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How Fake Sports Are Turning Man Cave Dwellers Into Millionaires

Scott Hanson, $2 million winner at the FanDuel Fantasy Football Championship.

Scott Hanson, $2 million winner at the FanDuel Fantasy Football Championship.

Source: FanDuel

Enormous TV screens with live National Football League feeds cover the walls of the ballroom at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. A sound system blares the broadcasts of all the various games at an ear-shattering volume. Couches and bar stools are scattered around the 14,520-square-foot space, which is playing host today, Dec. 14, to the fifth annual FanDuel Fantasy Football Championship. The 100 finalists—many of them wearing NFL garb, most of them loud, all of them male—know one another by their handles, which tend to the sophomoric (Wanker14, ambassador_of_awesome). A guy in a Tony Romo jersey jumps out of his chair and yells, “Oh my God, make a play!” after a pass is dropped. Some contestants have brought their wives or girlfriends; some came with buddies. The crowd is taking full advantage of the open bar. A Playboy Playmate attempts to mingle, but no one notices. By 5 p.m., FanDuel, the fantasy-sports betting site, will give away $7 million in cash prizes. The first-place winner will get $2 million.

The contenders and their posses are encamped around the room. Jeremy Bennight (jbennight22), a ticket broker from Oklahoma City, has been up since 5 a.m. “I just sat there this morning staring at my computer,” he says. “You can’t help but be nervous.” Jacob Schuck (airattack0829) staked out a spot with a good view of the Cleveland Browns-Cincinnati Bengals game. He’s giddy, talking in a thick New Jersey accent about how he’ll request his winnings be in FanDuel shares in lieu of cash. That plan assumes Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel has a big game. The early signs aren’t good. “I’m going to have an anxiety attack,” Schuck says.