Hitting the Million: Daily Fantasy Sports2 years ago
Technically, people have been playing fantasy sports forever. Heck, I remember twenty years ago, my friends and I would make fantasy teams on dinky little computer programs. And draft pools and sports betting have existed for literally hundreds of years. So all of the relevant ideas have had plenty of time, so it’s honestly a bit of a wonder that it has taken this long for Daily Fantasy Sports to bloom into the mega-money gambling paradise that it has become.
I’m a hockey man myself. Have been ever since I met a cutie from Vancouver, BC in college who got excited every time her Canucks won a game. Positive reinforcement does wonders for starting a new pastime if you know what I mean. Regardless, I got hooked on the sport, and being a gamer (I write about poker after all), I quickly found myself brewing up teams of my favorite players. I still always keep Luongo in the goal.
But this articles isn’t about my ups and downs playing small time fantasy for fun. Oh no, today we’re talking about the big ones, those luckily or brilliant few who have hit the seven digit pay day just by doing what they already love, playing DFS.
I honestly can’t imagine a better way to start than with the first man to ever win $1,000,000 in an online daily fantasy sports contest. This story comes from the end of 2013 when James Tran –better known by his tag, BundaFever – beat out a wide competition in the DraftKings Millionaire Finale to take home, you guessed it, $1,000,000!
It was a close match too. Going into the last day of play, Tran was actually sitting at second place on the scoreboard: behind Gateman07 and ahead of eritas2 and Al_Smizzle, all of whom were in serious contention for the coveted cash. According to DraftKings Pro, Jonathan Bales, only BundaFever and Al_SMizzle were really in the race as Gateman07 didn’t have many good players saved for the last day. With the points neck and neck, It all came down to two players: Michael Crabtree of the Raiders and Frank Gore of the Colts.
While the games were hard fought, James Tran got extremely lucky when Kendall Hunter ran a touchdown play but fell at the 5yd line. According to Tran,
Had Hunter ran it for the TD, I knew it would have been over. So when he fell short inside 5-yd line, I had a good feeling I would catch up very close to Al with a Gore rushing TD! And a $650,000 touchdown it was!!!”
Frank Gore’s eventual touchdown from that 5yd line gave Tran the points to clinch the big win.
What I really like about the whole affair, though, is that Tran ended up pulling a Moneymaker, so to speak. While Al_Smizzle was already a pro by the time of this showdown, BundaFever was an unknown name. It may have been to a lesser extent, but this win proved that you didn't have to be a DFS veteran to win the top prize. What a heartwarmer.
First Time's the Charm
The date is Sunday, September 20th, 2015. On this date, truck driver, Jeremiah Bushnell, playing under the name Jeremiah1974db, decided to submit a lineup to an NFL DFS Sunday Millionaire Contest. It was no big deal to him as this was his first time playing, and what could possibly happen on your first time out of the gate? Well for this Floridian, quite a lot actually.
Following his heart instead of some advanced DFS strategy guide, Bushnell decided to take most of his picks from his favorite football team the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, most pros will tell you that you that this is a poor strategy. It’s nothing against the Steelers, but players on the same team can end up stealing points from each other on the DFS scorecard, and having all of your eggs in one basket has rarely been a good idea. Still, that’s what Jeremiah did, and what a good choice in the end.
Tuning into the Steelers game that night, Jeremiah saw that Pittsburgh was on its way to a great win on the backs of guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Before who knew it, he was up a few hundred dollars and feeling mighty fine about it. The real kicker came later though.
The turning point was Larry Fitzgerald. He had zero points in the first half. When he started making plays I jumped from $500 to $4,000 to $15,000 to $75,000. In the fourth quarter I was in second place with $350,000 and I was like WOW, I can't believe this. This can't be this simple".
Because of a delivery he had to make early the next morning, Jeremiah Bushnell turned in early for the night. He didn’t find out about his mega win until the following night when friends and family started calling with the big news. Sure enough, he had $1,000,000 in his account the very next day. Talk about beginner's luck, huh?
The Million Dollar Putt
Speaking of first timer stories, I’ve got another good one for you. I won’t say that I love it every time a newbie beats an old pro, but particularly when it comes to games I don’t know, golf in this case, it gives my heart a little jump. Just the thought that anyone with enough skill and luck could make it to the money is inspirational, probably BECAUSE I’m not a pro. This story is about two gentlemen, in June of 2015, going head to head in the DraftKings U.S. Open Millionaire Maker, one industry pro by the name of David Kaplen, and one nobody named Carl Bassewitz.
Similarly to Jeremiah before, Carl went on the gut instinct route.
"I've found in these things that if you overthink it, you don't do as well," said Bassewitz in a phone interview. His opponent, on the other hand had a whopping 50 teams stacked in the tournament, many of which wielding undervalued players that could shine beyond the biggest names in tennis.
The first three days of the tournament were a wash. Both Carl and David went up and down in the standings, but always in the 100’s never in the top bracket. The turnabout on the last day was so unexpected that neither of them were even watching the game that morning. Bassewitz checked the scoreboard at lunch and saw he was in 750th, so when his phone when his phone started going crazy that evening, he had no idea what to expect. Kaplen was even farther removed. He didn’t even take a look till after his Father’s Day dinner, and by then there were only 10 holes left.
As both players climbed the ranks, it all came down to the last three holes. ESPN described the action as such:
Spieth made birdie on No. 16 to open up a three-shot lead, only to give it away with a double-bogey on 17. He was tied for the lead with Johnson and Oosthuizen at 4-under heading to No. 18. Spieth bounced back on 18, capitalizing on a brilliant 3-wood approach with a two-putt birdie to go one up.
Johnson, in the final group, blistered his drive on 18 and followed it with a 6-iron to 12 feet. At this point, with Johnson looking at eagle, Bassewitz was clinging to a slim lead over Kaplen. If Johnson made his eagle or birdie putt, Kaplen would have secured the $1 million."
In a bizarre and rather embarrassing turn of events, Johnson missed not one but TWO shots at the hole from that distance and handed $1,000,000 to the rookie Carl Bassewitz. This isn’t to say that David didn’t make out alright. He pulled a neat $100k from his second place win which is nothing to scoff at (on my salary at least). Still, as we poker players like to say, what a way to hit the rail.
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