Saturday, June 29, 2013

Investment Analyst Leaves Day Job to Become Full-Time Fantasy Sports Player

By Ben Cohen

Friday is Drew Dinkmeyer's last day of work. Mr. Dinkmeyer, a 31-year-old Florida investment analyst, is leaving the finance industry altogether. He is becoming a full-time fantasy sports player.

Mr. Dinkmeyer plans to make money writing and hosting a radio show for the websites Fantistics and My Fantasy Fix. But he will spend most of his time playing fantasy sports. His game of choice is daily fantasy, a booming niche in a billion-dollar industry, where Mr. Dinkmeyer is already one of the few "whales" who says he makes enough to support himself on fantasy sports alone.

Daily-fantasy games, which condense full-length seasons into nightly competitions, were responsible for $492 million of the $1.7 billion spent on fantasy sports in 2012, according to a Fantasy Sports Trade Association study. Paul Charchian, the trade group's president, says it is possible that number will double this year.

There are more than 30 million fantasy-sports players in the U.S., and almost 25% dabble in daily games, the FSTA found in a report released this month. Up to 100 people earned at least $40,000 in 2012, industry experts estimate.

The market is lucrative enough to support some full-time players. A normal week on FanDuel, the industry's leading site, has $2 million up for grabs, with the money coming from players who pay to participate. It also has a $200,000 first-place prize for its baseball championship in August.

DraftStreet, another daily-fantasy website, had four players earn more than $100,000 in profits last year, the site's executives said. About 25,000 paid to play on the site.

This week, the venture-capital arm of Cantor Fitzgerald said it is investing $25 million in TopLine Game Labs, a gaming developer that intends to focus on casual daily-fantasy players.

Mr. Dinkmeyer started playing fantasy sports when he was 9 years old, he says. But in recent years he tired of the tedium familiar to anyone who has played a full fantasy season, like managing trades and frantic lineup tinkering.

Daily fantasy became Mr. Dinkmeyer's outlet, and before long, he began to think about making a career out of it. He had targeted the start of 2014 to leave his job at CapTrust Advisors, an investment-advisory firm, but juggling a job and daily-fantasy responsibilities wore him down earlier than he expected. With his wife's support, Mr. Dinkmeyer says, he gave his company notice in April.

"Some people don't understand what I'm doing or how I can possibly be making enough money to move on," he said. Once he tells them that he is making as much money in daily fantasy as he was in his day job, he says, "that definitely catches them off guard."

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