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7 Questions About The Inaugural DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship

The inaugural DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship begins on Friday in New Jersey with a $1 million top prize and $2.5 million guaranteed, with perhaps as few as 175 or 200 sports bettors vying for the crown and the jewels.

If you haven’t heard much about the event yet, that’s understandable, because DraftKings hasn’t promoted it that much as they continue to finalize details for what’s shaping up to be a very exciting contest, with a diversity of contestants, strategies, and myriad of outcomes.

Coinciding with the weekend’s final NFL Divisional Round, the betting will be closed at kickoff of the 4:25 pm ET game between the Eagles and Saints.  So it is likely that Nick Foles and Drew Brees will have a big hand in deciding this thing.

To give you the most important information about the event, we’re taking the liberty of asking and then answering seven key questions:

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1. How does this thing work and what are the rules?

It runs three days from Friday, Jan. 11, through Sunday, Jan. 13. Every contestant starts with a $5,000 bankroll. If you’re 21+ you can buy into the contest for $10,000, of which half goes toward that bankroll. More from the contest rules page:

  • On Friday and Saturday, bet on any sport you want. Sunday betting is only allowed on the two NFL Divisional Playoff Games.
  • Players must place a total of $1,000 in bets by the close of betting on Saturday night and $2,000 across Sunday’s NFL games to be eligible to win leaderboard prizes
  • Players with the highest bankrolls at the end of the tournament will share the leaderboard prizes
  • All players take home their final bankroll at the end of the tournament
  • Only one entry allowed per player.

2. So, exactly where is this happening?

DraftKings is building a VIP Sportsbook space from scratch in Jersey City, N.J. specifically for this contest, to host the contestants and some media. It’s not an actual sportsbook, though, so there will be no tellers issuing betting slips.

Contestants will enter any/all of their wagers for the event through the DraftKings Sportsbook app — on an account for tournament purposes only. Players have to be located in New Jersey to make wagers in the contest. While contestants will have to register in Jersey City somewhere (we believe), once the contest begins, they can go anywhere they want in the state (or leave the state and re-enter to make bets). So contestants may be scattered throughout the state in different command centers, swanky hotel rooms or sports betting dungeons. Many will be there to enjoy the VIP sportsbook.

3. What are contestants betting on?

Anything and everything that’s posted on the DK Sportsbook app/web platform, which includes Australian Open tennis, scores of college basketball and NBA games, the Sony Open for golf, NHL, Euroleague, of course the NFL — you name it. The betting limits for parlays, money lines, props on any/all events are in the process of getting finalized. In other words, we don’t know yet if there’s a limit on the number of legs that can go in a parlay, or the amount of a parlay or any other wager. Come Sunday, however, betting is only allowed on the two NFL Divisional Playoff Games.

4. Who is participating?

About 80 or so people have won their entries (and bankroll and travel) into the contest via DraftKings DFS qualifiers. Around 175 total are confirmed as of the time of this writing.

There’s going to be some high-profile players making a run at the $1M, too. Well-known poker player and sports betting enthusiast Phil Hellmuth will be there. Another poker player and analytics guru Brandon Adams told US Bets’ Eric Raskin that he’s about 80 percent to fly from the Bahamas, where he’s in a poker tournament, to New York to make his way to Jersey. Vegas Sports and Information (VSiN) host Gil Alexander is in, and on today’s show they said the 2015 Westgate Las Vegas NFL SuperContest winner, James Salinas, is coming east for it, too.

Given this late buzz and the probability of a lot of overlay, there’s a good chance for more late entries from some well-heeled and perhaps well-known figures.

5. What strategies will they be employing?

This is perhaps the most intriguing part. Some of the DFS players coming in via qualifier don’t devote much time to sports betting and may get outwitted on some esoteric sports betting principles by betting pros. But this is a three-day rush, not a marathon. We anticipate that people will be really trying to build their bankrolls on Friday, climb on Saturday to be in striking distance on Sunday.

Some are likely to go hard right out of the gate and be willing to leave with zero bankroll. Others may be content to finish tripling up —  but out of the money. There will be NCAA basketball experts and tennis gurus. Lots of NBA betting too, I’m sure. It will be interesting to see which league ultimately drives most of the betting handle. Some guys will be hammering props with others mostly playing spreads. We haven’t even scratched the surface strategy-wise.

6. How is it being covered?

There will be some mainstream media there. Stay tuned to all DraftKings social channels. Follow me (@brettsmiley) and @RGsportsbetting, along with the RotoGrinders betting page. Follow our friends at the @sharpsideapp and its operations manager, @Donnie_Peters.

But perhaps the best part is that there will be an active, updated leaderboard available for everyone to follow. Check any of the aforementioned handles for a link to it once it’s available. The board will show all competitors’ wagers 30 minutes after they’re placed.  If someone is running hot, you may have enough of a window to tail that contestant if you’re so inclined.

7. How is it going to end?

Yeah, the money question. How high does the winning bankroll get? What are contestants even gunning for? The goalposts will certainly change come late Friday night. Guesses are all over the place. Go ahead and take a stab here and gloat later if you’re closest. Guesses span from $30,000 to over $200,000 (!).

My safe guesses are: (1) the winner will have hit a 5-plus team parlay worth over $50,0000; and (2) the winning bankroll will not be determined until the Eagles-Saints game is over. In other words, it won’t be like Final Jeopardy where one person has a humongous lead entering the final game and wagers a dollar. He or she will probably have a decent bet down on the last game. It may very well get swung by something wacky like a longshot prop bet at 30-1 or higher on who scores the first touchdown.

Stay tuned!

"Brett Smiley : @brettsmiley Brett Smiley is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Sports Handle, which joined forces with the US Bets team in November 2018. He focuses on the sports betting industry and legislation. He's an avid sports bettor himself, mainly on NFL and college basketball contests. In a past life, Smiley practiced commercial litigation in New York City and previously wrote for FOX Sports and SI.com. He lives in New Jersey with his wife Michele, son Nolan, and their two English bulldogs, Chief and Boomer.."