In the spirit of Bringing Down the House and The Wolf of Wall Street, “an engrossing and often hilarious behind-the-scenes look at the characters, compulsions, and chaos inside the fantasy sports gold rush. It’s the perfect meld of a sports and business book, engagingly written like a fun, page-turning novel” (The Wall Street Journal).
Daniel Barbarisi quit his job as a New York Yankees beat writer and began a quest to join the top one percent of Daily Fantasy Sports (“DFS”) players, the so-called “sharks,” in hopes to discover the secrets behind this phenomenon—and potentially make some money along the way.
DFS is fantasy sports on steroids. It’s the domain of bitter rivals FanDuel and DraftKings, online juggernauts who turned a legal loophole into a billion-dollar industry by allowing sports fans to bet piles of cash constructing fantasy teams.
Yet as Barbarisi quickly realizes, what should have been a fun companion to casual sports viewing was instead a ferocious environment infested with sharks, a top tier of pros wielding complex algorithms, drafting hundreds of lineups, and wagering six figures daily as they bludgeon unsuspecting amateur “fish.” Barbarisi embeds himself inside the world of DFS, befriending and joining its rogue’s gallery as he tries to beat them at their own game.
In a work equal parts adventure and rigorously reported investigation, Barbarisi wades into this chaotic industry at the very moment its existence is threatened by lawmakers sick of its Wild West atmosphere and pushy advertising. All their money made FanDuel and DraftKings seem invincible; but, as Barbarisi reports, they made plenty of dubious—perhaps even scandalous—moves as they vied for market supremacy.
In Dueling with Kings, Barbarisi uncovers the tumultuous inside story of DFS, all while capturing its peculiar cast of characters, from wide-eyed newly minted millionaires, to sun-starved math geeks, to bros living an endless frat party of keggers and Playboy Bunnies. Can he outwit them all and make it to the top?
Veteran sports writer Barbarisi was covering the New York Yankees for the Wall Street Journal in 2015 when he became intrigued by daily fantasy sports, an online world of "fantasy baseball married with poker married with traditional sports betting." He takes a fascinating look at this betting world, dominated by two companies FanDuel and DraftKings with millions of users competing for million-dollar payoffs in an atmosphere of abandon that reminds Barbarisi of "stock traders in the 1980s before the market tanked." After an initial effort with losses that turned him into "what the industry calls a fish" a big-money loser and fed his anger that the industry gives an advantage to big-spending "sharks" and is "ruinous to the little guy," Barbarisi took a new path. He decided "to get in with these sharks, convince them to help me, and study under them." The result is a funny and entertaining inside look at a gambling industry in which big players use complex algorithms but nevertheless can lose to the most average of rubes; it is here where Barbarisi himself becomes a winning shark in the world of fantasy hockey.