Daily Fantasy Sports and Poker: The Impact on Each Other
Out of the Black Friday ashes, online poker and skill-based games in general seem to be rising in the United States. A little over a week ago, online poker went live in New Jersey, and we expected online poker to be legal in other US states soon.
Another growing trend in the United States in the past few years is daily fantasy sports. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is fantasy sports that last just one day (or one weekend, in the case of football).
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For those of you that don't know what fantasy sports are (such as fantasy football), it is where you create a fake team of players from a bunch of different real-world teams. So, in American football, you may have a team with Tom Brady (from the New England Patriots), Calvin Johnson (from the Detroit Lions), and Adrian Peterson (from the Minnesota Vikings) for example.
Your team is scored based on the statistical output of each player. In American football, it would be based on yards, touchdowns, receptions, etc. In European football, you would get points for goals, assists, corner kicks, fouls against, crosses, and you would lose points if your player got a yellow card or red card.
In traditional fantasy sports, you have your fantasy team for a full season. In daily fantasy sports, you have your team just for a weekend or even just one day. The daily version allows for many more iterations during the season, so you don't do bad all year if you happen to have one bad team.
Furthermore, the daily versions generally focus more on the prize pools and winning money. In a couple of weeks, Draftkings will be having a $3.1 million tournament where the first place winner wins $1 million. You don't see this sort of situation in the season-long versions of fantasy football.
Currently, daily fantasy sports is played just in the United States and Canada. This is because it is considered a 'skill game' not 'gambling' in the United States for most US states. It's unclear how it would be treated in Europe, so no sites currently accept non-US players. Furthermore, with sports betting being legal in Europe and for the most part illegal in the US, there's less of a need for it. European fantasy football also just isn't as popular as American fantasy football is in general, though it may get there eventually.
So what do daily fantasy sports and poker have to do with each other? Quite a lot actually, and I expect more in the future. Consider a few things:
1. Most daily fantasy players in the US are the same types of guys that like to play poker. With its focus on statistics and expected value, the same skill set to excel at poker applies to daily fantasy. The tournaments are set up in a very similar fashion (typically top heavy, with a 9-10% rake). The same axiom that luck plays a factor in the short term but in the long-term the good players win applies. The main difference in the US is the legal status of the games, but the target audience (and the types of players that do well) remains the same.
2. A lot of ex-poker players are involved with daily fantasy. Myself and Ozone would be part of the list. The founders of PocketFives and Card Runners also apply. In short, a lot of the US poker players have migrated to this area already.
3. The two businesses are starting to recognize the value they bring each other. For example, Draftkings are running DFS tournaments where the winner gets entries into poker tournaments. To me, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With the large, European online poker sites, such as Party Poker and 888 Poker already involved with US poker, I think it may only be a matter of time before they get involved with daily fantasy sports as well. They may choose to buy a daily fantasy sports provider so they can cross-sell daily fantasy sports with online poker (where online poker is legal).
If the European sites get involved with daily fantasy in the US, it is also more likely they will choose to introduce it to the European audience. The sports will generally be different, but it will be another product they can sell, just like they do with online casinos and sports betting. They may even attempt to have large, worldwide tournaments for daily fantasy sports, though that may be a bit more difficult since Americans don't really care about European football, and Europeans don't really care about American football.
Also, by having a large daily fantasy sports audience, European online poker rooms may find a backdoor way of competing with PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. For example, if the same types of guys that like to play online poker all of the sudden are playing daily fantasy at Party Poker, it will be a lot easier to convince them to play poker at Party Poker and ditch PokerStars wouldn't it?
While these scenarios are synergistic, there is also the possibility that the industries may work against each other. Players may tend to focus just on online poker or just on daily fantasy sports instead of both. The daily fantasy sports industry may also want to steer clear of poker since they would not want to jeopardize the industry as being a 'game of skill' and risk the same legal issues poker has.
In general though, I believe the two industries will tend to work together rather than have an antagonistic relationship. Fantasy sports isn't that popular yet in Europe, and daily fantasy isn't even heard of, but that may change soon!