One of world’s leading Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operators, FanDuel, has hit out at the poker industry by referring to it as nothing more than gambling.
With the pressure on DFS sites to either completely close their doors in the US or shutter certain states in a bid to keep pace with the shifting legal landscape, FanDuel’s CFO Matt King told PBS public affairs show Frontline recently that poker isn’t a game of skill after all.
Facing intense legal and regulatory scrutiny about his own company and its place on the gambling/skill spectrum, King insisted that DFS is “entertainment” that nonetheless favors skilled players, but that poker is more a game for those favored with good fortune.
“The reality is within poker, every time you shuffle the deck, it creates an element of luck that trumps it basically to being much more a chance-dominated game than a skill-dominated game,” said King.
He then went on to state that FanDuel’s data shows that “good” DFS players are “consistently” good, and get better the more they practice.
What’s interesting to note is that this is where King ended his comparison with poker. Whether it was a conscious decision or not, the DFS exec stopped short of saying that poker players can’t improve over time or win on a consistent basis.
Had he made a statement like that, his words would have been met with a slew of graphs and statistics from poker players around the world ready to prove him wrong, of course.
After King’s comments went public, the poker community was quick to respond. And lobbying organization Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas quickly tweeted that poker is indeed a game of skill, and that there is “academic research” to support it.
In fact, the Norwegian government is just one authoritative power that agrees with Pappas.
Back in 2014, Norway native high stakes pro Ola Amundsgard challenged all members of the Norwegian government to a $170,000 heads-up match, putting his own money up to the challenge.
After beating Erien Wiborg, a member of the Progress Party, Amundsgard successfully convinced the government that poker was based on skill. The end result was that the Norwegian Poker Championships were allowed to be held on home soil for the first time in its history last year.
Another sign that King’s comments might be aimed at separating his product from an industry that’s suffered many slings at the hands of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is that DraftKings has been highly active in the poker community.
The main rival to FanDuel, DraftKings not only had sponsorship deals with the World Series of Poker (WSOP) before Nevada banned DFS sites, but with players themselves.
In August 2015, popular pro and live streamer Jason Somerville secured a DraftKings’ sponsorship deal to go along with his current contract with PokerStars. That deal not only led to branding on his Twitch stream, but also created satellites to and sponsorship of his live tournament series, Run It Up Reno.
Another potential flaw in King’s critique of the poker industry is Max Steinberg. The poker-pro-turn-DFS-pro has made millions playing on both DraftKings and FanDuel, and is an example of how the two games share a number of common traits.
In fact, during an interview with All In, Steinberg alluded to the fact that there is an element of luck in DFS that isn’t there in poker. When asked to compare his emotions when deep in a DFS event vs. a poker tournament, Steinberg said that the dynamics are totally different.
“In daily fantasy, you make your line-up and then it’s out of your hands, although I dwell on whether what I did was right or wrong,” explained Steinberg.
The implication from this statement is that after a line-up is set, the result is determined by fate (or luck), with little the DFS player can do to affect things.