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Can You Win Playing Daily Fantasy Sports?

A little over a year ago, I started to hear about daily fantasy sports betting and was intrigued. I really love sports, and always felt like I was good at analyzing what was going on in the field or on the court better than the average joe. I had heard about other professional poker players taking it seriously, but had no idea if they were having any success or not. When I talked to some other poker players about daily fantasy, some were a bit incredulous. My brother Danny had just quit his job at a bank in Chicago and he seemed to think that daily fantasy was not only winnable, but something that could be more profitable than poker for us. Over a year later, I’m enjoying my 6th winning month in a row and I barely see the poker table anymore. It’s become very clear to me that yes, you can win playing daily fantasy sports.

Daily Fantasy is Filled With Inexperienced Players

A lot of people compare online poker and daily fantasy sports, and for good reason. It’s a strategy game you can play from your home, tournaments are awarding big money, and 20-something year olds from all over the US are making it into a job. It’s also becoming very popular, just like online poker did years ago, and it’s flooded with recreational players. If I were to compare the timeline of online poker to potential timeline of daily fantasy sports, daily fantasy is online poker circa 2003.

The biggest daily fantasy site, FanDuel, has published key financial numbers that show just how astounding the growth of the daily fantasy industry has been. Every year since 2011, FanDuel’s revenue has nearly tripled, and their paid active users have quadrupled. In most games I have played during the football season, there are at least 3 inexperienced players for every one professional. This sounds like what online poker used to look like, but not what it looked like around black Friday. Towards the end of my online poker career, the ratio was inverted: Most of my games had only 1 inexperienced player, and a table with two inexperienced players was one I considered to be a juicy game. And even at that point, in the decline of online poker, 100’s of players were making six figures or more a year. While it’s not easy to become a winner at daily fantasy, the profit potential is massive because of the amount of money inexperienced players are putting in every week.

The Pros Are Winning Big

The biggest winner in daily fantasy football on FanDuel wagers a lot of money per week. I don’t know the exact number, but given the amount of games he is sitting in a rough estimate of how many games he is playing in, I would say he at least wagers $300,000 a week. Assuming he at least has the same ROI as I do, and his ROI is certainly better, a rough estimate of his expected winnings for the football season is $1,020,000. This is for just the 4 months of the football season. In basketball, he likely wagers over $20,000-$50,000 per day. And this is just on FanDuel. So it’s safe to say the most winning daily fantasy professional is at least making millions of dollars.

There have been at least 5 daily fantasy professionals who have won tournaments for over $1,000,000 this year. There are countless more who wager over a million dollars a year. Winning pros are not just winning a nice supplement to their income, they are making careers out of playing daily fantasy.

You Can Learn To Predict Fantasy Statistics

Predicting whether a player is going to have a good fantasy day is a skill. There may be some days where a good pick does poorly or gets an unlucky break, but in the long run if you make good picks you will make money.

You can learn to predict fantasy statistics using matchups.  Over/Under lines and fantasy points allowed are just some statistics you can use to help predict fantasy performance. You can learn to properly measure the impact of injuries and offseason acquisitions on fantasy performance. You can also learn how to take advantage of each DFS sites pricing algorithm and scoring system to build optimal lineups. There are countless ways you can get an edge over your opponents.

You Won’t Win Right Away

I’ve told friends and poker players to get into Daily Fantasy, and some have with a little success. With those who haven’t succeeded, I see the same problem over and over again. They expect to develop quickly and don’t put enough time and energy into learning. When they don’t win immediately, they decide it’s just not for them.

I started playing daily fantasy at the end of the 2013 football season. Looking back at that season, I was clearly a losing daily fantasy player. But I knew I was getting better, and I felt like I could become a winning player. I decided to dive into daily fantasy basketball after the football season was over, and had similar struggles. My account balance went up and down throughout the season, and a win streak was never sustained. But I could tell I was getting better, and by the end of the season I started to win more consistently. The differences between my lineups and the lineups of players I knew were winning pros became smaller and smaller. I knew if I was at least making similar picks to winning players, that I was theoretically winning too.

It wasn’t until baseball season, about 7 months after I started playing daily fantasy, that I became a consistent winner. Danny and I made prediction model for fantasy baseball that continued to improve over the season. In July, I had the biggest winning month of my career, and have not had a losing month since. If I keep up my winning pace next year, I’ll have a better year in daily fantasy than I ever had playing poker, and I’ve been playing poker for nearly 10 years. And I don’t think I’m special. I wasn’t a sports junkie and I never was a good season long fantasy football player. Many of you reading this article are way better equipped to win at daily fantasy sports than I was when I started, and I think anyone who commits to learning how to play daily fantasy could easily do as well as I have, if not better.

View all posts by Max J Steinberg
Max J Steinberg

About the Author

Max J Steinberg Max Steinberg is a professional poker player and a top Daily Fantasy player who uses his creativity and mathematical abilities he cultivated as a poker player to win money on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He already has several big tournament scores to his name including the Victiv Bowl and countless MLB Monster wins. Follow him on twitter @maxjsteinberg.

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