DFS/Poker $1 Million Matching Challenge

“Variance is fucking crazy.”

If one phrase describes the experience of professional DFS and poker players, it is this.

And while there is little we can do about variance in DFS and poker, we can do something about it when the stakes are highest – in the real world. Chance affects more than just DFS and poker outcomes. It was by chance that I saw the commercial that got me into DFS years ago. It was by chance that I came up with a business idea that paid for an excellent college. And most importantly, it was by chance that I was not born into severe poverty, and unlike 50% of the world, I do not live on $2 or less a day. It was by chance that I am not at risk of contracting malaria, or schistosomiasis, or any other diseases that are common in many parts of the world. This is why I invite you to join me in helping those whose lives have been affected by chance in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

But how did we get here? Let’s rewind a little.

In Week 11, in spite of a solid performance by all of my players, I was having a stressful night. Last game of the slate, down 40 points, only Kirk Cousins and Pierre Garcon left to play. The first half goes well, cutting my deficit in half, but a weak 3rd quarter starts to deflate my hope.

Then it happens.

Cousins throws a 70 yard bomb to Garcon: a perfect pass that was their longest connection to date, and a pass Cousins doesn’t make 9 times out of 10. Garcon catches it in stride. The defender misses him at the 20. Garcon high steps into the end zone. Touchdown.

That single play, decided by millimeters, pushed me into first in most major tournaments that week on Draftkings and included 5 Draftkings World Championship tickets.
About a month later at the World Championships, Melvin Gordon, the only player on all five of my teams, went down early in the first quarter. A single play had once again decided my fate, and this time it ended in defeat. If Gordon scored at least his projection, I would have won first place for $2 million. I was disappointed and frustrated. Worse, I was unlucky.

Variance is crazy.

Thankfully, I’ve been playing DFS long enough to quickly realize what a ridiculous outlook that was: Without the exact confluence of events, that got me here, none of this would be possible. Complaining about variance now was ridiculous because life is variance.

Unfortunately, understanding variance in theory doesn’t mean you understand it in practice. And understanding it in practice means you realize it cannot be controlled. No one decides when or what it will do, or what result it has, but it sure feels like we’re responsible for it.

Every time we have a success it feels like we rightfully earned it. Like it was destined to be. Every cold streak feels like something is fundamentally wrong. Every event in our lives feels directly caused by something we’ve done.

Though it’s easy (and gratifying) to believe that I’m successful through skill and hard work alone, the reality is my success depends on the random chances that put me here, now.
The same random chance that dictates which children get a treated mosquito net and which die from malaria. I don’t “deserve” the money I’ve won anymore than these boys deserved to lose their brother to a barrel bomb in Aleppo.

For those of us that understand, it becomes our responsibility to operate within and around variance in DFS and in life. We must realize that our own lives and those of whom we love could be taken at any time – and so we can enjoy each moment, be grateful for what we have, and try to help those who perhaps weren’t so fortunate, so “lucky”.

Variance is crazy. Only in correcting for it do we have a chance at unity.

We know that we can’t solve much of the world’s problems. But there are some that are solvable, and for a ridiculously low cost. In the world at large, as with DFS, variance holds the key to a winning strategy. I believe this winning strategy starts with redirecting a portion of our earnings to worthwhile causes. REG Raising for Effective Giving, is an important organization that I’m involved with that seeks to do just that.

There are a lot of myths about charity ; primarily about its ineffectiveness. But in today’s data driven era, there has emerged a group of charities proven to be highly effective. One example is the Against Malaria Foundation, which distributes mosquito nets in Africa to prevent malaria. These nets are extremely effective and cost only $6 to produce and deliver to an area in need. Because of how effective malaria nets are, it is commonly estimated that donating $3500 to AMF can save a life. There are countless other extremely effective charities, and donating to these charities can help us save more lives than we could have at any other time in history.

That’s why I recently teamed up with one of the all-time great poker players, Dan Smith, in a matching challenge to raise $1 million in donations to the Against Malaria Foundation, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, GiveDirectly, and other effective charities. Our combined match total currently sits at $600,000, and you can learn more about our initiative on REG’s website. We chose these particular charities because they’ve been extensively vetted by Givewell, an organization dedicated to finding charities that maximize the effect of your donation to reduce the most suffering.

Awareness is the first step towards transformation. Though I’d love to see each member of the DFS community step up and give, I’m grateful and humbled you’ve read this far. You don’t need to donate six figures to make a difference – in fact, simply acknowledging the need is a big step for many of us. So what can you do?

1. Spread the word

Even just sharing this video with anyone who will listen (about the shift in certain charities’ effectiveness) is a big step.

That said, if you are in a position to give, and you feel compelled, I urge you to

2. Join us in our matching challenge

Using the skills we’ve honed and the opportunities we’ve been given, we are in a unique position to save real lives in the impoverished world and improve their standard by reducing the deviation.

If you have any questions or just want to start a discussion about giving feel free to message me here, or email me crowleymc11@gmail.com

About the Author


  • gsd4

    • 150

      RG Overall Ranking

    • Ranked #31

      RG Tiered Ranking

    @papagates, thanks for this post. Great explanation of variance, and good for you on doing this.

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