A few things have changed in the high-stakes industry in recent years. First, there is more competition. It used to be that high-stakes fantasy football meant the World Championship of Fantasy Football (WCFF). The first ever WCFF event was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 2002.
Given the early success of WCFF, a number of other companies opened up shop (and have since closed in some cases), trying to earn their piece of the then-growing high-stakes fantasy football pie. From the increased competition came more options not only between contest providers, but also in terms of different contest options from the same operator. This is the second big change.
Now there are some moderate-stakes contest options in the neighborhood of $300 instead of the typical main event fees north of $1,200. For those of us on a budget—or with a wife who happens to be an accountant (who’s with me?) —a few hundred dollars is easier to justify.
I’m sure some veteran high-stakes players may take issue with me lumping the $300 entry fee contests under the high-stakes umbrella, but I’m going to do it anyway. The contests I’m looking at are structured as traditional fantasy football leagues and have a five- or six-figure grand prize, which fits the definition of high-stakes for me. Plus, a blog series on high-stakes fantasy football just sounds better than one on moderate-stakes.
The third big change in recent years is, of course, due to technology. There are now online options for drafting in many of these contests. Yes, they still have the big city venues, too, which are great fun but require a bigger budget and more time commitment to participate in. At this point, an online draft is a better fit for me.
Now I just need to figure out which contest or contests I am going to join. I currently have four options I’m looking at. There are a lot of things to consider, including the cost and prize payouts, how the game is structured, whether the draft dates and times fit my schedule, the professionalism and customer service of the contest provider, and the security of the prize pool.
That list is not in any particular order, and by no means is it meant to be exhaustive. Some items are going to be more important to some people than others, of course. Some points, if they aren’t sufficiently met, will completely eliminate a contest from consideration. For example, if a contest does not appear to be professionally run, and you have concerns about the security of the prize pool, then the rest of the stuff really does not matter.
Do not take the security of the prize pool for granted just because a contest has a fancy website. While I have no firsthand knowledge, there have been reports of a few contests in recent years failing to fully pay out to their prize winners. Can you imagine the once-in-a-lifetime experience of winning the grand prize in a big fantasy football contest, only to find out later you won’t be receiving the grand prize because the contest organizers spent the money and went out of business? I can only imagine, but I imagine that feeling would be downright awful.
I’m not trying to scare people off from legitimate businesses in this industry, but just be aware there is a history of problems with some contests. Do your due diligence as best you can, which isn’t always easy, and realize nothing is guaranteed. If you are willing to take the risk playing in these contests, fine. If you are too risk averse, recognize that up front, and take a pass.
As an aside, one source of research you should use to help investigate the history of a contest you are considering is the newly founded Fantasy Players Association, initiated by high-stakes player Scott Atkins. Check the blog and message board, or post a question, to try to get some answers before putting your hard-earned money at risk in a shady contest.
In terms of my decision, I’m going to give just a high-level overview of different options I’m considering, and the particular points about each that stick out and differentiate them from each other. The four options I’m looking at are:
- Footballguys Players Championship
- National Fantasy Football Championship Online Championship
- RosterDoc RotoBowl Tournament
- World Championship of Fantasy Football Super Satellite
Note that these are specific contests I’ve narrowed down to include in my search. Each of the above companies has alternative high-stakes offerings, including live drafts, so if the ones I’m outlining aren’t quite what you are looking for, check what else is available from each company.
Here is a comparison chart I put together for the four options listed above.
* The above league payout percentages are estimated calculations. They exclude discounts for multiple contest entry purchases and future subscriptions, free entries, and credits where no cash alternative is provided.
So now I am left with the decision of how to allocate my funds. Every contest has different things I really like and some things I’m not as keen on. It isn’t an easy decision, and unfortunately (or fortunately, to make my decision easier), a lot of it will probably come down to the draft dates and times that best fit my schedule.
At this point I’m going to take some time to consider these options and check the available draft schedule for each contest. Next time I’ll make my decision on which league or leagues I’m going to sign up for.