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Billion Dollar Fantasy: The High-Stakes Game Between FanDuel and DraftKings That Upended Sports in America

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APPLE BEST BOOK OF THE MONTH SELECTION    "We devoured [this] engrossing account of the battle for supremacy between three fantasy gaming sites. ... Chen flips the script with a character-driven narrative, exposing the people who fueled the industry (not necessarily the folks you’d expect) and what motivated them (not necessarily unadulterated greed). Gamers will find t APPLE BEST BOOK OF THE MONTH SELECTION    "We devoured [this] engrossing account of the battle for supremacy between three fantasy gaming sites. ... Chen flips the script with a character-driven narrative, exposing the people who fueled the industry (not necessarily the folks you’d expect) and what motivated them (not necessarily unadulterated greed). Gamers will find this book impossible to put down, as will anyone who loves a good origin story."—Apple Books, Best of the Month selection   "Fans of financial thrillers such as  Barbarians at the Gate  will be excited by this insider account of the dizzying rise of fantasy sports websites"— Publishers Weekly   You've seen the commercials. Here is the untold story behind the clash of billion dollar companies that unleashed an unprecedented advertising war. From Sports Illustrated's Albert Chen comes the story of two companies whose battle unleashed a carpet bombing of advertising as they sought supremacy in an exploding fantasy sports and gambling market: In a time of gushing venture capital money, FanDuel and DraftKings turned into billion-dollar companies seemingly overnight — then, just as quickly, found themselves the target of FBI and Department of Justice investigations, and facing likely destruction. Chen tells the story of the improbable individuals behind the saga: An Irishman who knew nothing about American sports. A fantasy geek who felt it was his destiny to change the way fellow nerds watched the games they loved. A conflicted poker player. A mother of three in Scotland. In a character-driven narrative with excursions into the strange and unexpected, Chen takes us from casinos to board rooms, from Edinburgh to Wall Street to the Vegas Strip, to tell a sprawling and intimate tale of the new world that this group of accidental disruptors helped to create. It’s a story of ideas and dreams, about a world of risk, luck, hubris, greed and redemption—a story for our high-stakes times.


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APPLE BEST BOOK OF THE MONTH SELECTION    "We devoured [this] engrossing account of the battle for supremacy between three fantasy gaming sites. ... Chen flips the script with a character-driven narrative, exposing the people who fueled the industry (not necessarily the folks you’d expect) and what motivated them (not necessarily unadulterated greed). Gamers will find t APPLE BEST BOOK OF THE MONTH SELECTION    "We devoured [this] engrossing account of the battle for supremacy between three fantasy gaming sites. ... Chen flips the script with a character-driven narrative, exposing the people who fueled the industry (not necessarily the folks you’d expect) and what motivated them (not necessarily unadulterated greed). Gamers will find this book impossible to put down, as will anyone who loves a good origin story."—Apple Books, Best of the Month selection   "Fans of financial thrillers such as  Barbarians at the Gate  will be excited by this insider account of the dizzying rise of fantasy sports websites"— Publishers Weekly   You've seen the commercials. Here is the untold story behind the clash of billion dollar companies that unleashed an unprecedented advertising war. From Sports Illustrated's Albert Chen comes the story of two companies whose battle unleashed a carpet bombing of advertising as they sought supremacy in an exploding fantasy sports and gambling market: In a time of gushing venture capital money, FanDuel and DraftKings turned into billion-dollar companies seemingly overnight — then, just as quickly, found themselves the target of FBI and Department of Justice investigations, and facing likely destruction. Chen tells the story of the improbable individuals behind the saga: An Irishman who knew nothing about American sports. A fantasy geek who felt it was his destiny to change the way fellow nerds watched the games they loved. A conflicted poker player. A mother of three in Scotland. In a character-driven narrative with excursions into the strange and unexpected, Chen takes us from casinos to board rooms, from Edinburgh to Wall Street to the Vegas Strip, to tell a sprawling and intimate tale of the new world that this group of accidental disruptors helped to create. It’s a story of ideas and dreams, about a world of risk, luck, hubris, greed and redemption—a story for our high-stakes times.

