No, You’re Not Going to Win Money Playing Fantasy Football

It’s that time of year. That time when summer ends and back to school happens for many. But the pain of it all is lessened because . . . IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON! We’d tell you that we feel for those of you who don’t like football and rue this time of year, but we’d be lying. Plus, if you’re reading this, you love football. Tell your significant others who don’t to shove it!

TIP: Don’t tell your significant others to shove it. Just tell them you have to go into the office and then go to your friend’s house. You know, the friend with the DirecTV package. It may be cowardly, but trust us, it’s the right move.

TIP 2: Honey, if you’re reading this, I really am at the office on Sundays. I’m just writing that for comedy’s sake. I swear.

So why do we love football so much? It’s not CTE or Roger Goodell’s inability to get anything morally right. No, we love football either because we have a favorite team or, more likely, because we get to gamble on it (legally of course) and play fantasy football.

Some of us do all of the above, but in this column we’re going to focus on fantasy football. Why? Because with gambling, most of us know we’re going to lose. After all, they didn’t build Vegas off of the public winning money at gambling. But do we have the same understanding with fantasy football, which, after all, is basically gambling?

The answer is a resounding no. We were shocked to read a 2017 lendedu study, which found that roughly 90% of people expected a positive rate of return on their fantasy football investments. 90%!

Let’s break it down a little. First, there are your classic fantasy leagues, the season-long ones where you draft against your friends and see what shakes out. Now, depending on your league, anywhere from approximately 8% to 33% of players are going to be winning money. Most leagues are pretty top-heavy with their disbursements too, so even if you win money, unless you come in first, you’re not getting great return on your investment.

But Daily Fantasy Sports (“DFS”) are even worse. DraftKings’ own data showed that, of the site’s users in 2013-2014, 89.3% of had a negative return. So not only are 90% of people who think they’re winning money at DFS not winning, they’re not even breaking even. In other words, 90% of people who play DFS are delusional.

On the plus side, less than half of people who play fantasy football do so for the purpose of making money. But the number who do so is still rather high at 30-40%.

Unfortunately that 30-40% number reflects the gambler’s mentality. That mentality may not be too hurtful to your pocketbook for your league with your friends, but it’s dangerous when it comes to DFS. We’re also thinking that some people didn’t want to admit to themselves that they’re playign to win money so that 30-40% number might actually be low.

As opposed to season long contests among friends, daily fantasy football has a myriad of contests that players can enter each week. Yes, some contests cost as little as $0.25, but the ones that attract tens of thousands of players because of big pay days cost anywhere from $5 to $1,000 and up. The losses can add up quickly.

Those who play fantasy football have a more than healthy knowledge of the game, which gives the fantasy player the sense that he or she will have an advantage over the general public. But when you’re playing DFS, you’re not playing against the general public. You’re playing against other football fans. And they are thinking the same thing. But guess what, they’re not going to be winning at DFS either. Why? Because they’re not mathematicians, and neither are you.

The people who win at DFS are the same people who win at poker. They’re the elite gamblers who use math and game theory to figure out how to beat the general public. They have Ph.D’s. You have Matthew Berry, the RedZone Channel, and maybe a six-pack of Coors Light. They have computer programs that they developed themselves to make their picks. You have a gut feeling about Alex Smith and Royce Freeman this year.

So please, do yourself a favor. Get out of that group that thinks it’s going to make money playing fantasy sports. And if you’re playing DFS, make sure you set limits for yourself and remember that you’re only doing this for fun and entertainment. If you look at it like paying to watch a movie, fine. But if you’re looking at DFS to make your next mortgage payment, it’s the DFS sites’ owners that are making their mortgages off of you instead.

Note: Thank you to lendedu for allowing us to use your study!

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