Top DFS And Handicapping Minds Talk DraftKings’ Sports Betting National Championship

Juan Carlos Blanco January 11, 2019
DK Sports Betting Championship

Much like the company hosting the event, there are plenty of participants in this coming weekend’s DraftKings’ Sports Betting National Championship looking to replicate their daily fantasy sports (DFS) success in the sports betting realm.

The most prominent might well be Alex Baker, much better known in DFS circles as “Awesemo.”

Baker currently has the ranking of No. 1 DFS player in the world, by industry site RotoGrinders.

Therefore, he’s no stranger to live, high-stakes bashes, which DraftKings’ Sports Betting Championship promises to be. Last month, Baker held three seats in DraftKings’ DFS NFL Live Final.

Just a couple of months prior, he was a four-time qualifier in the site’s MLB Live Final. That was the second time he’d accomplished the feat; Baker snagged the same number of seats for the NBA season-ending extravaganza last spring as well.

Baker boasted a similarly prolific body of work in the prior two years, too.

His DFS success across multiple sports — he also currently ranks in the top five in PGA and NHL, and in the top 75 in MMA — should serve him well in an event where contestants will be free to wager on a wide variety of games until Sunday when the event draws to a close.

That same day, contest participants must plunk down at least $2,000 on markets for the Chargers versus Patriots, and Eagles versus Saints during NFL’s divisional round. None of the other sporting events unfolding that day qualify with respect to the contest’s leaderboard.

An aggressive approach will be key

Given his overall success, the fact that Baker holds a seat to the single-entry event is far from shocking. He won his way in through a $225 NFL qualifier contest this fall. If that wouldn’t have worked out, he was ready to foot the $10,000 direct buy-in to get in on the action.

In a conversation with TheLines.com, Baker elaborated on his overall outlook heading into the first-of-its-kind event.

Naturally, he wasn’t overly revealing when it comes to the more granular aspects of his planned strategy.

But, Baker did affirm his belief that anything resembling a cautious approach simply ain’t gonna cut it with regards to securing the $1 million grand prize — the amount awarded to the participant with the largest bankroll by weekend’s end.

“I think you have to take a very high-variance approach with nearly half the money going to first,” Baker said. “You also have to place as many bets as possible to increase your bankroll exponentially.”

Given that all bet types, live betting and cash-outs are considered eligible wagers as per DraftKings’ official rules, there’s no shortage of options through which to achieve that goal.

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Will DFS skills play a role?

How much can Baker’s DFS talent help in this weekend’s sports betting-focused event? In his view, there’s a certain degree of overlap; yet, there are also enough differences to make it an unchartered territory.

Granted, he’s not a sports betting novice by any stretch. Baker concedes to having “dabbled some” in sportsbooks in the past. There’s also plenty of synergy with DFS when it comes to the type of research involved before decision-making.

Much like in DFS, “everyone will be using the best estimation of what happened in the past to try and predict what will happen in the future,” said Baker.

Having built player models for DFS purposes with success for multiple years, Baker is beyond well-equipped in this regard.

However, there’s naturally a gulf between assessing potential individual production as opposed to attempting to predict a team-centered outcome. Then, figuring out whether a point spread or projected total is exploitable is an even more precise practice.

The area where DFS acumen could move the needle the most may be in individual player props. An expert statistical modeler, the caliber of Baker, could certainly leverage his or her skills in predicting individual performance to achieve substantial success with such bet types.

Regarding contest structure, Baker is very much on board with the aforementioned rule that all Sunday wagering is exclusive to NFL’s divisional playoff games.

In fact, the long-tenured DFS live final participant thinks the structure could allow the Sports Betting National Championship to trump those events in terms of last-minute fireworks.

“In DFS live finals, everyone sets their lineup before lock, and then you wait it out,” remarked Baker. “This will be a fluid situation with all the bets that can be placed as the games go on.”

Prominent handicapper offers his view

Having obtained the valued perspective of the DFS industry’s most successful pro — one that also happens to be one of the event’s participants — TheLines.com reached out to a professional handicapper for his take on the Sports Betting National Championship.

Jon Price, of Sports Information Traders, has been a prominent name in sports betting for many years. He’s hit on several six- and seven-figure wagers in multiple sports while also heading up his renowned “sports investment service.”

While the Sports Betting National Championship has been the recipient of some social media flack, Price lauds the event as a positive that sets up as a formidable test to its participants’ sports betting skills.

“Specifically, this will require more than general knowledge in handicapping, but also the DK fantasy props will provide a challenge to those contestants who don’t normally play fantasy and vice versa for those adept at individual player props,” Price said.

“Also, the idea that all sports are included will definitely create some opportunities (for) professional handicappers who have their niche sport. This is one event that truly does require thought, skill and most importantly, bankroll preparation and execution.”

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