Comfortable and Furious

“Is Daily Fantasy Gambling?” And other DFS questions.

Is daily fantasy gambling? Is it a game of skill or chance?

This is a false dichotomy and DFS is gambling. There’s no ambiguity or room for argument. It is gambling. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong or lying.

Firstly, almost every form of gambling can be described as a game of skill if you play it skillfully and a game of chance if you play it unskillfully. You probably know people can win at blackjack, sports betting and poker based on skill. You might not know that you can beat video poker, slot machines, roulette and even the lottery with skill. Yep, the lottery. Though only scratcher tickets as far as I know. Not picking the balls.

How do you win at all that stuff?

I don’t know the details in every case. But you are always doing the same thing. You are trying to find a bet where your expected payout is high enough to make the wager profitable. For example, if I offer to flip a fair coin with you and you win $1.25 when you call it correctly and I win a dollar when you call it incorrectly, you have found a profitable bet.

This can also happen when a slot machine has an inflated progressive jackpot, or when a sports team is more likely to win than the bookies odds suggest, or when a roulette wheel is biased, or when you know that there are a lot of tens and aces left in a blackjack deck and so on.

You can argue that poker is a special case because it has bluffing. But on the other hand, a bluff is just a bet that is either profitable or not.

The primary skill in DFS is finding players who are underpriced and assembling a team that will return more value than what you paid for it. This differentiates it from any other form of gambling in the following ways: there is no difference whatsoever.

Why did Nevada make DFS illegal?

It didnt. Nevada demanded that, as a gambling enterprise, it submit to the same licensing and regulatory requirements as any other gambling enterprise. Because DFS sites are pretending that they arent gambling, they had little choice but to refuse.

Why is DFS not usually considered gambling?

A federal law restricting online gambling made an explicit exception for fantasy sports as games of skill. I don’t know if this was because Yahoo! and ESPN paid someone off, or because some representative had a brain tumor and momentarily considered the well being of his constituents, thinking we don’t want to write a law that criminalizes the harmless recreational activity of millions. At least not today. DFS sites used that window to create de facto, legalized sports betting with a hefty takeout for the house.
What about the scandal I heard about? Are people who work for the sites cheating to beat the customers?

Well, it wasnt technically cheating because it was within the rules of the site. But, like online poker sites, DFS sites have rules that allow behavior that feels a lot like cheating to average people. Basically, someone can compete against you for money, using a bunch of stuff you don’t know about to gain a competitive advantage. The only reason it isnt cheating is that the people who run the games and make the rules say it is OK.

How does that work in this case?

The employes of one site are able to see all the teams assembled for their games. They then use that information to their advantage in games at other sites.


Ive heard different thoughts, all from people smarter than I am. But the key is that in the big multiplayer contests or tournaments, it is an advantage to go against the grain and pick players who are not widely used. That way, if your playershit big, you will gain ground on a most other teams. If a player is too widely owned, his big performance only ties you with the other teams. If it stops here, some experts, like NBA bettor Haralabos Voulgaris, suggest it is only a small advantage. Which is also a small consolation to the person who finishes one or two spots behind the beneficiary of insider trading and misses out on the big score that they rightfully earned.

A more lucrative possibility could be to identify specific combinations of players that are not widely held. That way, you know with an even higher degree of certainty that your team is unique and you will have an easier time picking your high value players.

Another possibility is that you are able to see the rosters of regular, winning players and simply copy them.

The latter two points were made by Dave Molinsky and Steve Fezzik who work for Pregame which is a site that sells sports betting picks of questionable quality. Of course, that doesnt stop the proprietor, RJ Bell from being a regular on ESPN. So you can see how quickly everything in gambling becomes murky.

What if DFS sites prohibit their employees from playing?

The’ll just use friends or family as proxies. Duh. And its all legal and technically not cheating. This is why gambling needs to be regulated. When there’s money to be made and no rules, scumbaggery will run rampant, as it did and still does in online poker.

But on the other hand, state lottos are actually run by the government and they know perfectly well that people game scratcher tickets in a similar fashion to the detriment of 99.9% of customers and they couldnt care less. So maybe once they get their licensing fees they won’t care what happens in DFS.

What else?

Well, the sites offer deposit bonuses but they are released at a rate so glacial that I think it’s a border line bait and switch. It’s more that you get to play with reduced juice for a while than you are getting a bonus. It is better to have it than not, but you are still at risk while earning your bonus.


The first time I reviewed one of these sites, I criticized the fact that they allow bots and unlimited entries. That means that the best players can enter thousands of lineups a day and play even in the smallest games. So, if you are not careful, you’re constantly playing against the best players, even if you play small stakes. And these pros account for the overwhelming majority of winnings.The reality of DFS is really nothing at all like the advertising. Its all pretty sleazy in that regard.

What about the DFS experts at ESPN and similar outlets?

The consensus seems to be that they are semi-frauds, much like sports betting touts. From what I saw they were quick to whitewash the insider trading scandal. They don’t address the realities of playing DFS. Some have been accused of posting bogus results for their play. You certainly aren’t going to win by copying plays that are included in a podcast or Sports Center but perhaps you will lose at a lower rate. That can be fine, like learning optimal blackjack strategy. If it is presented that way, I have no problem with it. It is kind of funny how quickly a company like ESPN will jump into the gambling/tout game though.

But would ESPN really lie to me?



Grafting themselves on to ESPN, The NFL and MLB was a brilliant move by DFS companies. Not only does it provide a sense of legitimacy, but it provides them a powerful ally when it comes to stuff like bribing legislators. To do away with DFS would now meaning taking a lot of money out of the pockets of very powerful people.

This leads to the only point that really impacts me. I would like to see normal sports betting and online poker legalized across the US. I suspect that DFS sites and their allies will use their money and legitimacy to push back on that, much as Indian tribes with casinos often block other tribes from getting casinos.

Should I play?

Well, these are legitimate US companies so one good thing is that your money is hopefully safe when deposited. And these sites are hopefully not ponzi schemes. And if they do break the law, they can be sued. This is not the case with some gambling sites I use, where I know my money might vanish at any time and there would be nothing I could do about it.

Right, but I don’t want to be cheated.

Of course not. But gambling is kind of a cesspool, if you haven’t picked up on that yet. If you play poker, you’ll be cheated too. But you can still make money at it. Honestly, Id say DFS is cleaner and much more difficult to cheat at than poker. You know, I’ve heard stories that insider trading even takes place in the stock market. Sometimes a less deserving co-worker gets a promotion, or the girl you like dates a lying creep or your mechanic overcharges you or a cop writes you a bullshit ticket.

OK, bottom line, can I win?

A)If you fly by the seat of your pants and play your hunches, you can win in the short run but are very, very likely to lose in the long run. If you hit some massive contest prize and don’t gamble back all your winnings, you’ll be a winner. Just like with lotto, slots, poker tournaments, etc.

B) If you grind it out with hard work and are reasonably intelligent you can probably make a few bucks an hour.

C) If you’re a super smart math guy with spreadsheets and bots you might be able to make a lot.

In cases A) and B) there’s nothing wrong with playing if you enjoy it. Even in case A, your hours of entertainment per dollars lost should be pretty close to seeing a movie, unless you turn into a degenerate, which is possible.

Aren’t you an affiliate for these sites?
Why yes! If you’d like to have some sleazy fun, please sign up through us.
FanduelandDraft Kings