The inaugural DraftKings Sportsbook “Super Pool” NFL Pick’em Contest is in the books, and it culminated in a four-way photo finish that will leave one of the horses $250,000 richer and three of them with smaller six-figure prizes — and, as these things go, probably a few regrets and “what ifs.”
The four co-winners (more on this), who went by the handles csmaniac, MacM, Stonesalltheway, and vgironda, each turned in a remarkable 51-19 (72.8%) performance, while another pack of six finished on their heels at 50-20 (71.4%), earning $23,333 apiece.
While the DK online sportsbook is now operational in five states, the “Super Pool” contest began in September 2019, coinciding with NFL’s Week 4, in New Jersey only — or only for persons making picks from within the Garden State on a weekly basis. Proxies were not allowed. In other words, each entrant who bought in for $500 had to make the 70 against-the-spread (ATS) selections on NFL games from Week 4 through Week 17, while using the online sportsbook located somewhere in NJ.
DK Sportsbook Super Pool heart tiebreaker
The format contrasts with another contest that you may have heard of, the famed Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest, in which poolsters must choose five games ATS weekly every week of the NFL regular season.
With this NJ-based Super Pool being sort of an oddball with the midseason start and rules that afforded entrants the freedom to pick between zero and 16 games in any given week, it was challenging to gauge where each entrant stood at various points throughout the season. Some entrants fired all 70 shots before even Week 13. The contest lines were posted each week on Wednesday morning, akin to the SuperContest, but unlike the SuperContest, the lines were shaded off whole numbers, rather than incorporating ties/pushes and half-points. The wisdom of that is quite open for debate.
For much of Sunday night and Monday, the final result was uncertain. Based on our reading of the rules and some online chatter, it appeared that vgironda, who made zero correct picks in Week 17, would walk away with the $250k top prize. Indeed, the leaderboard and payouts now posted on the DK site seem to confirm that vgironda has won, thanks to a contest tiebreaker rule as follows:
Vgironda made zero picks in Week 17 because he had already made his 70th and final selection in Week 16, going 4-0, finishing 51-19 with an overall three-game lead over csmaniac, who entered the final frame at 48-18 with four picks remaining, and MacM, who entered at 49-18 with three remaining.
But most importantly, vgironda had 47 wins entering Week 16, more than any of the other top finishers. In essence, vgironda entered the final week with the first-place tiebreaker in hand. Thus csmaniac had to finish with a perfect 4-0 to claim the top prize, MacM had to go 3-0, and Stonesalltheway needed a 6-1 or 7-0 finish with his seven picks left in the holster on either of two entries.
But each of the three stalkers landed at 51 — all of them catching one loss courtesy the Colts-Jaguars tilt, in which the pool had fixed the line at Colts -3.5 at the Jaguars, one of the most “stale” lines on the board by far, as the game closed Colts -6.5 at most shops. It appears faith in Indy and/or that discrepancy was too much for vgironda’s combatants to pass up.
And as everyone expected, the often lifeless Jaguars, behind dead coach walking Doug Marrone, came out of halftime with a 20-16 deficit and scored 22 unanswered points for a resounding 38-20 victory.
So it appears that vgironda will take home the $250,000 and the three co-first-place finishers, by virtue of the tiebreaker discussed, will chop the second ($150k), third ($100k), and fourth ($50k) place prizes, for $100k apiece. If not for the tiebreaker rules, each of the four would have collected $137.5k.
It’s all over 🏆 pic.twitter.com/JlI2CN2Q2d
— William Bierman (@williambierman) December 30, 2019
I spoke with csmaniac, aka William Bierman, in early December when he was tracking toward the very top at 40-15. At that time, Bierman, a successful DFS player, tabulated that he had about about a 16.1% chance to finish first and claim $250k, or about $73.7k in expected value.
Obviously he finished strong at a 71.4% clip, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the tiebreaker in what proved a very sharp field. Bierman shared the above tweet and acknowledged the tiebreaker, but declined to comment for this story.
Super Pool next season
If there is a next year for the Super Pool in New Jersey — and we certainly hope there is — it would be best to dispense with the first place tiebreaker immediately. Part of the tournament’s appeal, separate from the $500k overlay created by 989 joining the pool instead of 2,000 for a $1 mm guaranteed prize pool, is the freedom to make however few or many picks as possible any week. Yet the ultimate tiebreaker rewarded contestants for making more picks in Weeks 15 and earlier. That’s incongruous with the spirit of the tournament’s structure at large.
We’re not calling foul on this tiebreaker outcome, which was probably in the rules from the outset, although we cannot attest to that. But it’s an unfortunate outcome that should be modified in future contests. That — and the line shading. Just award half points for pushes like the SuperContest, which, by the way, uses this tiebreaker for first place:
In the event of a first place tie, the first place prize winner will be determined based on the contestant that accumulated the most contest points during the final three (3) weeks of the regular season. If total points accumulated during the final three (3) weeks are equal then the tie-breaker will revert to Week 14, then Week 13, then Week 12, etc. to determine the first place prize winner. In the event of a tie after all weekly tie-breakers, dual first place winners will be declared, and the aggregate prize money will be split equally amongst the number of contestants still tied for first place.
Football and handicapping are not fair, but as far as tiebreaker outcomes, that just seems more equitable.
Finally, on a self-serving note, we wish the prizes weren’t so darn top heavy. So says a member of the US Bets team that secured a 46-24 record (65.7%), good for “only” $1,776.