By Erik Helmle
Elm Staff Writer
To say that Draftkings.com has flooded the airwaves with their advertisements is a grand understatement. The likelihood of the average television viewer not seeing at least one advertisement for any fantasy football website per day is hilariously low as the businesses have utilized blast marketing to promote their weekly games. As you may know, the basic idea behind websites like Draftkings is to make money by competing against others in online fantasy football. The key to this appeal is their emphasis on inexpensive and noncommittal “pick-up-and-play” games of skill mixed with the unpredictable luck and probability that the National Football League brings. The NFL is by far the most popular section of Draftkings; the website also has games for the national leagues of baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, mixed martial arts, and even stock car racing, i.e. NASCAR.
Fantasy football websites that feature the betting of real money are still quite controversial. The states of Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada and Washington do not allow their citizens to participate in fantasy football leagues such as Draftkings.com because they consider it gambling. Draftkings takes the legal status of their games very seriously, and actively campaigns to get their games legalized in those states. The main argument that websites like Drafkings use to justify the status of their games as competitive and not luck-based ,which constitutes gambling, and is illegal to do online, is that their games take a certain amount of skill to play and succeed in. Many have likened it to a comparison between poker, a game which is possible to win without skill but is considered very competitive and skill-based, and slots, which are almost completely random and not competitive.
All of the hype, controversy, and potential financial profit made this a simple decision for me. On Oct. 24, I registered for Draftkings.com and deposited a meager $10. The app on my phone demanded that I activate the GPS location function to verify that I was within a state that allows me to play its games, after which I navigated to the “lobby” that holds all of the games and found that there were a plethora of options. Head-to-head pits two players against each other to decide who wins 90 percent of the total pot, with the website taking the other 10 percent. Double Ups, Steps, 50/50s, and Multipliers are all group games that can include a number of players that range from 32 to 10,000 all trying to walk away with more than they put down. Just like the advertisements state, game entry fees range anywhere from one dollar to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. I picked a few inexpensive games and selected my lineups.
Selecting a lineup is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Each player you select has a cost attached to it based upon his projected points for the coming week, which means that fantasy studs like Le’Veon Bell will cost you significantly more than an average player like Rashad Jennings. In most lineups you have to choose one quarterback, two wide receivers, two running backs, one tight end, one defense, one kicker, and one “flex” player who can be a tight end, running back, or wide receiver. All of these players must total below a designated “cap total,” which forces you to make compromises between studs and middle-of-the-road players in order to yield enough points to win the game. In my case, I had to forgo selecting O’Dell Beckham Jr. in favor of Brandon Cooks because Cooks cost me significantly less cap money. This process can create much anxiety, but understanding that all other players go through this same hand-wringing process made me feel a bit better. Once the Monday night games ended, Draftkings.com alerted me that I had won $2 in two separate leagues that had each cost me $1 to enter. Thank you, Danny Woodhead. My pleasant surprise was dampened, however, by another notification telling me that I had completely failed in another league that had cost me $3. Thanks for nothing, LaGarette Blount. I took the results in stride and prepared to play the following week.
That following Saturday, I set my lineups once again. This time, however, I decided to “go big or go home” and bet my entire $9 on two contests that featured a larger number of participants and a larger pot to win. I failed miserably, mostly due to Carson Palmer and the Cardinals’ defense, but I also saw in hindsight that I shouldn’t have placed that much faith in a Cardinals team that had been floundering the past two weeks. I found Draftkings.com to be heavily dependent upon my skills of perception and logical deduction, but I implore you to give them a shot to see how you really feel about them. You just might find it fun or even profitable.