New Games Will Have the Biggest Edges
Whenever new games or forms of gambling emerge, they present opportunities for the early adopters. This trend is evident in traditional salary cap DFS and Pick’em style DFS, where both game types have progressively become more challenging to profit from over time. Pick6 will likely follow a similar trajectory.
Unlike the Pick’em style DFS sites like PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy, having success in Pick6 will require a blend of multiple skills:
- Being able to string together parlays that win at a higher rate than the competition.
- Unlike the more straightforward math involved in sites like PrizePicks and Underdog, where creating +EV parlays is only goal, Pick6 introduces a different challenge as success additionally hinges on projecting how frequently opponents will choose specific parlay legs. Your payout is directly affected by the number of other users in your contest who win their parlays. Therefore, the optimal strategy involves playing the highest probability parlay while also accounting for what other contestants are doing.
There will definitely be an edge, at least early on, for players who are able to balance those two skills effectively.
Peer-to-Peer Games Are More Scalable
The other reason to be optimistic about Pick6 is that it is finally a new peer-to-peer (P2P) game in the DFS space. There is a dark side to P2P games that I discuss in the “Ugly” section below, but there is no doubt that P2P games offer an easier way to scale than any player-versus-house style games like DFS Pick’Ems or traditional sports betting. This is because in player-versus-house style games, your winnings are limited to how much the house is willing to lose to you. Eventually, all businesses will get sick of winners and put in measures to limit or prevent you from continuing to profit in the same manner. However, in P2P games, because the house takes on no risk, it is much easier to scale up without worry of getting limited or banned. For example, it would take a lot of work, time, and networking to be able to get down serious amounts in NFL player props at traditional sportsbooks, but anyone would be able to get that down very easily on any given NFL Sunday on DraftKings for traditional daily fantasy sports with a couple of button clicks. This is one of the allures of peer-to-peer games.
Popularity with Recreational Gamblers
Like all peer-to-peer forms of gambling, the success of Pick6 will entirely hinge on how much support it gets from recreational gamblers. The game clearly incorporates elements that have proven to be popular over the past couple of years, but I am skeptical that most recreational players will end up preferring this current format to PrizePicks and Underdog due to the increased uncertainty in this type of game.
Most recreational players hate uncertainty. To anyone who gambles even semi-seriously, this probably seems like an absurd statement as gambling is all about quantifying uncertainty, but there is nothing that ruins a recreational gambler’s experience more than something “unforeseen” happening that recreational gamblers generally don’t think of. For example, I’m sure we have all seen the many Tweets asking for bets to be voided after the player they bet on is injured. Because of the peer-to-peer nature of this game, injuries and even late scratches (players who don’t play at all) need to be considered a loss. If traditional DFS has taught us anything, it’s that most casual gamblers hate nothing more than losing a bet without their player even playing.
Much more importantly, however, I think most casual gamblers will be turned off by the uncertainty surrounding the payouts. It will likely only take a couple of instances of a casual gambler going 6/6 and only making 15X before they start to think the game is worse for them or rigged and move towards games where there is more certainty around their payout.
Lastly, it is undeniable that content creators can be extremely successful at driving users to different betting sites. Creating good content that drives users to play Pick6 will be very challenging as the most effective marketing currently in the sports betting content space is to post betting slips or picks and have people tail. This creates a communal sweat and has been extremely effective on sites like PrizePicks. Due to the zero-sum nature of peer-to-peer games, this marketing and content creation obviously will not work for Pick6, making it potentially harder to sell to recreational gamblers.
In my opinion, the ugliest aspect of the game as it currently stands is the rake (at the time of writing this, the rake is 19%). Rake is an extremely important factor in all gambling games, especially P2P games, for their long-term sustainability. If rake levels are too high, players lose their money too quickly, preventing a sustainable ecosystem from forming. It is disappointing to see this type of game have higher rake than traditional DFS, given that, from an outsider’s perspective, these games seem much less administratively burdensome to run than traditional DFS. This is because it is just repackaging market lines in a different format and does not require an algorithm/team to set individual salaries for players.
The rake is currently very beatable for players who are employing even the most basic strategies in these contests, but I wonder how long that will last. Pick6 is objectively much simpler in terms of strategy compared to traditional DFS. This is because in traditional DFS, salaries are far from unbiased predictors of fantasy point production. On any given slate, there will be many players who are overpriced and underpriced relative to their salary. In Pick6, because the selections are based on players’ betting lines, this substantially reduces the “projection edge” someone can have as it is much rarer for betting markets to have prices that are substantially off. With this aspect of the game greatly reduced, the game becomes much easier to solve, and it won’t take all that many people figuring out basic strategies to make these types of games unexploitable at these rake levels.
The Ugly Side of Peer-to-Peer Games
Many recreational gamblers have the false notion that it is hard or impossible to win against the house. Anyone who takes any sort of gambling seriously knows that it’s not very difficult to win against the house; the hard part is doing it at scale. No business is going to let someone continually take advantage of them – if you have an edge, the house eventually will shut you down. This is the actual hard part about winning gambling games versus the house – finding ways to get the most money out of a business that is doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.
Because peer-to-peer games are a more direct path to winning at scale, they will attract large groups of smart people who want to try their hand at the P2P game. The competition aspect of P2P games causes bad players to filter out over time, and the best players to remain in competition. This phenomenon is what causes the eventual decline in viability for making money in all peer-to-peer games and will be no different in Pick6.