DraftKings $2 Million NFL Pick’em Contest Decided By COVID-19 Postponement, Fourth Tie-Breaker

The postponement left the runner-up with a 2-3 record in Week 12. Little did he know that this result would become one of the key “plays” determining the ultimate outcome.
NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

The DraftKings Pro Football Pick’Em National Championship $1,000,000 top prize was decided in Week 16 by the last game on the slate — the Buffalo Bills’ (-7.5) resounding 39-8 smackdown of the hapless New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. 

“VegasValkys”’ — whose private Twitter account profile now reads “#1 in the 2020 DraftKings NFL $1 million ATS pool 🤑🤞 How ya like them apples!! #BeKind” — has secured the million, amid a smattering of what-ifs befitting the chaotic COVID-19 season. The two runners-up — “horoburger” and “NILKNARF” — will pocket $187,500 apiece.

After the Bills’ cover moved VegasValkys even with the other two at 47/70 (67.1%) against the spread, the $1M turned on the fourth tie-breaker. To set the stage:


If there is a tie for 1st place, the entry with most correct picks in your final week of selections in the Contest Period, wins the tie (bye weeks removed.). If that does not break the tie, the entry that had the most correct picks in their 2nd to last week of selection wins, and so on.

Final record47/7047/7047/70
TB 15-05-05-0
TB 23-23-2 (Wk 14)3-2
TB 34-14-1 (Wk 13)3-2
TB 43-2*2-3 (Wk 12)*N/A

NILKNARF was eliminated via the third tie-breaker (see above). The tie-breaker between VegasValkys and horoburger goes back to Week 12 (remember, the tiebreaker compares prior weekly results excluding bye weeks).  In Week 13, VegasValkys posted a 3-2 mark. In Week 12, horoburger was sitting at 2-2 with the Steelers-Ravens COVID-delayed game pending.  And so this COVID-era contest rule became relevant:

If a game is officially postponed, it must be completed on or before the Tuesday following the postponement for points from that game to count towards the Contest. If the game is not completed within that time and it is selected by a user, it will count as a loss.

US Bets has reached out to DraftKings for official confirmation that it has applied the tie-breaker rules to determine that VegasValkys has won.

Punted from Thanksgiving

The Steelers-Ravens game was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night, Nov. 26.  Then due to the continued outbreak in Baltimore, it was moved to Sunday.  But then the NFL’s contact tracing and testing protocols around Baltimore caused a second postponement to Tuesday night. And then once more to Wednesday afternoon — at 3:40 ET, because NBC was committed to broadcasting the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting that evening.

Unfortunately for horoburger, once the game was pushed to Wednesday, it was graded as a loss, because it was no longer played within the operative window.  This left horoburger with a 2-3 record in Week 12. Little did he know that this result would become one of the key “plays” determining the ultimate outcome.

Had the game counted for contest purposes, and had horoburger gotten credit for a Steelers cover, VegasValkys would have lost the million on the sixth tie-breaker to horoburger. (Valkys actually picked and lost on the Steelers, too, but this did not factor into the scenario that played out.)  

While the outcome is obviously unfortunate for horoburger, to the extent that there is a large gap between $1,000,000 and $187,500, the contest loss on the Steelers, when Pittsburgh actually covered (off a stale line), is not exactly unfortunate. DraftKings had established the rules regarding rescheduled games prior to the season’s kickoff, and by the pick deadline at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday that week, the game itself had already been rescheduled twice from Thursday to Sunday to Tuesday, while the Ravens’ COVID reserve list continued to swell.

In other words, the possibility that the game would be moved again to later in the season, whether that Wednesday or a possible Week 18, was foreseeable. I imagine horoburger factored this risk into his decision to stay with the Steelers, rather than change his pick to another side. 

Fast forward: Knowing where he stood going into the MNF game, when a Bills cover would swing the million to VegasValkys, did horoburger hedge, and if so, for how much? Asking out loud because we’d like to know, too. 

For a second encore

Contest followers know that last season ended in similarly dramatic fashion, as the inaugural DK Super Pool pick ‘em contest also came down to a tie-breaker after four contestants finished at 51/70. The winner of the $250,000 top prize was determined according to last year’s tie-breaker: which player had accrued the most wins entering Week 16. But DraftKings dispensed with that tie-breaker this year, replacing it with a more equitable rule that did not favor those taking bye weeks later in the season. 

While the guaranteed prize pool grew year-over-year for this year’s DraftKings big NFL pick’em pool, the sportsbook still ended up posting nearly $1 million in overlay, to make up for the shortfall of final registrations (689) and the number of entrants needed (1,333) to cover all the guaranteed prizes.

While DraftKings is now operating online legally in 10 states, for this season entrants were limited to of-age players located in New Jersey, West Virginia, and New Hampshire. While federal law remains an impediment to growing the pool size across states, there’s a decent chance next year that players from other states where DraftKings operates will also be able to participate legally. 

In a story for another day, horoburger could have been munching on a smaller prize, as contestant TastyKing83, who finished fourth, would have won the $1,000,000 outright if the Colts (-2.5) would have held onto their 24-7 late third quarter lead against, who else, the Steelers. All three of the top finishers scored one on the Steelers’ 28-24 comeback win. 

Time to regroup and saddle up for the playoffs. 


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