30 review for Billion Dollar Fantasy: The High-Stakes Game Between FanDuel and DraftKings That Upended Sports in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Evan Scott

    While I play and have played DFS for many years, this book was too long for the subject matter. Although pretty well written, most of the material was fairly boring in nature. Unless you’re a DFS fan, stay away.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Korryn Mozisek

    An insightful and enjoyable read. The subject (DFS) is not enough to carry the book, so Chen's character development and interweaving storylines across chapters that are more vignettes carried the book. An insightful and enjoyable read. The subject (DFS) is not enough to carry the book, so Chen's character development and interweaving storylines across chapters that are more vignettes carried the book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Who knew a book detailing the building of a billion-dollar industry, sprinkled with a few stories about those who won millions playing the online sports games the industry built, could be so boring? Me, after reading this. Albert Chen details the rise and almost fall of DraftKings and FanDuel, the fantasy sports websites whose ubiquitous ads you probably saw even on your bedroom ceiling just before you fell asleep a couple years ago. DraftKings came about when Jason Robins bought out a rival and s Who knew a book detailing the building of a billion-dollar industry, sprinkled with a few stories about those who won millions playing the online sports games the industry built, could be so boring? Me, after reading this. Albert Chen details the rise and almost fall of DraftKings and FanDuel, the fantasy sports websites whose ubiquitous ads you probably saw even on your bedroom ceiling just before you fell asleep a couple years ago. DraftKings came about when Jason Robins bought out a rival and started spending money like others breathe air; FanDuel was mostly the creation of husband-and-wife team Nigel and Lesley Eccles. Pages and pages detailing meetings with possible funders for the websites, with lawyers for the websites, with workers for the websites, with just about anyone you could think of related to the websites go by. Just not a lot of interesting things in there. Then there's the players, a couple of which are profiled in here. One duo won a million dollars in one of the early contests one of the websites offered. They got to meet Bo Jackson because of it. And ... that's about it. Maybe if they would have spent all their winnings on hookers and blow it would have made a more compelling story. Or maybe if the founders did the same. Instead, they just go about their business, fight with regulators and politicians, and eventually emerge as millionaires when the online fantasy sports sites slowly become legal across the United States, one state at a time. One section, about 100 pages in and 20 pages long, gets a bit exciting as it details the decisions behind those ads we saw every commercial break. They made most everyone mad, even those who liked to play on the sites, and drew the attention of powerful people who wanted them to go away. At only 250 or so pages, I expected a quick and breezy read. Instead, I could only make it through 20 pages at a time before wishing a bill collector would call or a neighbor would knock to ask for some sugar. Anything to add a little pep to the day. Maybe it's because I'm midway through the fourth season of Billions, which is full of conflict between billionaire Wall Street hedge funders and the politicians who both enable and deter them. Of course, made up Wall Street stories can always be more exciting because anything can happen since they are made up. But then, Michael Lewis and Ben Mezrich have made real Wall Street stories page-turners. Albert Chen's a fine writer. He just didn't make this one compelling to me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Collin Mickle

    Albert Chen, an excellent reporter and good writer, does his level best with this one. But as much as he tries to pump up dramatic moments and high stakes ("It was simple: if the payment processors pulled the plug, they were dead in the water."), there just isn't much there. (That dramatic setup is resolved three sentences later with a Saltine-bland "The meeting with PayPal had gone better than expected," and poof, those terrifying payment processors are never mentioned again.) Chen seems to have Albert Chen, an excellent reporter and good writer, does his level best with this one. But as much as he tries to pump up dramatic moments and high stakes ("It was simple: if the payment processors pulled the plug, they were dead in the water."), there just isn't much there. (That dramatic setup is resolved three sentences later with a Saltine-bland "The meeting with PayPal had gone better than expected," and poof, those terrifying payment processors are never mentioned again.) Chen seems to have started this project with hopes of a Barbarians At The Gates-style chronicle of carnage and infighting, or maybe a Bringing Down The House-type tale of plucky nerds beating long odds. But his access to the principals seems to have locked him into their version of every story. And the execs and ex-execs of DraftKings and FanDuel and the rest are all so dull, or so lawyered-up, that every story is sanitized and stripped of whatever drama or interest it might originally have had.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aja

