The success of the Fantasy Football Players Championship rests largely on their owners and creators Dave Gerczak and Alex Kaganovsky. Recently, our David Dodds caught up with them to find out how the FFPC is rolling along in 2012.
In four sentences or less, what is the FFPC?
The FFPC is short for Fantasy Football Players Championship. We are the market leader and run a customer-focused high stakes fantasy football operation that offers everything from national tournaments to individual leagues like auctions, draft experts leagues, dynasty leagues and a playoff challenge. Drafts are held online as well as live in Las Vegas, with entries starting from $77 up to $10,000 per team. Our two mainstays are the FFPC Main Event and the Footballguys Players Championship, offering Grand Prizes of $200,000 and $150,000 respectively.
Give us a short history of why the FFPC was created. Do you feel it's holding true to its mission of being For the Players, By the Players?
My partner Alex and I created the FFPC because we saw a void in the high stakes fantasy football space. Existing operators became simultaneously more corporate, less customer-focused and less trustworthy, in our opinion. We felt we knew what players wanted, and we knew we could do it better.
I feel strongly that we are holding true to our mission. Now that we have taken the lead in the marketplace, we are still paying high prize payouts, processing prizes faster than anyone and offering a level of customer service that is unparallel in the industry. Fantasy players recognize that we have made a lasting commitment to their fun and enjoyment of fantasy football.
The FFPC has seen tremendous growth since inception. A lot of this growth has come from players telling players about their experiences with the FFPC. Give us a snapshot of the growth you have seen in the Main Event and satellites. How big can the Main Event get this year? In five years?
We began with just 180 Main Event players in 2008 and grew to 720 teams in 2011. The Footballguys Players Championship was expected to have 600 teams in 2010 but finished with 1608 and then exploded to 2964 teams in 2011. For 2012, our internal goals are for 900 teams for the Main Event and 3,600 for the Footballguys Players Championship. That is 20%+ annual growth off of a pretty sizable base.
I hate to predict where we will be in five years. So long as we focus on putting out a great product, including protecting prizes, offering a fun game, and paying players quickly, I am sure the rest will take care of itself.
Last year as the NFL was locking out it's players, we saw some high profile fantasy contests close shop and defraud the players out of large sums of money. Give us your thoughts on the state of the industry and how players can protect themselves going forward.
I think the industry is fine, but players are right to be wary. As both a player and a contest operator, I would first look at the history of the contest you are considering. Who are the owners and what is their track record? Are they offering prizes that are too good to be true? Do they communicate with their players and answering the tough questions? Do they have an active community? Does their business model make sense? It isn't that hard to make promises and take in a bunch of money in entry fees. The hard part for some of the past operators has been sticking to those promises and treating the prize money as sacred. Making sure it's set aside in a trust, to be there at season's end.
What new things are in store for people that play in the FFPC in 2012?
First and foremost, the prizes for the 2012 FFPC Main Event have been increased across the board. The league prizes are now $10,500 each. We are paying down to 30th place with over $300K in total prizes the Championship Round.
We've also introduced a brand new category of online leagues called the Victory Points Money Leagues. The new leagues will be offered in a $500, $750, $1000, and $2500 price points and, as with all FFPC offerings, will have excellent prize payout percentages ranging between 83% - 92%.
There's also a free Facebook sweepstakes. Simply Like the FFPC on Facebook and enter to win a $3,000 prize package including: a free 2012 Live FFPC Main Event team, 3 nights at Rio Hotel and Casino, plane ticket, and $500 spending money.
The Footballguys Players Championship debuted with 1,608 teams in 2010 and had just under 3,000 teams last year to completely dominate the $350 contest last year. What do you and Footballguys do for an encore here? How big can this event get?
I think we all were pretty shocked at the growth last year, especially with the NFL lockout lasting so late into the summer. The marketing reach of Footballguys is very strong. Fantasy players rightfully trust the ownership of Joe Bryant and David Dodds and trust us at the FFPC to run the contest in a proper fashion. I like to believe that fantasy players from all strata converge on this $350 price point. High stakes players buy multiple teams while other players make the jump up to $350. Ryan Strickler won $100,000 in 2010 and only had two teams; the 2011 champ, Ronald Eltenal had just one team that took down the $125,000 grand prize (which is now $150,000 for 2012).
Both of you have been extremely successful in high-stakes contests. What have you learned in playing these other events that you have incorporated into the FFPC?
