Sports Jackpot Offers $1 Million Jackpot Prize, But Good Luck Hitting It
Legal Sports Report

Latest Fantasy Sports Innovation From BetStars Is High On User Engagement, Low On Player Value

BetStars fantasy sports
In recent years, the crux of Amaya’s product innovations have adhered to a similar formula:

  1. Take a popular format
  2. Strip it down and speed it up so that it becomes more accessible to the entry level player
  3. Add a nuance that increases the product’s overall appeal

In fairness, there are exceptions to this rule, most notably the upcoming hold’em-card game hybrid Power Up. But the newly minted Sports Jackpot doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Instead the daily fantasy sports spinoff sells the usual pipedreams while not necessarily bringing anything new to the table. It’s a serviceable and fun gateway for DFS newbies, but doesn’t offer enough player value to justify long term play.

What is Sports Jackpot?

Launched recently, Sports Jackpot is a joint venture between BetStars and StarsDraft (Amaya’s fantasy sports arm).

Those familiar with traditional fantasy sports will recognize a number of parallels. Namely, players choose a predesignated number of athletes, with the aim of choosing the combination of players that will score the most fantasy points.

The games are conducted via the tournament format, and feature a guaranteed prize pool with top performers winning escalating pieces of the pie.

There are also a number of divergences from DFS games on FanDuel or DraftKings:

  • There is no salary cap, and no grouping of athletes by position. Instead players will choose one player from eight predetermined groups.
  • The prize pools can exceed the guarantees, as games played outside of the US are not bound by the same limitations.
  • There is a lottery-inspired jackpot element, where players can parlay a $2 side bet into $1 million.

The conditions for winning the $1 million are unsurprisingly difficult. Put simply, players must select the highest scoring player from each group. Significantly smaller prizes ($100 – $10,000) are doled out to players who select five, six, or seven winners. (Such promotions have existed in US-facing DFS sites, although without a direct entry fee.)

Think of it like an eight-team parlay, except instead of winning eight head-to-head matches, players have to win eight battle royals.

Other notables:

  • The game features a Smart Pick feature, which allows the program to do the picking based on a player’s preferred statistical categories.
  • Multiple entries are permitted, with players possessing the ability to select multiple players from a group.
  • Roughly the top 25 percent of players for a given contest will make the money.
  • Currently, BetStars spreads games across various professional soccer leagues, the NBA and the PGA Tour.

Lack of depth a minus…

For players initially turned off by daily fantasy sports due to its complexity, Sports Jackpot appears to offer a solid alternative. But there are a few problems.

For one, the house takes 10 percent of every entry fee for its $3 and $10 contests. Admittedly, that’s still better than similarly priced tournaments at DraftKings, which rakes as much as 15 percent for its $3 contests.

But an argument can be made that the house take for traditional (more complex) daily fantasy games can be at least partially overcome through skillful play.

That argument doesn’t hold as much water with regards to Sports Jackpot, a game with only one tier of complexity. Yes, skillful selection will benefit the player, but turning the tables over the long haul may prove impossible.

Then there’s the jackpot element. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that difficult to hit. Some may even reason that BetStars is taking a big risk seeding the jackpot at $1 million.

However, a closer look reveals that this is not the case at all.

To wit, for one PGA Golf event we calculated a total of 57.6 million distinct athlete combinations. A jackpot entry costs $2 a pop, meaning that a player choosing players at random would run through $115.2 million, on balance, before hitting.

This observation isn’t totally fair, as players will win myriad three, four, and five digit prizes along the way. That, and the jackpot bet is completely optional. And the skill element in player selection is better than a random selection.

But it isn’t that off-base either, considering the low skill edge to be had, and that the athletes from each group are relatively equal in terms of their ability to put up fantasy numbers.

…but also a bit of a plus

All this said, Sports Jackpot does win points for its accessibility, which spans both the game itself and the cleverly designed user interface.

And not for nothing, the $1 million sweats — no matter how absurd the odds — provide an added layer of engagement to an already engaging format.

Unfortunately, BetStars’ new variant loses all those points and more for being as close to an unbeatable game as we’ve analyzed.

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- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several online poker publications and dreams of one day programming a poker simulation clever enough to beat the pros. Read more by following @DivergentGames on Twitter.