FanDuel, DraftKings, What’s the Catch?

The commercials are everywhere. FanDuel and DraftKings ads pepper the airwaves. The ads show ordinary people just like you and me (or maybe a little bit dumber) who’ve won millions playing fantasy football. But what’s the catch? What are the odds? Can ordinary sports fans really win $1 million or $2 million on deposits of $35? The short answer is, it’s highly unlikely.

The real dope on FanDuel, DraftKings and other daily fantasy sports sites is this: most people lose, about 14% win beer money and the top 1% take home 91% of the winnings. Some of those top 1% are math and statistics geeks. Some have powerful homemade stats picker software at their disposal. By the numbers, the average sports fan actually has a better chance of getting struck by lightning, becoming a real pro athlete or dating a supermodel than winning millions at DraftKings or FanDuel.

Oh, the FanDrool

FanDuel DraftKings ProbabilityThe ads make it look like a no brainer. One player in the TV spot above says, “I’ve deposited a total of $35 on FanDuel and won over $2 million.” He doesn’t look like a rocket scientist. He’s got some unruly stubble and looks younger than 35. Most people watching the ad will get the same impression: If this guy can do it, I can do it. But there is definitely a catch. Odds are, the people in the ads are one in a million. Note the fine print at the bottom of the screen. “Results are not typical.” That means the typical FanDuel player isn’t going to win big. But wait. Also in the fine print are the words, “Average entry is $6.33. Average winnings are $22.43.” So even if a player doesn’t win millions, they’re still going to win, right? Wrong. So what’s the catch?

Results Not Typical. Average Isn’t Typical Either.

The fine print that says “results are not typical” at the bottom of the ads is dead on. Most FanDuel and Draft Kings players won’t win millions playing daily fantasy sports. But the additional info about “average winnings” isn’t typical either. That’s because “typical” doesn’t mean “average.” Here’s the short explanation:

Take a group of ten people. 9 of them have $100,000 in the bank. One is Bill Gates. The typical member of the group has $100,000. The average is worth $8 billion. That’s because average adds up their money and divides by 10. Typical or median just means the middle-of-the-bunch member.FanDuel DraftKings Whats the Catch

Only 1% Win Big, and 85% Lose

According to research by SportsBusinessDaily, 1% of the players on daily fantasy sports sites like FanDuel and Draft Kings win 91% of the money. Their research comes from the Major League Baseball side of the sites. Still, the numbers most likely hold true for fantasy football as well.

In MLB daily fantasy sports, only 11 people in the league took home winnings of $135,000 or more. 1% won 91% of the money, 14% won a small amount and the other 85% lost money, with 5% losing big. Those aren’t very good odds.

Breaking that down even further, the real catch is, only .0007% in the study won big. The rest of the top 1% won about $2,400. The next 14% took home less than $50. A further 80% lost $160 for the season, while about 5% lost an average of $9,400.

According to the SportsBusiness Daily Study

Winnings for FanDuel / DraftKings Players % of Players
$100,000+ .0007%
$2,400 1%
$50 14%
-$160 85%
-$9,400 5%

Also see: How Much Money Can You Win at Fantasy Football?

You’re More Likely to Get Struck by Lightning

So what’s the catch? With FanDuel and DraftKings, the catch is that players are more likely to get struck by lightning that win millions. In fact, ads that show ordinary folks like you and me talking about getting struck by lightning would be more representative of real odds than daily fantasy sports ads.

Taking that a step further, you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to be a real live pro athlete or date a supermodel. That said, the odds are still higher of any one American doing either of those things than winning millions at FanDuel or DraftKings. That’s according to the study done by SportsBusinessDaily.

FanDuel/DraftKings Odds VS… Odds
Odds of winning $100,000+ at FanDuel 1 in 136,363
Odds of getting struck by lightning 1 in 3,000
Odds of being a pro athelete 1 in 22,000
Odds of dating a supermodel 1 in 88,000

Also see: How Much Money Does an NBA Player Make?

So Who Are These Big FanDuel and DraftKings Winners?

FanDuel DraftKings OddsIt’s illegal to lie in advertisements, right? So somebody is winning big at DraftKings and FanDuel. The catch is, those somebodies aren’t generally like you and me. While the odd average Joe may strike it rich playing daily fantasy sports, the very few people who do win big are usually anything but average.

The consistent #1 daily fantasy sports winner across both sites according to fantasy sports stats site has the handle Maxdalury. Maxdalury’s real name is Saahil Sud. Sud’s LinkedIn profile describes him as a “data science consultant” and programmer. Among Sud’s accomplishments are the development of a program that predicts whether a consumer will buy a car based on “logistic regression.” He also created a Google keyword bidding algorithm and worked doing daily analysis and projections for a company called Autotegrity ADP. Among Sud’s top skills, he lists data analysis, data mining, statistical modeling and predictive modeling, not to mention programming in several languages. In other words, Maxdalury is anything but average and so far from typical you’d need a railgun to hit him from there.


Sports Business Daily