Using terminology well known to “Bachelor” fans, DraftKings tweeted out its congratulations to Tolbert on Sunday night after she ended up atop the Millionaire Maker standings. This tweet was taken down Monday morning, though The Post saved an image of it:
Tolbert acknowledged her victory after a Twitter user recognized her from “The Bachelor.” She said she went against the advice of her husband — Tanner Tolbert, a contestant on “The Bachelorette” Season 11 and “Bachelor in Paradise” Season 2, where the two met — and started Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, who had a massive game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and whose game-sealing 36-yard catch in the final minutes gave her the victory.
But almost immediately after her win, accusations of collusion began to fly among DFS players on social media. Observers noted that Tolbert and her husband -- “a known high-volume daily fantasy player,” according to ESPN’s David Purdum -- each submitted the maximum 150 entries at $25 each for the Millionaire Maker contest and that their entries seemed coordinated so that they generated the maximum number of possible lineups.
For instance, a renowned DFS expert and sports gambler named William Bierman noted that Jade’s lineups contained almost zero quarterbacks who were started by her husband, with the former starting Deshaun Watson, Ryan Tannehill and Josh Allen in 95.33 percent of her lineups and the latter starting Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz in 98.67 percent of his.
The rest of the lineups submitted by the two DFS players mostly overlapped, and despite Tolbert’s claim that her husband told her not to start Metcalf, the Seahawks wide receiver was in 88 percent of the lineups she submitted and 78.67 percent of her husband’s.
“We each put in our separate players, in our separate accounts and rooted for own players,” Tanner Tolbert told ESPN in a phone interview Monday. “No one has ever said a peep about us when we lost for 17 straight weeks. Then, of course, somehow Jade picked the right lineup, got the million and the spotlight got shown on it. And people, especially since she’s a woman, assume that I do it all for her. If I had won, I bet no one would’ve raised a flag.
“I thought Drew Brees and Carson Wentz would have big days,” he told ESPN. “Obviously, I was wrong. But Jade definitely wanted to go with the other quarterbacks. I think partly she likes rooting against me."
DraftKings is investigating whether the Tolberts colluded with each other.
“We take the integrity and fairness of our contests very seriously and are looking into this matter,” the company said in a statement released Monday morning.
“I understand everyone wants answers and we are trying to work quickly, but I personally just learned about this within the past hour or two,” DraftKings CEO Jason Robins wrote on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
Through agent Paul Desisto, the Tolberts issued a statement Monday evening, in which they described the win as “pure luck” and questioned whether the accusations of collusion were motivated by sexism and the fact that the husband and wife already were in the public eye.
“We respect that Draft Kings feels they must do their due diligence in regard to Jade winning their $1 million dollar prize for the fantasy contest for the NFL’s wild-card round this weekend,” the statement read. “Though we must ponder, would the questions, accusations and curiosity about this win be the same if the winner had been male and someone who wasn’t already in the public eye? It is incredibly important for us to establish that Jade’s win is nothing more than pure luck and we are confident that Draft Kings will determine the same.”
DFS players collude to circumvent limits on the number of entries in a contest and to improve their chances of victory by submitting multiple lineups. DraftKings forbids such collusion, calling coordination between multiple players “unacceptable behavior” on the “Community Guidelines” section of its website.
Some states that have DFS regulations also limit the number of entries a player may submit in each contest. (The limit usually is 150 or 3 percent of the total number of entries by all players for any contest, whichever is less.) Some states, such as Massachusetts, also require daily fantasy companies to ban players who attempt to play with more than one account. New York’s rules state “operators must take reasonable steps to prevent authorized players from submitting more than the allowable number of entries per contest.”
Daily fantasy sports exploded onto the landscape in the middle of the last decade, with advertisements promising large jackpots to average Joes saturating the television airwaves during NFL games. But companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel soon were the subject of scrutiny from lawmakers — who debated whether DFS constitutes gambling — and the media, who found that high-volume players — “often aided by computer scripts and optimization software that allow players to submit hundreds or even thousands of lineups at a time,” the New York Times reported in 2015 — were winning most of the prizes at the expense of more inexperienced players. A 2015 McKinsey study cited by the Times found that in the first half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, 91 percent of the prize money was won by 1.3 percent of the players.
To combat this negative press, DFS operators instituted limits on the number of entries each player may submit and crafted rules prohibiting players from colluding with one another. Nevertheless, such rules are difficult to enforce.