Alex and I like to consider what we would prefer as players when making decisions. It gives us a perspective that other game operators do not have. For example, we try to focus on paying out substantial league prizes and not just having a huge Main Event prize. Another is that we always take into consideration the potential effects on the overall player experience and therefore are very careful when making any changes to our game formats.
Someone wants to make the leap from their home league to the world of high stakes. Any words of wisdom to help ease his/her transition?
First of all, do not be afraid to make the leap. All of our players had initially come from the home leagues at some point, and many have done very well in the high stakes arena. Make sure you know the rules and scoring system. Consider partnering up with a buddy to pick up a Footballguys Players Championship team at $350 or make the big jump to the FFPC Main Event. And most of all, enjoy the experience and competition.
The FFPC has some of the most enjoyable high stakes rules out there. Things like 1.5 points per tight end reception, incorporation of dual flex, victory points, etc. Although these rules are not considered mainstream, they are almost universally loved in the high-stakes area. Explain to someone new what these rules are and why they help promote skill in the FFPC.
When you combine the 1.5 points per catch for tight ends and the dual flex, it really changes the dynamic of both your draft and also how you manage your team from week to week. Tight end is no longer an afterthought, but an important position for your team. You can change your entire draft strategy mid-draft if you choose with these rules. Basic PPR-scoring with a single flex is still popular, but it becomes a bit of ABC drafting after awhile, and the challenge is reduced.
Your biggest score(s) in fantasy football:
Dave - I won a national championship and $100,000 in 2008.
Alex – I watched Dave win a national championship and $100,000 in 2008.
Make a case for why someone should come to Vegas and participate in some high stakes events. What's this about a FREE opening day kickoff party?
While drafting online is also fun, nothing beats the live Las Vegas FFPC Main Event experience. Players have the opportunity to meet and compete with other fantasy football enthusiasts. There are other live league options like auctions, draft experts, and high stakes leagues. They can watch the opening game at a free party that we throw every year. That is not even to mention college football and the opening weekend of the NFL season. You can draft your fantasy team on Friday or Saturday and watch it compete less than 48 hours later in a Las Vegas sports book. How cool is that? One veteran FFPC player always tells us that Opening Weekend Sunday in Vegas is the day he unwraps his Christmas presents (his fantasy team) he got in the draft just the day before.
The FFPC is known for the high-stakes options, but what do you offer for the player willing to spend a lot less?
The FFPC is not just high stakes. We do have Draft Experts leagues for just $77 and Classic full season leagues at $150 per team. Players can split a team and draft online at the same time for a pretty reasonable price.
Give us your sales pitch on why players should play in the FFPC and Footballguys Players Championship this year? What makes these events the best the industry has to offer?
Our sales pitch to play any of our events is simple: "Just ask our players." The best pitchman in the world cannot replace the recommendation of your customer. We encourage anyone interested in joining our events to come to the FFPC message board, simply browse around or ask some questions. Our players will gladly respond to all inquiries and we are proud to have them speak on our behalf. Give it a try!
Give us a player that you believe will be significantly undervalued in high-stakes drafts this year (production greatly exceeds draft position). Please backup that selection with why you like his chances to succeed in 2012.
Dave: I actually like Darius Heyward-Bey. He broke out late last season with Carson Palmer at quarterback. He has elite speed and is finally putting it all together. Many players still classify him as a bust, so he is under-the-radar in my opinion.
Alex: James Starks. He's currently being drafted right around RB40 which is simply ridiculous for a starting NFL running back. Yes, the Green Bay offense hasn't yielded great fantasy production from the RB position, but if Starks is given the chance at 70% of the touches in 2012, he will well outperform his current ADP.
Additionally, give me a player that will not be on your roster at any draft position. Explain why you think this "bust" could drastically underperform their ADP.
Dave: Frank Gore. He has too many career carries for me to draft him. They have lots of other young running backs over there, and San Francisco seems comfortable reducing his role every year.
Alex: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. We have all seen the future for the Carolina running game and his name is Cam Newton - 700 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011? Are you kidding me? If that's not bad enough, the two running backs have to share whatever remains of the load. I don't need that headache, even if they are sitting there in Round 12.
Parting shot about the FFPC.
Big shout out to all our players! Thanks for your continued support and patronage. The 2012 season is the fifth anniversary of the FFPC, and it will be another fantastic year!
How can players find out more information about the FFPC?