I’ve been working like crazy. I do it all the time. I binge. I have OCD, and it is a powerful gift if you learn how to harness it. My point, though, is not to deep-dive into my psyche. My point is that I’m attempting to deliver ways to help you. While brainstorming how I can benefit you with my work, it dawned on me while listening to SiriusXM with Jeff Mans and Ray Flowers.
This will not be a knock piece on either of them. I respect both of them for their work and success. Unfortunately, while it is annoying, it is essential to communicate your intent in these politically correct times. They discussed DFS and Jeff Mans stated to the general audience, “That you will never win,” when referring to tournaments.
I understand the message he was delivering, and I see his point that you will not win. Take the probability, and even if you are the one who wins, he is primarily correct for the rest of you.
My next communication presents like I’m an eternal optimist, but the reality is that I’m a realist. I don’t see the glass half-full or half-empty. I see the glass in its entirety. I appreciate what is there but continually pursue to fill what is missing.
I provide that information because I don’t see things as he stated. You can win. Can you close your eyes and pick any random lineup and win? FUCK NO. Can you play one line-up and win the whole thing? While it has been done, it is not likely. Can you bust your tail every week and not win? Of course, there are no guarantees with this. Can you buy it? Nope, I’ve tried.
“So, DraftKings Millionaire Maker Winner, what is the secret sauce?” My simple blunt answer is that there isn’t one. This is where Jeff Mans is right. He is basically telling you what you need to hear. There is no way that you can control all the pieces of the puzzle to be the one to pull this off. It is hard and even more competitive since I won.
There is no difference between a lineup in 1000th place and 1st place. This is the luck factor that no one talks about because fantasy gaming is a game of skill. The truth is we can not control this. All we can do is control the pieces that get us up there. If you finished in 900th place, there is nothing you could’ve done differently except having more luck on your side. So, don’t waste your time attempting to figure things out to help you in this space. It is not in your control.
Additionally, with DFS, there is no momentum to carry from week to week. You can’t build upon a great lineup. It is dead after that week. Again, this is not in your control, but the rest is in your control, and I’m going to tell a story of how I became the one that pulled this off.
The website that you are reading this article on was initially one of the first DFS websites. I started it in 2010. I’ll share that experience another time, but the short is that DraftKings and FanDuel became the top sites, and I was 40k in debt from not succeeding. While you may assume I make a lot of money, I only made 50k per year with my normal 9-5 job. Descent money, but it isn’t shit to live in New Jersey.
So, I moved to Delaware and got a cheap mortgage to pay off this debt rather than live in NJ and be house-poor. I had my expenses in line where I over afforded where I lived.
Around that time, I had to go to Las Vegas for something family-related. I saved up 2k to blow out there and made my way out. This was around Week 15 of the NFL Season. There was a contest in Week 16 that I really wanted to enter. I did pretty well my first year on DraftKings and figured a contest with only 3-4k entries would be my best shot at really winning something. The entry for that contest was $1500. Definitely steep for my income, debt, and planned Vegas expenses.
My time in Vegas worked out really well due to my brother. He was in the in-crowd of Vegas, so most of my $2000 remained untouched. It was my last night there, and he asked what I want to do. I stated that I had a great time, and the thing I really wanted to do was to take a shot at this tournament and keep things simple before I departed. So, that is what happened.
I purchased my lineup and headed back home. This $1500 was a lot of money. I spent all week tweaking this lineup over and over again. I don’t recall the full lineup and unfortunately, finding data back then isn’t always available.
I know my lineup consisted of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Jimmy Graham. All delivered solid performances, but still, this one play, along with a few others, was my missing luck that I needed to have a significant win:
It’s a game of inches, and this is the difference between 900th place or finishing top 10. For this smaller-entry contest, it meant the difference between the top 10 and my actual finish of 179. In all honesty, I wasn’t pissed. I was actually pretty ecstatic to win $3000 (getting my $1500 back and profiting $1500).
This ended that season, but I talked about how I would win the Millionaire Maker all summer. Everywhere I went, that is all I talked about. I can write another 80 paragraphs about it, but to simplify it, after Week 6, the naysayers ate their words.
Each week I planned to play about 10-30 lineups. Here were my first three weeks:
|Week||Amount of Entries||Spent||Return||Net||Top Finish|
At this point, I’m yapping away even more about how I’m going to do this. “Look at this shit!” “Look how close I was. I finished in 267th place!”
