Two days ago, some guy sitting at home made more money watching baseball than Clayton Kershaw made in his start for the Dodgers. His name – well we don’t know his real name, but we’ll assume it’s Max, based on his Draftkings handle “Maxdalury.”
If you’re unfamiliar with daily fantasy sports (DFS), get familiar with it because it’s truly the next big thing in the sports world. The format simply reduces the length of fantasy leagues to one-day tournaments. What this means is that you bet (legally - unless you’re in Arizona, Louisiana, Iowa, Montana or Washington) anywhere from a quarter to $10,600 to enter a tournament, and choose players based on the matchups of the day.
In Max’s case, he heavily favored Kershaw’s matchup against the Braves en route to out-earning him. Thanks to a thorough analysis at Rotogrinders, the hub for daily fantasy advice , we can see that Max chose Kershaw as one of his two pitchers 884 times out of 888 total lineups. That’s right, he entered 888 lineups at $27 a piece into a relatively small-scale tournament paying out $1 million in total prizes, meaning he risked upwards of $24,000 that night.
The night was historic for the daily fantasy sports world because it was the first documented night where a DFS player out-earned a major league star without winning a big tournament. Kershaw earned $190,000 for his start. Max won just over $200,000. There are several events per season per sport in DFS where a top prize pays out $1 million or so, but this was just a regular Tuesday. There was no event in Vegas, no Bahamas VIP experience; just a $27 entry tournament like the ones offered every single day on Draftkings and other daily fantasy sites.
This singular event is important for the DFS industry as a whole. We have possibly reached a tipping point here where the top fantasy performers will routinely out-earn the top athletes they bet on. The industry is growing exponentially thanks to increased exposure from partnerships with major sports leagues. Draftkings is an official sponsor of the MLB, while the industry leader Fanduel is an official sponsor of the NBA and NFL.
The rate at which prize pools are increasing due to this increased exposure is astonishing. I began playing DFS less than a year ago, and one of the first contests I entered was a $25 tournament on Fanduel paying out $55,000 in total prizes. Today, almost exactly eight months later, that very same tournament is paying out $200,000. This mirrors the fact that Fanduel quadrupled their revenue in 2014.
I guess what all this leads to is a question: if the Maxdalurys of this world are making more than Clayton Kershaw on your average Tuesday, how much will the top dogs be making in the near-future? Daily games still only have about 10% of the market share compared to season-long contests according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA).
My take: forget about out-earning Kershaw, in five years Max might just buy the Dodgers so he can leave Kershaw in the whole game to rack up more fantasy points.