Thursday, November 21, 2013

Drafting Your Players, Playing Your Cards

At the WPT event this past week in Jacksonville, the fantasy sports betting site DraftKings had a presence as the entity throwing the players’ party, sponsoring the final table live stream, and in other ways.

It’s a relatively new partnership, just announced within the last couple of weeks, I believe. In fact, for the upcoming WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic (where I will also be) there will be some contests on the site via which players can actually win seats into the event.

I’ve gotten an account on DraftKings and have played some free games with friends. I’ve mentioned before having played a little on Draft Day, another fantasy sports site, as well as how I find the games diverting though not nearly as engrossing as some.

It’s kind of intriguing, though, to see how the games on these sites resemble online poker in their formats, with large field games with top heavy payouts being like the MTTs, smaller “sit-n-go” styled games with a limited number of opponents, “double-or-nothing” type games, and heads-up games, too. Even the range of buy-ins and the “rake” resembles online poker in many ways.

There are more analogies. In the games the players (i.e., the pros making up the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL teams) kind of exist as the cards -- that is, they are the element of the game that unequivocally exists outside of the players’ control. Some of the pros are shared among fantasy players when different entrants select the same players for their teams, much like “community cards” are shared in flop games. Most teams are unique, just like in hold’em when players’ hole cards make their hands unique, although like in hold’em you’ll occasionally have players playing “hands” of identical worth.

There’s a mix of chance and skill, too, in the fantasy sports games, and I’m convinced that those who put in the hours and genuinely research their selections in constructive ways have an edge on the average opponent, in fact a very large one. I’m also convinced the chance element introduces huge variance into the game, with players’ individual performances subject to a myriad of influences including injury, penalties or suspensions, coaches’ whims, and even the weather.

I continue to be intrigued by fantasy sports -- especially this short-term daily (or weekly) version of it offered by sites like DraftKings and Draft Day -- which I guess is like poker but ain’t poker.

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