Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Draft stings

I am not a gamblin' man. Let's get that on the (blackjack) table straightaway.

Airdrop me onto the Strip in Vegas and I'll roam around the MGM Grand for awhile, then sit down at one of the slots and feed five bucks worth of quarters in it. Then, when that's gone, I'll look around and say, "OK, what next?"

I'd never bet the ponies in Vegas, because I have a distinct aversion to risking Benjamins on an animal with a brain the size of a walnut. I'd never bet college football or basketball there, either, because they're played by college kids, and I remember what I was like as a college kid. And I'd never bet the NFL in Vegas, because ... well, because I don't trust the NFL zebras. Sorry, guys.

Let's face it. I'm a skinflint. Never met a dime I couldn't squeeze 'til it looked like a large shiny pizza.

I do, however, play fantasy football, like everyone else in America. My team, the Fightin' Hammocks, is currently a forest fire grafted onto a nine-car pileup. Every decent player I have is either hurt or figuring out how to get hurt. My kicker's 97 years old, my running backs excel only in the weeks I don't play them, and one of my wide receivers is a Cleveland Brown, for God's sake.  Take me off the grill, I'm done on both sides.

But at least I don't bet. 'Cause if I did, I might have gotten sucked into the gambling/fantasy nexus that is daily fantasy sports, aka DFS.

You've seen the ads. They run 24/7 now, all these guys wearing their baseball caps backwards, celebrating the $2 million they just won playing FanDuel or DraftKings, the two main providers. That's what they always show you, the winners. The thousands upon thousands of guys who lose their shirts, pants and backward caps ... eh, not so much.

That's because this really isn't fantasy football, it's illegal gambling in funny glasses and a mustache. All those ads, they never mention that to play FanDuel or DraftKings you have to first kick in entry fees of as much as $1,000. So you're in the hole before you even begin. And if you don't win (and most people don't) ... well, you lose. Sometimes a lot.

Another thing: Because it's not technically gambling, it's not technically illegal. I's also totally unregulated -- which means all the usual sharks swim free, gobbling up Backward Cap Guy like so much chum.

According to this piece by Michael McCann in Sports Illustrated, one of those sharks, a DraftKings writer named Ethan Haskell, just turned a $25 entry fee into $350,000. He did this, allegedly, by using insider info on draft results of thousands of DraftKings participants. Banned by his employer from playing DFS, he took that inside dope to a similar game on FanDuel and raked.

Somewhere Bernie Madoff no doubt nodded approvingly.


I'm staying as far from this racket as I can. Because you know what?

I may not be a gamblin' man. But I know a rigged game when I see one.



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