Balancing the Grind: Playing Daily Fantasy During the 2015 WSOP

Mike Watson tends to spend the first few levels of a tournament tinkering with his DFS lineups.

Mike Watson tends to spend the first few levels of a tournament tinkering with his DFS lineups.

A full summer at the 2015 World Series of Poker is time consuming and potentially exhausting, and players have to be very careful how they allocate their time. For many who’ve caught the daily fantasy bug over the last couple of years, it takes a lot of effort to maintain a balance between time spent at the table working and time spent researching the ins and outs of the day’s sports action.

There are many different ways to go about that balance, and poker players and daily fantasy run the full spectrum in terms of which way they lean. There are extenuating circumstances and massive prizepools to consider at the WSOP and for fantasy, especially on a weekend like this one where DraftKings is running a massive $2.5 million guaranteed event for the US Open with $1 million for the overall winner.

It’s an easy decision for someone like Max Steinberg, who’s largely transitioned into a full-time daily fantasy player two years after putting together a memorable run at the 2013 WSOP.

“I’ve probably played three events,” said Steinberg of his WSOP so far. “I played the 10K Heads-Up and then I played the Monster Stack and the 1K Hyper. That’s been it.”

In Steinberg’s mind, it’s simply a matter of dollars, cents and ROI when considering whether to take a day off from his daily fantasy grind for a World Series event or to keep going forward with what he’s doing.

“It takes up a lot of time,” said Steinberg, “It’s really my profession now. It’s an opportunity cost. I could go play a fifteen-hundred event, but then I have to miss a day of fantasy baseball and I think I’m more profitable in daily fantasy baseball, so I choose to do that instead.”

Even on occasion when he has played, Steinberg needed to rely on a little bit of good luck to make sure he got his fantasy lineups done on time.

“For the 10K Heads-Up, for example, there was a huge [DFS] tournament that same day,” said Steinberg. “I was praying I was going to get a bye so I could make line-ups and not have to play a match before the [lineups] locked. Luckily that happened. I brought my laptop and I was making line-ups in the DraftKings lounge. It effects it. That’s why I’m only playing three tournaments. It’s really hard to do both.”

Matt ‘SamENole’ Smith has enjoyed a lot of success playing daily fantasy, with a Millionaire Maker win during the 2014 NFL season and a number of other big victories to his credit. He’s going full bore this weekend, and Smith’s right in the middle of a couple of his busiest DFS seasons in the middle of the summer.

“I do quite a bit of both, golf and baseball,” said Smith. “I reserved 150 spots into the Millionaire Maker, and I still had a lot of golf line-ups to do, might have done some of those at the table.”

Smith’s playing a pretty big WSOP slate too, and he tries to get as much done before he heads to the Rio so that he’s not worrying too much about DFS while he’s playing poker

“I think this is about my eighth or ninth tournament so far, and I’m probably going to play about 20, roughly,” said Smith during a break from the $3,000 HORSE. “It’s pretty hard to do research at the table,” said Smith. “I still do it, but I definitely do a little less than I normally would.”

When it comes to last minute changes, Smith leaves it up to a partner to keep him up to date with injuries or weather problems.

“I have a friend that will text me if any news breaks, if I might need to switch somebody out,” said Smith, “But I try to focus on the poker as much as I can.”

Even poker tournament veterans like Mike Watson has been swept up into the DFS world these days. He occasionally has to multi-task, and while others are jamming out to music at the table or checking their Twitter feeds, Watson goes to work.

“It definitely has,” said Watson when asked if the WSOP has affected his daily fantasy play. “I’ve still been playing most days, but not going crazy with it at all Usually in the early levels of tournaments I’m on my phone doing research, setting line-ups and stuff.”

For a few players in particular, a laser-like focus on winning bracelets and making deep runs at the WSOP has meant putting daily fantasy on the back-burner. For someone like Mike Leah who plays a lot during the rest of the year and has frequently worn a DraftKings patch, it’s a tough call to have to make.

He did choose to dabble a little bit, though, with the possibility of winning $1 million in a weekend just too good to pass up.

“I will probably put in my first Fantasy line-up for the summer, because of this big $2.5 million golf one, that piqued my interest enough,” said Leah. “The days are so long and my focus is on poker while I’m here.”

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Tim Fiorvanti

Tim Fiorvanti graduated from St. John's University with a B.S. in Journalism in 2008. After several years in the industry, he started working for BLUFF in the summer of 2010. He worked his way up at BLUFF and joined full time as a Senior Writer in April of 2012. Fiorvanti now serves as the Managing Editor of BLUFF. He's a tortured Mets and Jets fan, along with several other frustrating allegiances, but he's also a two-time defending BLUFF Fantasy Football Champion.
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