Week 4 rolls around, and now I have an extra $800 to spend:
|Week||Amount of Entries||Spent||Return||Net||Top Finish|
That lasted long. lol On to Week 5:
|Week||Amount of Entries||Spent||Return||Net||Top Finish|
Nothing great here, so I’m getting a little concerned, but I keep plugging away on to Week 6. I found mispricing on Matthew Stafford @ $5300. He was benched the week before:
Stafford wasn’t producing a ton for the first 5 weeks delivering an average of 13.12 points up to that point. With Megatron, there was always the opportunity, though. I found Stafford and Calvin Johnson’s history vs. the Bears, of their last home game vs. Chicago.
And Calvin Johnson’s numbers in that game, as well:
Now, that’s only one previous match-up, and the data above is from MyFantasyLeague, which is the scoring and site for my home league. Looking at it today, I would likely pursue more, but that was enough for me at that time. I thought I found the error to exploit. And so, the lineups begin…
|Week||Amount of Entries||Spent|
I had 32 lineups that week, but it only required my 2nd entry. It started with Stafford ($5300) and Johnson ($7300), also underpriced for his norm. Stafford and Johnson’s salary from Weeks 1-6:
Talk about timing a stock at the perfect bottom. I even texted my Mom, who continuously hopes for me to find a good woman, that “This is the weekend where something cool happens.”
That aside, on the other side of that stack, I utilized Alshon Jeffery ($6400). He played in Week 1 but was injured and missed the next 4 weeks while his salary went from $8300 to $6400.
If you think of what we know today, this lineup had two highly targeted number one WR’s and a capable QB with a combined salary of $19,000 and $31,000 remaining in the budget for the remaining 5 pieces. While the highlights of the overtime game below are a little meh, it was a lot more exciting to start the week:
That provided me $6200 per roster spot, and keep in mind, two of those spots are the lower-end costs of TE & DEF. Right away, I lock in the highly-targeted and underpriced DeAndre Hopkins ($7700). Outside of Week 2, Hopkins delivered 27+ points as his floor up to that point. His price never escalated to match it. He played the Jacksonville Jaguars, which led me to the 12th highest-priced TE in Julius Thomas ($4000). He came back off of injury in Week 5 and was now a full-go in Week 6.
The Defense of the week was the Denver Broncos ($3700), not only because they were one of the top defenses at the time, but because they were playing the normally horrendous Cleveland Browns. Amazingly, they put up a good fight vs. the Broncos but still managed to offer this goodie up:
I’ve spent $34,400 to this point, which leaves me with $15,600 for my two RBs and one Flex. I’m not in bad shape with $5200 left per player.
I remember starting with Martavis Bryant ($4000) in the Flex because he was coming back from a suspension and was significantly underpriced. He ended up scoring the 4th most on the slate (35.5 points). I remember this because I had to wait for the completion of Monday Night Football to finalize this tournament as the Millionaire Maker used to include Sunday Night & Monday Night Football. I kept going through all the what if’s as the games progressed along.
Starting with Bryant in the Flex, I added LeGarrette Blount ($4400), who I knew I was playing since he was facing the Colts. He didn’t get the name Indy-Killer for no reason. He played Sunday night, so we’ll save his performance for the end. 😉
In this scenario, I was left with $7200 for my final RB spot. Matt Forte was $7100, which likely is the right move, but I likely hated leaving the $100 on the table (something I could care less about today), or I didn’t like the QB, RB, and WR stack on the same team.
I’m unable to recall the whole decision-making process in its entirety of why I didn’t go with Forte, but I do know I loved Chris Ivory ($5100). He was on the roster of my home league and was receiving a ton of work. Additionally, he played the Washington Football Team (Redskins then), who was near the bottom of the league vs. the run that season. Ivory produced on the ground and through the air:
My commitment to Ivory & Blount left Bryant ($4000) by the wayside, and I was left with $6100 for the Flex position. That landed me with the option of another number one WR in Steve Smith when he played with the Ravens. He was injured in Week 4 and missed Week 5. He had a 4 pm kickoff. He brought me to 9th place, where I was 10.7 points from first. When the game came along, I had many doubts and regrets about not playing Martavis Bryant. Especially when this happened:
It was excruciating to watch, but of course, Senior still did the job:
I was still 10.7 from first, and while 9th place was great, that dropped TD pass was still lingering.
I finished the 4 pm games in 6th place and only 6 points away. It felt extremely probable, but you never know.
Along comes Sunday Night Football. The 1st quarter went so fast. While we know the Patriots used Blount to close games, he’d still sparingly find his way on the field. Nothing was happening to provide me much comfort, but I did get to see him on this block:
It’s like, you try not to create the negative juju and celebrate the victory of being on the field. I was hoping for anything productive. Even if the Patriots could get a lead, that would be in my favor. Still, I didn’t want other players scoring points. You never know who is behind you, but that aside, I still had to do my own upward climb. While only a few points out, it felt so far away with the first quarter ending with Al Michaels’s hopeful segway and another nothing carry by Blount:
The 2nd quarter continued just as slow—punt, punt, punt. Finally, when I get some excitement, it was the play you didn’t want. The play that can flip the potential script of keeping Blount off the field entirely:
The Colts had Andrew Luck and a good offense. Their defense providing a pick-6 was torture. One more TD by the Colts, and these measly points are turning into a climb on Mt. Everest.
