Book Review: Dueling with Kings

Daily fantasy certainly seems to be everywhere. Perhaps not as much as it was two years ago when every other commercial during any sporting event seemed to be for FanDuel or DraftKings—the two behemoths of the Daily Fantasy arena—but it’s still fairly hard to avoid. Journalist Daniel Barbarisi became intrigued by the influx in daily fantasy information being shoved in the face of all sports fans and decided to do a little research on the subject. A little research led to an idea for a book which eventually led to quitting his day job and a yearlong attempt to find success in the daily fantasy world. In Dueling with Kings: High Stakes, Killer Sharks, and The Get-Rich Promise of Daily Fantasy Sports, Barbarisi details his year living in the world of daily fantasy players in an enthralling page turner that keeps even those not previously interested in the world of daily fantasy wondering what was going to happen next.

At the beginning of the book, Barbarisi is still working is day job as a beat writer for the New York Yankees for the Wall Street Journal. He found it hard to avoid the constant barrage of advertising for daily fantasy sports and figured he would have as good a chance of anyone to win money at the venture given his livelihood relied on him being knowledgeable about sports. He also figured he may have a leg up as he typically received info faster than the average public due to his position in the baseball journalistic community. He quickly found this was not the case and became frustrated that he couldn’t seem to find success.

Despite his frustration, Barbarisi doesn’t give up. He decides to go all in and figure out how some players seem to win all the time and to see if he could do the same. He starts by reaching out to some of the well-known players he frequently came up against during his early days of attempting to compete. Throughout the book, he refers to them by their daily fantasy screen names. Such as CSURam, IHaveAReputation, UnderJones and his mentor Beep. His screen name ends up being PimpBotLove. Barbarisi spends significant time with these players uncovering how they set their daily line ups and how they got a leg up on the competition. Perhaps the most surprising thing he finds is that many of these dedicated players aren’t sports fans. For instance, Beep, a Canadian and one of the best fantasy football players in the country, calls Dan Marino, “Joe” to his face.

Despite not having any real hockey knowledge, Beep convinces Barbarisi to play fantasy hockey and the reader follows him as he gets slightly better every day throughout the season. He even ends up getting invited the big year end competition for daily hockey fantasy because he has done so well.

In addition to the information regarding playing fantasy sports, Barbarisi does a great job detailing the beginnings of fantasy sports, and then daily fantasy specifically. He also lands interviews with many of the main players at both DraftKings and FanDuel and artfully tells their stories alongside of his venture. One of the more interesting and well documented parts of the books is the way he covers the various legal battles the daily fantasy companies get embroiled in during the year he is getting introduced to the game.

Even if you don’t have any interest in fantasy sports, and have never considered signing up and making a line-up, you will enjoy this book. It is both informative and entertaining and this reviewer even found his heart racing at the author’s recounting of the year end fantasy show downs that seem to become just as exciting as the games themselves.

The 347-page work was published in 2017 by Touchstone. The hardcover version retails for $26.99.

Baseball Reflections Rating: 5/5

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