Jay Caspian Kang, in the New York Times Magazine, wrote a good overview of what daily fantasy sports are and how they're currently rigged against casual players.
I initially intended to write an article about the bro culture that had sprouted up around D.F.S., which, from a distance, reminded me of the sweaty, sardonic camaraderie you typically see at high-stakes poker events. At the time, the crusade against D.F.S. felt a few degrees too hot — DraftKings and FanDuel struck me as obviously gambling sites, but the game itself felt sort of like homework. You research players. You build a spreadsheet. You project data and enter a team. You watch the team either fulfill or fall short of your projections. The next day, you start over again. The ruinous thrill of other forms of gambling — sports betting, blackjack, poker — just wasn’t there.
Instead, I came across a different sort of problem: a rapacious ecosystem in which high-volume gamblers, often aided by computer scripts and optimization software that allow players to submit hundreds or even thousands of lineups at a time, repeatedly take advantage of new players, who, after watching an ad, deposit some money on DraftKings and FanDuel and start betting.
The biggest problem is that expert players relentlessly hunt for, and take advantage of, inexperienced players.
Bumhunting” is a word that comes from the poker world. It means seeking out an inexperienced player and mercilessly exploiting him for all he’s worth. Bumhunters are pariahs because they turn what can be a cerebral, competitive game into its most cynical iteration, and, in the process, discourage that new player from ever coming back. But poker has built-in safeguards against rampant bumhunting — new players tend to play at lower limits, which make it harder for bumhunters to take in huge profits. The bumhunter’s dream is to play thousands of games of poker a day against a never-ending line of fresh, inexperienced newbies. He falls short of that lofty goal because he has to actually bet, raise or fold his hands – he can play multiple tables at once, but he cannot fully automate his bumhunting.
In the game lobbies of DraftKings and FanDuel, however, sharks are free to flood the marketplace with thousands of entries every day, luring inexperienced, bad players into games in which they are at a sizable disadvantage. The imbalanced winnings in D.F.S. have been an open secret since this past September, when Bloomberg Businessweek published an exposé on the habits of high-volume players. The numbers are damning. According to DraftKings data obtained by the New York State attorney general’s office, between 2013 and 2014, 89.3 percent of players had a negative return on investment. A recent McKinsey study showed that in the first half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, 91 percent of the prize money was won by a mere 1.3 percent of the players.
It's nearly impossible to avoid being matched against someone who vastly exceeds your own skill level.
For the 17 weeks I played D.F.S., whether at a $5 entry fee or for $100, I routinely was matched up against top players. But unless I examined win rates and researched the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents, I would never have known that I was being repeatedly bumhunted by high-volume players.
On Dec. 16, for example, I entered three $20 N.B.A. head-to-head contests on DraftKings. My opponents were gunz4hire, Dinkpiece and Nadia4Fashion. Gunz4hire was then ranked 47th on the Rotogrinders players ranking and is generally considered one of the better players in the world. Dinkpiece, who was 20th on that same list, is the alias for Drew Dinkmeyer, a former stock trader whose winnings in D.F.S. have been so well publicized that he has his own Wall Street Journal stipple drawing.
On Christmas, the biggest day in the N.B.A.’s regular season, I entered 17 head-to-head contests on DraftKings for prices between $1 and $20. Once again, I was matched up against Dinkpiece and gunz4hire, along with a handful of other professionals.
The next day, I entered three more $20 N.B.A. contests. I was able to avoid Dinkpiece and gunz4hire, but found myself in a $20 head-to-head against Birdwings, the 2nd-ranked player in the Rotogrinders rankings.
In three days, I played three of the best D.F.S. players in the world.
Kang ends with a hope for the future. I was glad to see that he didn't call for a large, regulatory framework or an entire shutdown of the daily fantasy sports industry. Instead, he points out that simple transparency could eliminate much of the problem.
There is, in theory, a version of D.F.S. that could work. All that’s required is a transparent marketplace in which a player can reasonably expect to enter a head-to-head or 50-50 or even one of the big-money tournaments without going up against hundreds of lineups generated by professional gamblers who have been lying in wait for him.