After the interception for the TD, the Colts then pull this bs:
With all the confusion during that onsides kick, I wasn’t sure what was going on. It was a few weeks to Halloween. I wasn’t eating anything but the Halloween candy I planned to hand out to trick-or-treaters. I was hopped up on sugar, too much nicotine, and exhausted from the rollercoaster of a day. I felt like it was all starting to crumble, even though the Patriots retained the ball.
A small victory that I attempted to look at as the positive which may land Blount on the field. Instead, on 1st down, we land with the continued downtrend of momentum (or uptrend if you’re rooting for the Colts):
The great Patriots are not looking great. It’s demoralizing. Why now? Why today? The questions and doubts start setting in. The momentum you are looking for is going in the exact opposite direction. All you need is a goal-line carry for a TD or something in the ballpark of 60 yards. Even though it isn’t likely, maybe we can get a few receptions? At this point, you want to reset and get the Patriots in motion again. Please give me something!! Fortunately, while it isn’t Blount, that something came from Dion Lewis:
Not only did Lewis overcome the sack yards to deliver a big play, the same defender (Mike Adams) that swung the pick-6 momentum now provided a 15-yard face mask and a 1st down. While it didn’t provide me any points, it did provide opportunity as Blount landed on the field on the next play:
Four yards isn’t much. It’s only 0.4 points, but I don’t give a damn. It is 0.4 points closer to One Million Dollars. It’s the best run I’ve seen from him this whole game. I will take it!!!
It’s the moment shift you are yelling and rooting to happen. It’s that first little step leading to that final step to the top of that mountain, and then one play later, this happened:
I see that play now, and it always brings me back. It’s crazy how boring it seems when not in the moment. With my voice hoarse from yelling at the TV all day, it still had some room left. I never yelled for someone to run so much in my life. It was like the movie scene where the villain is closing in on the next victim. “Run muthafucka, run!” When I saw number 33 of the Colts, Dwight Lowery (the villain) closing in on him, I almost lost my shit. It’s anxiety, joy, frustration, and utter craziness all in one moment…and then relief. Well, relief if there are no flags. Any flags? No flags! And you just stare at the leaderboard waiting for it to refresh…and boom #1. Number fucking 1.
The story goes on and on, as I had to sweat it out all through work on Monday and all through Monday Night Football. It was painstaking, but obviously, the outcome was worth it. Blount added more points to provide a nice cushion. He even had a TD reception. There never really was a threat to catch me as that run above is all I needed.
You never know at the time because even though you download and dissect everything you can, maybe there is an entry in 200th place with 2 players left. You never know until those clocks hit zero.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll always see my tweets of those that lost first place. I didn’t have it happen this time around, but I have had it happen three other times. It hurts. It sucks that others have to lose for you to win, but unfortunately, that is life.
Those last thoughts aside, the point of this article was to share my experience, but more importantly, let you know that you can accomplish this. I don’t come from money. I’ve never really had money, and I’ve never gambled outside of a random night out. I’m just really good at this, and I enjoy it. I work extremely hard at it, too. I come from a home fantasy football league of 40-man rosters, which forces you to be an expert to compete. I recommend jumping into something like that. It forces you to know a lot, which created my experience and education in this fantasy football world. This is over 15+ years in the making. It won’t come overnight but put in the time, and it will arrive. Read everything. Watch anything. Listen to everyone. There is never too much information. While I state to listen to everyone and research a lot, it doesn’t mean to play pin the tail on the donkey with someone else’s picks. It means gather tons and tons of information. It means gathering data and analyzing it. And it definitely means to make your own executive decision. All it takes is finding the right pieces, and when you find them, exploit them.
My final words to you if you’re trying. It is hard. It is really fucking hard. There are plenty of people who deserve to win. They build great lineups, work extremely hard, and are really good at this. Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors. Sometimes it is a small element of luck that doesn’t swing their way, or it could be one of these 16 Reasons You Don’t Win Tournaments. The work and time are all about cracking that top 1000. Once you get there, the rest is out of your control. Don’t play with what you can’t lose. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen. You should enjoy doing this. If you don’t, it is time to move on or take a break. But, if you enjoy it, put in the work, and maybe the world gives you a small little push, then this could be you.