One Billion Dollars? Free-To-Play DraftKings NFL Contest Offers Big Potential Payout For ‘Perfect Lineup’

Posted on August 14, 2017 - Last Updated on August 23, 2017
Written By on August 14, 2017
Last Updated on August 23, 2017

[toc]DraftKings is offering its users a chance to win $1 billion if they enter the “perfect lineup” in a free-to-play daily fantasy football contest for Week 1 of the NFL season.

A billion dollars at DraftKings?

Yes, you can win a billion dollars at DraftKings, without paying to enter the “Billion Dollar Lineup” challenge. The contest is free to play and awards a prize pool of $100,000 to the users that craft the best lineups, even if they aren’t perfect.

But players entering the contest will be hoping to win the billion dollars for hitting the perfect the lineup, or the equivalent of the lottery for daily fantasy sports.

“For the last five NFL seasons, DraftKings has led the way in innovation and breakthrough ideas creating the game inside the game that only daily fantasy sports can provide,” said DraftKings Chief Marketing Officer Janet Holian in a press release. “This year, the Billion Dollar Lineup is the ultimate opportunity for players to test their skills and kick off the new NFL season with the potential to win $1 billion.”

DraftKings is promoting the contest with at least two commercials:

What does the “perfect lineup” consist of?

DraftKings says it “will calculate the perfect lineup by determining all possible valid lineup combinations given the NFL Week 1 results under the normal salary cap and roster restrictions. The perfect lineup will be the highest possible scoring lineup.”

Basically, that means you have to pick the top scoring player in terms of fantasy points at each of nine positions (quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, tight end, flex and a team defense/special teams) in a DraftKings lineup.

That must be done while creating a lineup that fits under DraftKings’ salary cap structure.

Other details for the contest

  • Because the contest is free to play, users in all 50 states can enter — even those states that the site doesn’t serve for contests that have real-money entry fees.
  • To play, you have to live in the US, Germany, the UK or Canada (but not in Quebec).
  • Anyone over the age of 18 may enter the contest in those jurisdictions (except you must be over 19 in Alabama or Nebraska, and over 21 in Massachusetts).
  • The cap on entries is five million. One entry per user.
  • The options for payment is $5 million a year for 50 years followed by a lump sum for the rest, or $300 million as an initial lump sum.
  • The lineup must be submitted by kickoff at 1 p.m. Eastern on September 10.
  • The contest is currently only planned as a one-time offering for Week 1.
You can find all the details here.

How can DraftKings afford to give away a billion dollars?

DraftKings certainly doesn’t have a billion dollars sitting around. The contest, like many contests with a huge amount of money on the line, is being insured, per the official contest page:

Smaller DFS sites — most notably the now defunct DraftDay — once offered a million dollars if anyone generated the perfect lineup for any of its contests.

The contest is also probably insured at a reasonable rate because it’s unlikely anyone will win it.

Can someone actually win a billion dollars?

DraftKings does not provide odds for winning the contest. In the official rules, it says this:

  1. Odds of Winning. Mathematical odds of winning the Grand Prize will vary depending upon the knowledge and skill of the Entrant.

And to DraftKings’ credit it, it does make it sound pretty difficult to win, on the contest page:

This is the most challenging promotion we’ve ever offered. You aren’t going to win a billion dollars by drafting a good lineup or even a great one. To win $1 billion, you’ll need to draft the “perfect lineup.” Anyone who plays fantasy football knows how tough the challenge really is. This promotion can be won, but to conquer this ultimate test of skill, you’ll need to be perfect.

But DraftKings does not put any odds on the possibility.

What if you did try to put odds on it?

While being good at DFS certainly would be better than a randomly generated lineup or one done with little research, the odds of hitting on it are extremely low, even for a very skilled player. It’s not clear if anyone has ever actually done this in the history of DFS for an NFL contest.

There’s room for debate about how likely the perfect lineup is to achieve. It’s somewhere on the wide spectrum between “impossible” and “a very skilled player will have a good chance.” No matter what you might believe about the odds of hitting the perfect lineup are, they are likely worse than winning a Powerball jackpot, a lottery with long odds but no skill involved.

According to industry analysts contacted by Legal Sports Report, they put the odds of putting together a perfect lineup at one in two trillion. The same analysts came up with these comps at those odds:

  • It’s 1,000 times easier to make a perfect NCAA bracket than a perfect NFL lineup.
  • It’s 5,000 times more likely to win a Powerball Jackpot than create a perfect lineup.
  • Everyone on planet Earth could create approximately 200 lineups and it’s still more likely that no one has a perfect lineup.
Could someone draft the perfect fantasy lineup and end up a billion dollars richer? Sure. But that is unlikely to happen.
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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.

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