Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making Picks, Getting Fix

100% legalI’ve mentioned here a couple of times how I’ve experimented a little with fantasy sports, mostly on the Draft Day site started by Taylor Caby and some other online poker-people in the wake of Black Friday.

If you’re curious to learn more about Draft Day, an article appeared on Mashable yesterday in which Caby was interviewed about the site. There we read that after being launched back in September, the site has already attracted 10,000 users, with about a quarter of them regular players.

Caby points out in the article how they are “not going for the people who already spend hours on fantasy sports,” but rather are hoping to attract those “who are more casual sports fans and just looking to have fun.” In other words, the site presents itself as especially attractive to those whom we might call “recreational” fantasy sports players with limited time and/or bankrolls to commit.

That would be me.

Rather than buy into an entire season as some fantasy sports games require, the Draft Day games all last either a single day or in the case of the NFL a single weekend’s worth of games. So, for instance, with the NBA games you draft line-ups of players chosen from that evening’s slate of games, then watch to see how many points your players accumulate and whether or not you come out ahead of the totals put up by others’ line-ups.

The site is especially easy to navigate and I’m really enjoying how simple it is to sweat your teams. Stats are calculated instantaneously as the games proceed, with your ranking within a given game constantly updated as well. And there are freerolls and inexpensive games, too -- as low as $1-- also good for a noob like me who is just becoming acquainted with some of the strategy involved with player selection. You know, like not starting injured guys.

The UIGEA carves out fantasy sportsAnd of course as those of us who’ve spent the last five-plus years fussing over the awful Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 well know, the law specifically (and oddly) identifies fantasy sports as not falling under its otherwise ambiguous definition of “unlawful” online gambling. Which means easy deposit methods (including PayPal and credit cards), fast payouts, and none of the multitudinous money-related hassles to which we online poker players have grown accustomed.

While I’m finding the fantasy sports thing a fun diversion, it doesn’t really satisfy the desire for competition in the same way poker does. Even though we compete against others, it feels a lot more like playing solitaire. None of the decisions we make are controlled by others’ actions. (Not really... although I suppose one could apply some game theory-related arguments to counter that notion.) That is to say, all players are available to everyone, with each player portioning out the allotted salary as he or she sees fit.

And to be honest, I’m not really that into the way fantasy sports force a kind of fragmented rooting interest where you have to pull for individual players to succeed rather than teams.

For instance, last night the L.A. Clippers-Utah Jazz game was the last to complete, a blowout in which the Jazz won by nearly 30. I had the Clippers’ Caron Butler and was hoping he’d add a few buckets late to improve my position. Meanwhile, others still had Butler’s teammate Blake Griffin. Kind of absurd hoping for one player to score over another like that, and even stranger caring at all about what happens at the end of a game in which the outcome has long been settled.

As it happened, Butler did little in the fourth quarter while Griffin sat out. But I did manage to “min-cash” in my game thanks to big nights had by LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and others I’d fit onto my team’s roster.

Draft DayAnyhow, as I’ve been saying, the Draft Day site is well-constructed and easy to use, and as Caby notes it is particularly aimed at casual players or those who are just curious about how fantasy sports work. If you click here, sign up, then eventually deposit something I get a referral bonus. But like I say, you can play for free, too.

If you do check it out, let me know how it goes. And remember to keep an eye on those injury reports.

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