We have no intentions of chasing away the tilt-free days of summer prematurely, but when DraftKings announces a Week 1 tournament worth $10 million, we can’t help ourselves.
Last season the Millionaire Maker captured intrigue and bankrolls alike. Not to be outdone, the first iteration in 2015 is a daily-double—awarding first place $2 million and second place a measly $1 million.
Before getting into the numbers, it’s our fiduciary duty to remind you that our staff compiled the most complete book on DFS to date. Don’t enter this tournament, or any other game on DraftKings, until you read how to crack it.
by the numbers
How do you give away $10 million in prize money without simultaneously giving your CFO a heart attack? Simple: invite 572,500 people to participate.
If you’re new to this, consider context: one of the biggest guaranteed prize pools for any NFL contest to date was FanDuel’s $3M NFL Sunday Million, offered in Week 9 of the 2014 season. The entry fee was $25 and the size of the field was 127,233. First place paid $500,000.
Similarly, DraftKings had 126,000 entries for their Millionaire Maker in Week 16 with an entry fee of $27.
Over the offseason, DraftKings turned to golf to fill the void (like so many of us). They rolled out Millionaire Makers for The Masters in April, The U.S. Open in June and The Open Championship in July. With each contest they gradually bumped up the size of the field, ultimately offering the biggest GPP in history: 171,750 entries. The contest sold out. In fact, all three of them sold out.
A year ago, had you told us, or anyone, that a PGA tournament would fill 440,575 seats over the course of three weekends, well, let’s just say we would have given you a favorable parlay.
Riding that wave, they’ve lowered the ticket price to $20 to be a part of the biggest tournament in history. That’s right: all that stands between you and being a millionaire twice over is a $20 bill.
Oh, and 572,499 other people.
Here is the payout structure:
|Place||Prize||Total Payout||Payout %|
|7th - 8th||$75,000||$150,000||1.50%|
|9th - 10th||$50,000||$100,000||1.00%|
|11th - 12th||$40,000||$80,000||0.80%|
|13th - 14th||$30,000||$60,000||0.60%|
|15th - 16th||$25,000||$50,000||0.50%|
|17th - 18th||$20,000||$40,000||0.40%|
|19th - 20th||$15,000||$30,000||0.30%|
|21st - 25th||$10,000||$50,000||0.50%|
|26th - 30th||$7500||$37,500||0.38%|
|31st - 40th||$6000||$60,000||0.60%|
|41st - 50th||$5000||$50,000||0.50%|
|51st - 75th||$4000||$100,000||1.00%|
|76th - 100th||$3000||$75,000||0.75%|
|101st - 150th||$2500||$125,000||1.25%|
|151st - 200th||$2000||$100,000||1.00%|
|201st - 300th||$1500||$150,000||1.50%|
|301st - 400th||$1000||$100,000||1.00%|
|401st - 600th||$750||$150,000||1.50%|
|601st - 800th||$500||$100,000||1.00%|
|801st - 1000th||$400||$80,000||0.80%|
|1001st - 1250th||$300||$75,000||0.750%|
|1251st - 1500th||$250||$62,500||0.63%|
|1501st - 1750th||$200||$50,000||0.50%|
|1751st - 2000th||$150||$37,500||0.38%|
|2001st - 4000th||$100||$200,000||2.00%|
|4001st - 6000th||$75||$150,000||1.50%|
|6001st - 8000th||$60||$120,000||1.20%|
|8001st - 15000th||$50||$350,000||3.50%|
|15001st - 25000th||$40||$400,000||4.00%|
|25001st - 45000th||$35||$700,000||7.00%|
|45001st - 75000th||$30||$90,0000||9.00%|
|75001st - 125700th||$25||$1,267,500||12.68%|
Let’s start with the bad news: tournaments of this size offer zero positive expected value. Meaning, there is no way to put the odds in your favor, especially with a payout structure this truncated.
Nearly half of the prize pool is being awarded to the top 150 lineups. Another words, 50% of the prize is going to .03% of the field (or .12% of the prize pool). You have to beat out 547,500 lineups to double your money, and 446,800 lineups just to cash. The top 200 lineups will make more than the rest of the field combined.
Top-heavy is something we’re used to with these kind of GPPs, and this takes it to a whole new level. But top-heavy isn’t what makes this game dangerous. To quote Maurile Tremblay (you may remember him from his always reliable projections, and his industry-leading Interactive Value Charts):
“The problem with the top-heavy prize structure is not that it reduces EV, it's that it increases variance. This means that you should wager less on it than you would if the variance were lower.”
