I just lost money on DraftKings, the $1 billion fantasy-sports site — and I’m probably never going back

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A DraftKings TV ad.
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YouTube

I’m a pretty big sports fan and love playing fantasy sports.

So when I heard about daily-fantasy-sports sites, where you can bet real money, I had to give it a try.

But I ended up losing money. And I’m not sure if I want to play there again.

Here’s why:


Daily-fantasy-sports sites have been going wild lately. DraftKings and FanDuel, the top two sites in this space, are both worth over $1 billion.

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Stephan Savoia/AP

If you’re wondering why they’re legal — when sports gambling is not in most states — it’s because they’re legally considered a “game of skill,” not a “game of chance.”

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DraftKings

I’m a pretty experienced fantasy sports guy, so I was confident I’d win some money going into it.

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REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

I joined DraftKings over FanDuel only because I saw its ads during the MLB playoffs. Both companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on ads.

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty

The league I joined was called “Millionaire Maker.” Although I only bet $20, I had a chance to win up to $1.2 million. Up to 88,500 people (out of 359,617 contestants) in this particular league would get paid at least $30.

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DraftKings

You don’t have to play fantasy football, like I did. It offers games in almost every sport.

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DraftKings

The rules are straightforward: put together the best team possible while staying under your virtual $50,000 budget.

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DraftKings

The key is to spend wisely: Fill the roster with as many undervalued players (who most people are not aware of) who you think will score big.

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Paramount

I started with the Jets defense because they gave up the least number of yards this year. Plus, I’m a Jets fan.

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Al Bello/Getty

The Jets’ Brandon Marshall has been playing out of his mind this season, so I got him as my wide receiver.

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DraftKings

I went with Tom Brady at QB. He’s the most expensive player and was playing against the Colts, a team he’s crushed many times in the past. The Colts defense has also given up the fifth-most yards this season.

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Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Another no-brainer pick: Adrian Peterson. The Vikings’ running back has been one of the best fantasy players for many years.

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Justin Edmonds/Getty

I filled the rest of the roster with sleeper picks, like Julius Thomas, who just got back from an injury, at tight end. Same with Justin Forsett, who was scheduled to play a weak 49ers defense. Both were owned by less than 2.5% of the teams.

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DraftKings

Here’s what my final roster looked like.

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DraftKings

Things seemed to go well at the start. A lot of my sleeper picks, like Thomas, Forsett, and Allen Robinson scored better than expected. Marshall and Brady both had big games too.

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DraftKings

But my team never cracked the 88,500 rank threshold to win any money. My team toiled around 136,000th place all day.

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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

It was largely because of one player: Adrian Peterson. The guy I spent the second most on ended up scoring only 6.7 points. If he had put up his average ~20 points, I would have easily cracked 88,500th place.

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DraftKings

It was really frustrating because I had no control over Peterson’s play. Once you make your picks, your skills become irrelevant — the outcome is dictated by how the players perform, which means if you’re unlucky like me and your best player tanks, you’re screwed.

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Flickr / Julian Youllhavetobuymeadrinkfirst

That made me think: Is this really a game of skills? My “skills” only applied in the player selection process. The rest of the game was left to the players — or almost sheer luck.

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US Chess Championship

But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the best daily-fantasy-sports players. Some of the top daily-fantasy-sports players, like Jonathan Bales, claim to make hundreds of thousands of dollars on these sites.

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Jonathan Bales

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The time and effort they put into finding players and predicting who will play well is truly mind-blowing. He tracks player data on this spreadsheet. “I’ll out-predict [sports reporters] every week. It’s not even close,” Bales told Tech Insider.

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Jonathan Bales

This is how my team compares to the No. 1 team last week in my league. I don’t know how this guy did it, but he was able to find cheap players who scored tons of points, like LeGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory.

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DraftKings

It’s why I don’t think I’ll ever play daily-fantasy-ever again: I’ll never be able to compete with the best players unless I really spend a lot of time analyzing player data and performance.

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FIDE

Plus, I’d like to have more direct impact on the actual performance of my players. Maybe I should just stick to playing Madden online.

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Screenshot/Matt Weinberger

I might not be the only person who’s upset about the game. DraftKings is reported to have been “inundated with calls” from customers questioning the company after it faced allegations of insider trading. Prosecutors are looking into the case now.

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Thomson Reuters

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