DraftKings Investigating Collusion Claims Over Winning Brothers’ Score

Posted on: September 30, 2016, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: September 30, 2016, 11:37h.

Draftkings investigations alleged collusion surrounding Millionaire winner
DraftKings said its internal system flagged suspicions about the Crowley brothers before Martin won the Millionaire this weekend. (Image: DraftKings)

DraftKings has said it is investigating the allegations of collusion surrounding one of the winners of its flagship Fantasy Football Millionaire contest over the weekend.

A player with the screenname “papagates” shared the $1 million first prize after scoring joint-best of 257,000 players at the close of the weekend’s NFL action.

But no sooner had the contest finished, than posters on DFS internet forums were alleging foul play. “Papagates,” real name Martin Crowley, a 23-year-old from Chicago, is the brother of a previous Millionaire winner, Tom Crowley, who plays under the name “chipotleaddict.”   

The brothers are both high-ranking DFS players in their own right, and so the double win wouldn’t necessarily arouse suspicion of collusion, except that there was already a suspicion of collusion before the weekend.

Prior Suspicions

Last week, a poster on popular DFS forum RotoGrinders, Mphst18, spotted that the brothers were continually entering exactly the same amount of entries in each contest with no line-up overlaps whatsoever.

DraftKings limits the amount of entries to the Millionaire to 150 per person. But if the brothers were pooling data and sharing entries, as has been alleged by some forum members, it would certainly give them an unfair and illegal advantage.

The key to winning a contest like the Millionaire is not only to pick high-scoring players, but also to pick high-scoring players whom no one else picks, which means the more entries you have, the greater your edge. The fact that the brothers never seem to overlap on a single line-up would suggest a high level of improbability.

Crowley Denies Allegations

Jennifer Aguiar, DraftKings head of compliance, told The Wall Street Journal that the site was in the process of an ongoing investigation and that its system flagged up the suspicious pattern before it gained traction online.

DraftKings is only too aware that its procedures have come under excessive scrutiny since last October when one of its employees accidently released line-up data for the week’s NFL games before the line-ups had been locked in.

In the same week, he won $300,000 playing on rival site FanDuel, prompting questions about exactly what kind of sensitive information the site’s employees are proxy to and when. DFS industry employees are now banned from engaging in the contests, period.   

“If you are sharing lineups for the purpose of, for the lack of a better word, gaming the system, that is unacceptable,” said Aguiar, who praised forum members for spotting the suspicious pattern. Another DraftKings spokesperson, Jason Alderman, said that it showed the value of making all line-up data publically available.   

“We really value our community members and their ability to self-police,” he said.

Martin Crowley told WSJ he was “upset” at the allegations, which he completely denies. He and his brother discuss general strategy but never specific lineups, he added.