    Rating: 3.5 I have zero interest in sports, let alone fantasy games. But this book fascinated me nonetheless. It spans the beginning of the (modern) daily fantasy sports landscape to the present, starting with the founding of FanDuel in Scotland and DraftKings in Boston, moving through their early challenges battling each other for market share, then detailing the intense legal and regulatory battles they had to fight with seemingly every state in the country. The first half of the book is far mor Rating: 3.5 I have zero interest in sports, let alone fantasy games. But this book fascinated me nonetheless. It spans the beginning of the (modern) daily fantasy sports landscape to the present, starting with the founding of FanDuel in Scotland and DraftKings in Boston, moving through their early challenges battling each other for market share, then detailing the intense legal and regulatory battles they had to fight with seemingly every state in the country. The first half of the book is far more enjoyable than the second; I think Chen was most comfortable with the founder-driven narrative, which he had to abandon when he got to the legal stuff. I was most interested in this part of the book, but found myself trudging through it. Chen also introduces a ton of people, to his detriment. Some minor characters were interesting—I can see why he wanted to include them—but don't add much to the overall picture and ultimately, confuse the reader with an abundance of names and backstories. Some of the writing is, frankly, lazy. The FanDuel founders are described as the "nerds from Britain" approximately 15 times. The DraftKing founders are meanwhile reduced to "frat boys." While it's helpful to have shorthand for the central groups (especially because we're dealing with a ton of people, as mentioned above), there are subtler, more creative options. All in all, if you were one of the hundreds of millions of Americans who couldn't watch TV or go to work without seeing an ad for one of these platforms, you're interested in the ascendancy and challenges of a nascent industry, and/or you're waiting for the next Michael Lewis book to come out, give Billion Dollar Fantasy a go.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. Now that football season is upon us I am seeing a lot of commercials for fanduel and draftkings and how they are proven for all to win money. I dare must say when I saw these commercials for the first time, I was a little curious and skeptical whether or not these sites were legit and people can really win from them so when I saw t This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. Now that football season is upon us I am seeing a lot of commercials for fanduel and draftkings and how they are proven for all to win money. I dare must say when I saw these commercials for the first time, I was a little curious and skeptical whether or not these sites were legit and people can really win from them so when I saw that Billion Dollar Fantasy was available to preview, I had to jump at the chance and find out for myself. Hearing the history of draftkings and fanduel was a really interesting road for Nigel, Lesley, and Lieberman all being involved in a civil lawsuit almost ending their careers. Albert Chen does a great job extracting their backgrounds and showcasing the development of the companies and how they grew to the billion dollar industry they are known for today. Before signing up for accounts, everyone should read this book and know a little about the companies before diving in and pressing their luck on these sites. We will consider adding this title to our Non-Fiction collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Donna Wetzel

    Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Billion Dollar Fantasy:The High Stakes Game Between FanDuel and DraftKings that Upended Sports in America by Albert Chen. This is a story of two startup companies and how they became billion dollar companies and what became of their original founders. The author, Albert Chen, did a fantastic job of making a complicated topic seem easy to understand. I found the story fascinating, even though, I will admit , I am not a sports fan. From this book, I learned about fa Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Billion Dollar Fantasy:The High Stakes Game Between FanDuel and DraftKings that Upended Sports in America by Albert Chen. This is a story of two startup companies and how they became billion dollar companies and what became of their original founders. The author, Albert Chen, did a fantastic job of making a complicated topic seem easy to understand. I found the story fascinating, even though, I will admit , I am not a sports fan. From this book, I learned about fantasy sports betting but I enjoyed learning about the dynamics of getting a company off the ground and surviving.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason Laso

