L-O-B? He’s not a flamethrower.

In Draft Kings I had the bright idea of taking Michael Fiers as my second starter, which didn’t help, but the fact is that both my teams, checkered with stars and power bats playing in ballparks with the wind blowing out and bad opposing starters, were disasters.

My Draft Kings team, which featured no Reds, who knocked the bejeeziz out of the Brewers whole staff, and finished 36,826, finishing ahead of only the 1,500 souls who built their teams around Bud Norris.

And FanDuel was worse. My pathetic squad finished 6,879 out of 6,896.

Who were the winners? In both leagues, teams that loaded up on Reds and Blue Jays, not the Yankees and Indians I focused on. The same guy finished first, second, third, and fourth in Draft Kings, starting Francisco Liriano in two, Colin McHugh in three, Chris Archer in one and Nick Martinez in the other.

All four of his teams had Joey Votto, three had Brandon Phillips, all had Jay Bruce. They all also had Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton. Did I mention that the Reds scored 16 runs last night? Many of them against Michael Fiers?

Many players make multiple entries. The team that finished last yesterday in FanDuel, also finished next to last. Multiple entries don’t increase your odds of winning, unless you win all your bets, but they do increase your action. Looking deep in the standings I found teams that submitted four identical entries that finished in the mid 37 thousands in Draft Kings. Presumably on other days things go better than that.

A more interesting question is whether it is better to load up with players from a single team, or to take them from a variety of games. Is it easier to pick the game with the most outsized scoring results, or the players facing the best matchups in the best parks? And how much do player prices shift to adjust from day to day? I don’t know, and clearly I have more to learn before I’ll be taking these games seriously.

Have I learned any other lessons? Well, the key one is the one that got me interested in the first place. Any single day’s results are pretty arbitrary. Before yesterday’s brawl, the Reds were the fourth lowest scoring team in the NL, while Milwaukee was the lowest. So the race is a long one, maybe best measured by the year and its winnings, just like regular year-long fantasy. The big difference, I don’t ever have to roster Fiers again.




My Advanced Sportstistics Team.

For the record… There is still time to play!

I picked a team that costs $186,000,000, like the Yankees were supposed to this year.

I started by taking starters, going with the two cheapest starters who were not pitching for teams that had clinched. These were Jerome Williams ($8.6M) versus the desultory Braves, and Jarred Cosart ($7.0) versus the resting Nats.

I then took five expensive infielders on the Tigers and As (playing to clinch) and the Mets, Cubs, Nats and Marlins, who are probably facing weak pitching. These are Miguel Cabrera ($30M), Ian Kinsler ($23M), Lucas Duda ($22M), Josh Donaldson ($23M) and Ryan Howard ($16M).

The three outfielders: Adam Jones ($25M), Marcel Ozuna ($14.1M) and Adam Jones ($18.7).

I ended up with Howard and Jones because their counterparts in my favored teams list were Nats. I didn’t want to see my hitters facing Jarred Cosart, so I looked elsewhere.

No idea if this is smart. Results tomorrow.

Beat Rotoman in a Daily Game, this Friday!

Screenshot 2014-09-22 20.16.00It’s free! And if you beat me you can win a $10 entry to a future game.

I don’t know much about that, but what I do know is that I’ve never played a daily game before. So I’m inexperienced.

I know, too, that while the illustration shows a football player, I’m playing baseball.

I also know this game is the work of a guy named Brandon Ward, who runs a Daily Game site called Advanced Sportstistics. You can register and join FreeRoll3 from this page.

Brandon’s gimmick is advanced stats. Hitters accrue points for Runs Created, among other things, while pitchers gain points for FIP (and, non analytically, wins).

I’m not sure about the categories, there seems to be a problem with redundancy, but the game is free, so I’m going to give it a try. And I’m going to beat you.

Good luck!