Everyone wants to win the big one.
That's the World Series of Poker Main Event if your preference is games of skill. Or the progressive lotteries when they hit nine figures if you're OK with sheer luck.
In daily fantasy football -- which we like to think is one of those games of skill -- a big one is the DraftKings $12 million Fantasy Football World Championship. The championship tournament is scheduled for Dec. 17, that's Week 15 of the NFL season, in Miami.
For the championship, there will be 200 entries competing for the $2 million first-place prize. The rest of the prize pool will be distributed among the other 199 entries, according to finish.
What has always distinguished these grand finale tournaments is that while daily fantasy sports is mainly an online experience, the championship events are live and in-person.
You get to go to an actual place; this year, that's scheduled to be Miami.
The finalists get a four-night stay in a fancy hotel and an allowance for transportation. There's usually a night-before party for the competitors and their guests, and on championship day, everyone gathers in the same room watching the games unfold on big-screen TVs, yelling and cheering and probably swearing.
And at the end, there is the big cardboard check with all those zeroes on it.
So how do you get there?
You have to earn your way into the DraftKings championship, usually by winning a qualifying tournament.
Before the NFL season began, DraftKings announced there would be eight opportunities to qualify for its daily fantasy football championship between Weeks 1 and 14 of the NFL season.
What we learned from the Week 1 schedule of qualifiers was that there were nine individual qualifier contests in which DFS players could enter in order to get to Miami. The entry fees had a huge range -- from $5 and $6, to $33, all the way up to $150, $400, $850, $1,200 and even $5,300 (two of those). Obviously, the cheaper the entry fee, the more competition you'll be facing.
In each of those nine contests, only the winner got a golden ticket to the championship in Miami. The value of the whole package is estimated at about $66,000.
Be advised that after the top prize was doled out to the winners in the Week 1 qualifiers, the rest of the payout structure dropped dramatically. For instance, the $33 entry fee tournament was accepting a maximum of 2,589 entrants, and after the winner was awarded the estimated $66,000 package, the second-place finisher was scheduled to get $1,000.
So if you get into these qualifiers, understand that you are really reaching for a brass ring and that you're mostly funding the winner's trip.
Another road to the live championship, albeit with more steps, is through so-called satellite tournaments. Satellite entry fees are at less expensive price points and typically feature fewer competitors, but the payoff is a ticket into a subsequent qualifier tournament, which you also have to win to get to the big dance.
It is possible to earn more than one entry in the 200-entrant championship field, but an individual player is capped at eight entries.
The championship in Miami isn't the only live-experience tournament DraftKings is offering. There's a $1 million King of the Beach tournament being held in Key West Dec. 3 (Week 13 of the NFL season). The first-round of qualifying tournaments runs through the NFL's Week 10 with 180 entrants earning their way into an online event that pares the field to 50 on Week 11. The holders of those 50 entries head to Key West for the live tournament with the winner earning $100,000, and $900,000 distributed to the rest of the field.
FanDuel, the other major daily fantasy website, is also planning a live championship event sometime toward the end of the NFL season, as it has in the past, according to a spokeswoman. However, details were not available before Week 1.
FantasyDraft, one of the smaller DFS websites, has scheduled a live-event championship called the Carolina Million Dec. 10 (Week 14 of the NFL season) with 12 finalists vying for a $1 million prize pool with the winner earning $200,000. The event will be in Charlotte, N.C. The qualifier entry fees escalate from week to week from a starting point that was $55 on Week 1 to $777 on Week 5. Satellite tournaments that get a player into a subsequent week's qualifier tournament had cheaper entry fees. The qualifier tournament structure for Weeks 6-12 was to-be-announced.
In a hurry? FanDuel is introducing a format for participants who don't want to spend too much time putting together the puzzle pieces of a fantasy football lineup within a salary cap.
FanDuel's "NFL Mini Unlimited" format requires participants pick just five players, basically without salary constraints. You select five players: one quarterback, two running backs and two wide receivers.
You could have five Pro Bowl players if you want.
The challenge? Well, everyone is going to have mostly Pro Bowl players, but to win big, it seems you'll need to have one or two players who have a surprise big game.
Issue 237: September 2017