    It's a little on the long side (the main story would be relatively short, so he fluffed the pages with a lot of unnecessary background), but it's a great story nonetheless. I do think Chen tends to be a bit sympathetic towards Nigel and Leslie Eccles (Fanduel), making them out to be out to be simple English folks who had no idea their "little ol fantasy site" would draw so much negative attention for skating around gambling regulations. It's a stark contrast compared to Jason Robins (Draftkings) It's a little on the long side (the main story would be relatively short, so he fluffed the pages with a lot of unnecessary background), but it's a great story nonetheless. I do think Chen tends to be a bit sympathetic towards Nigel and Leslie Eccles (Fanduel), making them out to be out to be simple English folks who had no idea their "little ol fantasy site" would draw so much negative attention for skating around gambling regulations. It's a stark contrast compared to Jason Robins (Draftkings), their direct competitor, who Chen makes sound like a ruthless martyr. I tend to have a hard time imagining the Eccles' to be as innocent as Chen made them sound at times.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    You have undoubtedly seen the ads for DraftKings, FanDuel, and and similar games. It is also very likely that you have played one of these daily fantasy games, and probably even have your preferred brand of choice. This book will give you an in-depth look at how these games came about, the people behind them, and the meteoric rise of these games in America. Albert Chen provides excellent coverage of the war between DraftKings and FanDuel, and how this war has forever influenced and changed sport You have undoubtedly seen the ads for DraftKings, FanDuel, and and similar games. It is also very likely that you have played one of these daily fantasy games, and probably even have your preferred brand of choice. This book will give you an in-depth look at how these games came about, the people behind them, and the meteoric rise of these games in America. Albert Chen provides excellent coverage of the war between DraftKings and FanDuel, and how this war has forever influenced and changed sports in America. I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I won this book on Goodreads. I found this book to be OK, just so-so. I had a difficult time "getting into" this book about fantasy sports gaming. It was tough reading all the minute details that are in this book. I felt it could have been condensed a lot more instead of writing in every little thing that occurred, from bar meetings, to the political establishment getting involved, to legality issues, etc. Overall the book was very tedious to read but I can appreciate what the author was trying I won this book on Goodreads. I found this book to be OK, just so-so. I had a difficult time "getting into" this book about fantasy sports gaming. It was tough reading all the minute details that are in this book. I felt it could have been condensed a lot more instead of writing in every little thing that occurred, from bar meetings, to the political establishment getting involved, to legality issues, etc. Overall the book was very tedious to read but I can appreciate what the author was trying to accomplish.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pedro Tuccori

    I know Albert Chen’s work from Sports Illustrated magazine and he is obviously a fine writer. As for his first book, I found Billion Dollar Fantasy below average. I believe it has to do with the cast of characters, which I found pretty boring. It is a story punctuated by financial terms that the average Joe, who does not have a degree in Economics from Yale, may find a bit tricky to comprehend sometimes. Sports gambling and fantasy games maybe very exciting but the story of these two unicorns and I know Albert Chen’s work from Sports Illustrated magazine and he is obviously a fine writer. As for his first book, I found Billion Dollar Fantasy below average. I believe it has to do with the cast of characters, which I found pretty boring. It is a story punctuated by financial terms that the average Joe, who does not have a degree in Economics from Yale, may find a bit tricky to comprehend sometimes. Sports gambling and fantasy games maybe very exciting but the story of these two unicorns and quest to survive told on this book are not so much.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    Goodreads Giveaway - Your typical "start-up" story: idea -> development -> conflict -> success or failure. Albert Chen does a pretty good job at making these characters interesting (if you've seen Jason Robins on tv, you know this is high praise). There's really not much to say about this book which is different than any other book about start-up unicorns. If you're interesting in sports business and the business of sports there's some interesting insights here; or if you're just hooked on this Goodreads Giveaway - Your typical "start-up" story: idea -> development -> conflict -> success or failure. Albert Chen does a pretty good job at making these characters interesting (if you've seen Jason Robins on tv, you know this is high praise). There's really not much to say about this book which is different than any other book about start-up unicorns. If you're interesting in sports business and the business of sports there's some interesting insights here; or if you're just hooked on this genre of book, it's worth a read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tim Darley

    Chen provides a very interesting look into the recent evolution of daily fantasy sports through the lens of two of its biggest players, Draft Kings and FanDuel. The story felt more heavily focused on FanDuel and its founders, but provides good overall insight. As a relatively short read, the characters and storylines are somewhat limited. The book gives you an overview of the subject in a fast moving story form, but I was left curious for more depth into the topic, the players and underlying mar Chen provides a very interesting look into the recent evolution of daily fantasy sports through the lens of two of its biggest players, Draft Kings and FanDuel. The story felt more heavily focused on FanDuel and its founders, but provides good overall insight. As a relatively short read, the characters and storylines are somewhat limited. The book gives you an overview of the subject in a fast moving story form, but I was left curious for more depth into the topic, the players and underlying market forces at work.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Verderese

