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Aug. 12, 2019
Kristi Metzger was 0.3 percent away from a million-dollar day.
That’s what her laptop screen and the FanDuel leader board revealed after the closing minutes of the last game of the NFL’s week 15 last December.
Many fantasy football players would be drawn to lineups involving the week’s marquee matchup – the New England Patriots versus the Pittsburgh Steelers – she had reasoned.
Not Metzger. She and youngest brother Tyson Metzger had gone a little rogue with their picks this week.
“We took a very contrarian view,” she said.
With a lineup that included the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan at quarterback and Julio Jones at wide receiver, and a clutch performance by San Francisco 49er kicker Robbie Gould, her players delivered.
And the prize was a big one: $1 million to the winner of FanDuel’s live final.
“We were in the mix all day, nothing too crazy – maybe winning a few thousand – and then things got interesting,” she said.
“We had players starting to score touchdowns, and we moved up the ranks fairly quickly.”
She moved into a spot that would earn her $50,000. And then $100,000. And then $400,000.
“I couldn’t even watch some of the games,” she said.
With seven minutes left, she moved into the top spot – the $1 million winner. Or so she thought.
After going through statistics corrections, FanDuel made the adjustment. Metzger landed in second place.
“This will happen from time to time, and sometimes it works in your favor, and sometimes it doesn’t,” she said without a hint of bitterness.
After all, she came in second in a field of 18,000 online players. And $400,000 isn’t a bad payday.
“It was super exciting,” she said. “I’ve invested it. I haven’t bought anything. That’s what I am – an investor.”
Metzger’s day job is managing the six-person wealth management team at Great Western Bank. The Hills, Minn., native took to the industry right away after earning her MBA at the University of Sioux Falls.
“I loved it because I was working with people and organizations and businesses helping manage their goals,” she said. “I’ve always liked investments, relationships, meeting people and helping people.”
At first, her fantasy sports playing involved leagues at work. This was more than a decade ago, before the internet had exploded with fan sites, in-depth information and online leagues. But Metzger still won from the start.
“I should have kept track,” she said. “I would typically do five or seven leagues.”
There were work leagues, a women’s league her sister-in-law started and the league at the bank where another brother works. She has won multiple seasons.
“I understand the numbers very well, but I think I have good gut instincts,” Metzger said. “I think I watch enough football it gives me somewhat of an advantage.”
Growing up with three brothers, Metzger collected baseball cards instead of dolls and played volleyball and basketball through high school.
“And as long as I could remember, I’ve been watching a game,” she said. “It’s just been part of what I do.”
Her brother Tyson shares her passion for football and began analyzing baseball with her a few years ago.
“We realized there are so many predictive analytics that can predict what players are about to do and whether they’re about to go on a hot streak, and we were intrigued,” she said.
Interestingly, her family’s league is among her most competitive.
“We have a fantasy trophy we pass around,” she said. “I won it twice, but my nephews are getting really good.”
Two years ago, Metzger took her game online, after co-workers introduced her to FanDuel. She began crafting football lineups.
“Each player has a price, so you can’t just put all stars on the team,” she said. “A lot of it is pricing, which is like stock pricing. You’re looking for values. You’re looking for buys. You’re looking for the next star you see coming. And quite honestly, from day one, I was really good at it.”
By last year, Metzger had become a FanDuel regular. Surrounded by sports memorabilia in her east-side home, she researches at night or on the weekend, plays in baseball and football fantasy leagues and doesn’t spend that much entering.
“I have developed some of my own spreadsheets that analyze sports statistics that have been really helpful to me,” she said.
Players pay an entry fee to compete in online fantasy sports, where winning involves a lot of knowledge, analysis and, of course, a little luck.
“I started experimenting and seeing what it looked like, and I was consistently in the top echelon scores,” Metzger said.
“It’s kind of baffling to me, but it’s just been natural.”
Then, this Memorial Day weekend, her performance landed her a spot in the upcoming FanDuel World Fantasy Baseball Championship. She will be in San Diego Aug. 22-25 as part of the top 125 fantasy baseball players in a live competition.
“It’s very difficult to win entry into this contest. Typically, our best players are the ones who get to come to these events,” said Jeff Forvour, senior manager of promotion and events at FanDuel Group.
“The cool thing is Kristi has four entries into the contest, which is every harder to do. She actually won four of the 125 spots which is very, very difficult to do.”
While many top fantasy players have turned their success into social media followers, Metzger has been silent until now.
“I haven’t said anything,” she said. “I’m not a boastful person. This is just fun for me, and I enjoy it. But I’ve had some friends and close co-workers I’ve started to share this story with, and they said I needed to tell it.”
She will be the only South Dakotan to compete, and FanDuel estimates she will be among five female contestants.
“She’s definitely in the upper echelon of skilled players,” Forvour said. “It’s a big accomplishment to be that good at multiple sports, though not unheard of.”
She has been hard at work researching in the meantime and trying not to overthink the upcoming picks.
“It’s only 125 people, so I don’t have to get too crazy like you would in a field of 18,000,” she said. “But go for the sure points and make a few tweaks along the way. It’s most important to pick a very good pitcher and pick good values you think will do well.”
She’s guaranteed to do pretty well from the start. The least she can win is $5,000 per lineup – and she has four – and the top prize is $500,000.
But setting the lucrative nature of her hobby aside, Metzger said it will remain just that: a hobby. She has no plans to leave Great Western for fantasy sports.
“I really love what I’m doing,” she said. “I feel like I’m in my dream job. I work for an amazing company with an amazing team. I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world. I’m doing what I love at work, plus I have a fun hobby that happens to be profitable.”
If you’ve ever played fantasy sports, you’re going to love this story: Congrats to this Sioux Falls woman who is truly at the top of her game!