Should DFS learn lessons from Poker?


When online poker was launched at the beginning of the century, our industry fell almost instantly in love with the innovative new business model. Driven by a high profile branding and marketing strategy, the poker sector grew spectacularly and became a fashionable and impressive mainstream success.

should-dfs-learn-lessons-from-pokerThe speed of customer acquisition and the market place concentration that followed explains why today, most of the small poker operators no longer exist. As Marcellus said to Horatio in Hamlet, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Everyone knows that because operators were unable to protect the integrity of their fast growing ecosystem, professional players – often referred to as sharks – greedily ate all the (amateur) fishes, thus emptying the sea.

Since daily fantasy sports (DFS) is in the process of growing at rates similar to the poker sector’s and as the social mechanism of the two games are quite similar, at Oulala, we think that it is critical for our sector’s future to learn lessons from the poker industry. In other words, what systems, procedures and rules should be written by operators, to enable the professionals to exist without endangering everyone else?

1) Keep the Megalodon away

Professional players will offer a significant increase of volume short-term to DFS games but in the long-term they will annihilate the customer database. Therefore, it is essential to create policies that discourage them from using a game and its amateur and social players as their own personal piggy bank.

Here are a few examples of rules that we have implemented at Oulala:

– Forbid players from creating and entering leagues with very large amounts of money; Oulala limits the maximum player stake per league to 200€;

– Prevent players from using software to manage their teams; we are already starting to see the damage that professional players are inflicting on amateurs in the American DFS market;

– Limit the number of teams entered by a single client into a specific league.

Marketing research tells us that real customer value comes from loyalty, but players that have lost more than they can afford cannot remain loyal players. Therefore, businesses will see far greater long-term value by protecting those loyal social players from the more sophisticated professionals.

2) Enable people to play at an appropriate skill level

If you are brand new player and you are discovering DFS, you might reasonably think that it is the responsibility of the operator to protect you from much more experienced players, at least at first. This really should be in the best interests of both the new player and the operator because most newcomers will not have had chance to develop the necessary knowledge and skills and so will stop playing the game, because they find it too difficult.

Many novice poker players will know this experience only too well. Having joined a site and deposited money they were immediately playing against much more skilful opponents and their losses were swift. We do not want new fantasy sports players to go through the same painful experience.

For this reason, Oulala is about to launch a system that will allow our customers to see the status of the other people entering a league. After all, few of us would want to swim in shark infested waters. We are also preparing to launch specific leagues that will be reserved for people with the same status level.

3) Be as close as possible to reality

When creating Oulala, we worked with a team of statisticians to create a scoring system that enables our game to be mathematically as close as possible to football reality. Our sector is probably unique in that our games are supposed to be a reflection of the reality of a sports match. If or when this is not the case, it creates an opportunity for the professional players. Whilst most people will rely on their knowledge of the sport being played, the professionals will study the system and use loopholes to select players with advantages that most people cannot see. Therefore, if DFS games focus on mirroring reality, the more technically or mathematically minded players are unlikely to find and exploit advantageous flaws in the system.

These are the first measures that we are implementing at Oulala. We only view them as a step in the journey because fantasy sports games will need to be adapted and tweaked frequently as our sector develops.

One of our fears is that a competitor with short-term focus could take the opposite steps while seeking immediate attention. For this reason we have created an International Fantasy Sport Association ( We hope that responsible daily fantasy sports operators will embrace a long-term vision of creating value for our industry.

About the author:

Valéry Bollier has over ten years of experience in the iGaming industry. He is a regular speaker at industry conferences and seminars, as well as a contributor to various BtoB publications. Equipped with a passion for Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and ”Big Data”, Bollier is the co-founder and CEO of Oulala, a revolutionary fantasy football game which was launched three years ago.