    The first 175 pages are very good and the last chapter is very good but there's a pretty heavy lull in the book for about 50+ pages that seem like filler. So for that I can't give it 5 stars but the book is definitely interesting and worth reading. As a sports fan and a gambling fan who has played in DFS games, it was cool learning the back story of two very different companies with the same vision The first 175 pages are very good and the last chapter is very good but there's a pretty heavy lull in the book for about 50+ pages that seem like filler. So for that I can't give it 5 stars but the book is definitely interesting and worth reading. As a sports fan and a gambling fan who has played in DFS games, it was cool learning the back story of two very different companies with the same vision

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A breezy chronicle covering the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to daily fantasy's rise. Fantasy sports fans will gravitate to the topic and likely find the account interesting. Still, a few issues held this to a 3 star read. The story's timeline hops back and forth at a distracting clip. Its pages are prone to dragging. That said, if you can look past the repetitive/overwritten passages, you'll end up with a broader appreciation for the folks that built Fanduel and DraftKings. A breezy chronicle covering the behind-the-scenes machinations that led to daily fantasy's rise. Fantasy sports fans will gravitate to the topic and likely find the account interesting. Still, a few issues held this to a 3 star read. The story's timeline hops back and forth at a distracting clip. Its pages are prone to dragging. That said, if you can look past the repetitive/overwritten passages, you'll end up with a broader appreciation for the folks that built Fanduel and DraftKings.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Incredible story that, in the long run, will be the story of how sports gambling in the U.S. came to be. DFS -- sports betting by another name -- was the canary in a coal mine for what we have now, post-PASPA. Chen tells the story largely through the people who lived it, who drove it, who were eventually swamped by it. Great, well-written yarn.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Drake McCrary

    This is a 2,5 star rating. I am personally not a fantasy sport guy nor do I have strong feelings about gambling. Therefore my interest in this book was purely the business story and that story is unfinished. In my opinion this book was written about five years too early since there are law suits and outstanding legal questions still. This is a book will get better with its second edition.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    I don’t know a thing about daily fantasy sports or betting, outside of stupid shot bets during the super bowl and one fantasy football season championship that I miraculously won, but I found this book wildly engrossing. The reviews are correct. This story is fantastic regardless of the reader’s interest in sports. I’d happily suggest this to friends.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom Carey

    Book was fine, but the story could have been punched up quite a bit. The writer has all the elements of a thrilling book. Money, scandal, start-ups, gambling, Vegas and greed. Unfortunately it just seemed to fall flat. This story is far from over so maybe another book will be written about this story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    S.J.

    A very interesting examination of the daily fantasy sports gaming industry. Focuses on the developments, motivations, and obsessions of the key individuals behind the two dominant company players in this industry.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    I won this book from goodreads and gave it to my Fantasy football/baseball /basketball fanatic. He devoured the book during a long weekend. the book was interesting and full of information. He gave the book a 5 star rating. Now my son is going to borrow it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    I won a copy of this book. I remember the first time I saw the commercials for online fantasy sport betting and thought, "This can't be legal. How are they getting away with this?" I found the story interesting and kept me reading. I won a copy of this book. I remember the first time I saw the commercials for online fantasy sport betting and thought, "This can't be legal. How are they getting away with this?" I found the story interesting and kept me reading.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Russell Siminoff

    Good start, poor finish I really enjoyed the first half of the book. However, the 3rd quarter of it slowed down, and it kind of petered out meekly. The ending was a disappointment with a wishy washy conclusion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan Csoke

    An insight tale of sports gambling across America. Two feudal companies who became billionaires practically overnight, then became involved in a national scandal and a target of the FBI> Thankyou Goodreads for this free book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Doug Taylor

    Not that great. The narrative seems incoherent, the stakes (despite the author’s attempts at hype) aren’t that high, and the drama doesn’t make for great storytelling. It reads like a grab-bag of tech / VC buzzwords.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Łukasz

    This would be an interesting behind the scenes story if it wasn’t for the author who is a terrible writer. Zero literary coherence.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Fantastic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    You ever get halfway through a book and realize you don't give a shit what happens to the characters? Yeah. You ever get halfway through a book and realize you don't give a shit what happens to the characters? Yeah.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hil

    Awfully boring book.. awful

  30. 5 out of 5

    James McGlynn

    A little excessive verbiage but good story about fantasy sports betting.

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