So don’t be discouraged. Instead, be careful. This is the first eight-figure tournament ever. And seven of those figures could be yours. How you choose to invest your bankroll in this environment is your business; we recommend a frugal approach.
The good news is that DraftKings has restricted the amount of entries for any one player to 500, a much better looking number than unlimited, which was the case last year. We don’t recommend throwing down $10,000 in hopes of finishing 25th or better, and surely someone will, but it’s good know that a group of sharks can’t join forces and attempt to run the table.
Truth be told, regardless of your experience, your odds of winning a million dollars (thanks, impart, to variance) are just as good as anyone’s. Entering multiple lineups will have a miniscule effect on those odds in a field this size. So bear that in mind when you’re optimizing your Week 1 bankroll.
All that being said, this is the biggest and most exciting tournament we’ve ever seen—a historic moment in fantasy sports. So have fun with it. Just don’t overextend your investment.
And since we’re so excited, let’s take a quick spin through the bargain bin.
Unique lineups are going to be hard to come by and ownership percentages will be cluttered, as if Week 1 wasn’t hard enough. A lot will change between now and opening kickoff. Player’s salaries will remain static.
You might be best served paying up for this position in the first week of the season, but we won’t be surprised if the winner has a value option.
Carson Palmer sticks out with his $6,500 price tag. The Cardinals host the Saints to open the season. A healthy Palmer gets an excellent group of receivers—all the way down to his running backs—and we could do worse than a 48-point over/under.
The last time Joe Flacco faced the Denver Broncos he completed only 54% of his passes. That would be terrible had he not attempted a career high 62 passes for 362 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. If you want to buy into the third highest over/under and not pay Peyton Manning prices, Flacco will set you back just $6,200.
If you want to spend a little more and not destroy your bankroll, Eli Manning traveling to Dallas for the Sunday Night opener has a nice sticker price of $7,400. He’s the best way to take advantage of a Giants offense that may rank in the top 10 this season.
We’d prefer our running backs to be playing with a home field advantage, but Lamar Miller, for $5,500, in what might be a slow-paced game looks like a good bet. The Dolphins defense should have no trouble with Washington and whichever quarterback they throw out there. And should this game turn into a high-scoring barn-burner, he’s a lock to hit tournament value while siphoning check-downs from Ryan Tannehill.
For a few hundred dollars more, Jonathan Stewart ($5,800)—also on the road—finally gets the backfield all to himself and an opponent that allowed 15 rushing touchdowns and the fifth most rushing yards per game.
No team allowed more rushing yards per game than the Cleveland Browns. We don’t trust the Jets quarterbacks but Chris Ivory may be in for a big workload Week 1. For $4,100, his salary provides you with a lead back and a lot of roster flexibility.
We’re taking discounts at quarterback and running back so we can afford Julio Jones. He’s the most expensive player on the board in Week 1—a whopping $9,300—but we’re hoping his price keeps his ownership low. Even if it doesn’t, it’s impossible to pass on him against a bad Eagles’ secondary in a high-scoring game at home.
Back to the affordable side of things, if you’re playing Palmer you might as well take a shot on John Brown ($4,500) as well. His usage is to be determined, but in terms of achieving tournament value (3x or greater) a long touchdown is all he needs. That’s true of every player you select but it’s actually reasonable to expect that of Brown. Note that he will probably be a popular GPP option.
One thing we must always take into consideration with receivers is the three-point bonus awarded for a 100-yard game. DeAndre Hopkins ($7,400) had four of those last year, 13th most tied with Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith and Sammy Watkins. The quarterback situation in Houston is terrifying, to be sure, and playing the Chiefs at home offers little confidence, but if you’re looking for a wild card with major upside, Hopkins has all the skills.
Rob Gronkowski plays the Thursday night game so he won’t be available to us. That makes Jimmy Graham the most expensive tight end on the board. He’ll also probably be the heaviest owned. We’d rather save a little bit here and take a chance with Kyle Rudolph who—pardon the cliché—could serve as a security blanket for Teddy Bridgewater. He could also serve as a security blanket for our lineups at just $3,500.
If you decided to stay away from Lamar Miller, Jordan Cameron for $3,800 is a nice option on a possibly great Dolphins’ offense. Washington allowed the fourth most points to tight ends in 2014 and we’ve seen what Cameron can do.
Not to dwell, but we really like the Dolphins’ defense. It would be better if they were at home but expecting a trio of sacks and turnovers isn’t out of the question. Hopefully one of those turns into a defensive score. For $3,000 it’s worth a shot.
The New York Jets might be the best value of all. For $2,900 you’re getting a home team with a good, if not great, defense against the Cleveland Browns and the lowest over/under of the week. We’ll take that everyday.