Monkey Knife Fight: Leveling the Field for DFS Players
Bill Asher, founder and CEO of fantasy sports site Monkey Knife Fight, set out to tap the millions of average sports fans shut out by traditional DFS.
The big winners in daily fantasy sports tend to be less your average-Joe sports fans than statisticians: obsessive geeks who spend hours calculating the contenders, factoring in details about injuries, stadiums, salary caps, the weather and other minutiae, and playing multiple entries and lineups.
According to a 2015 Washington Post article, “All the Reasons You (Probably) Won’t Make Money Playing Daily Fantasy Sports,” the top 1 percent of DFS players (aka “sharks”) pay 40 percent of the entry fees but pocket 91 percent of the profits, while the bottom 80 percent (“minnows”) lose half their average $49 buy-in.
In 2016, that disparity—the seemingly elitist, exclusionary nature of traditional DFS—ticked off entrepreneur Bill Asher, then galvanized him. In September 2018, he launched Monkey Knife Fight, a DFS company that “puts the fan experience back in fantasy sports,” with the goal of leveling the playing field for average sports fans.
“Out of the millions of people who play fantasy sports, only a slim number have the time to dedicate to knowing every player in the league and every matchup variable, and also stay on top of injuries and breaking news,” Asher told sportsquare.com. “The model in the market was essentially a math test where you lost money. What’s fun about that?”
Create your account at MonkeyKnifeFight.com, and your welcome package includes a $5 free game (no deposit required), $10 free with any deposit, and a first- deposit match of 100% match up to $50.
Like Asher, MKF President Nic Sulsky was unimpressed by a game model that he says kept most fans on the sidelines. “The DFS space was broken,” he told iGP. “Unless you spend hours every day researching the matchups, the weather, and the day and night variables when it comes to player performance, it’s challenging to win” typical DFS contests.
With Monkey Knife Fight, “We created a product and a community that cater to that casual sports fan, so they can come in and find something they like with players they’re familiar with. They don’t have to spend hours upon hours on research just to compete with professional players and sharks who use their math algorithms and spreads, quite frankly, take the money from the casual sports fan.”
With no salary caps to manage, Monkey Knife Fight “is a much easier product to pick up and a much simpler user experience to navigate.
With the motto, “It ain’t rocket science,” Monkey Knife Fight targets those millions of regular Joes, the diehard fans who root for the home team while propping up their local sports bar. They’re just as passionate as their more learned counterparts—maybe more. And they reportedly outnumber them 10 to one.
MKF is also building a roster of brand partners, doing deals with the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and others to “reinforce MKF’s belief that there is a large appetite among fan communities to play fantasy sports games that allow them to focus on their local hometown teams and favorite players.”
The approach clearly worked. Before the sports and betting industries ground to a halt in March, MKF had seen its user base explode, increasing 400 percent year-on-year.
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Then came Covid-19, which first shut down March Madness, then leveled major-league and college sports in the U.S. like a row of dominoes. Asher’s first thought—presumably, after “WTF!”—was to take advantage of the pause to push the business even more.
“It happened so quickly, it really was a shock to everyone in the industry,” remembered Asher. “Then I started thinking, ‘How can we maximize this time?’ The answer was obvious to me. Everyone else went into a wait-and-see mode. Monkey Knife Fight did the opposite. We throttled forward aggressively in every area, making updates to our product, going after opportunities for new partnerships and growing our team by hiring talented people who became available from other companies.”
Like the acknowledged giants of the industry, DraftKings and FanDuel, Monkey Knife Fight plans to ultimately move into legal sports betting. To that end, it’s getting out in front in states like California, where sports betting isn’t yet legal.
“Right now, we’re focused on dominating fantasy sports,” said Asher. “We do it well, and we’ve seen an incredibly positive response to our easy and fun fantasy sports contests. That brand recognition could prove very helpful in a more gambling-focused future.”
Even the company’s name makes a statement about its out-there approach. In a Skype meeting—Asher in California, Sulsky in Toronto—they kicked around names over a bottle of tequila. The next morning, “Monkey Knife Fight,” which may have been the product of auto-correct, still sounded good.
“We shared it with our designer, who created the logo,” a cartoonish, menacing but somehow cute monkey with an eyepatch and crossed daggers. “It was meant to be,” said Sulsky.
By the way, whereas the traditional model seems weighted against average fans and players, he said MKF doesn’t discriminate in the other direction. “Our belief is when conventional hardcore DFS players discover Monkey Knife Fight, they’re going to be just as excited to play as any casual sports fan. Our platform is for everyone.”
So, where will Monkey Knife Fight be in three to five years, when Covid-19 is hopefully a dim memory, sports are back on the field, and fans once again fill the stands, sports bars and sportsbooks?
“Most of America and Canada are a couple of years away from legalizing online gambling,” Asher said. “As sports betting laws open up around the country, we’ll have the ability to offer our gambling products alongside our fantasy sports. With a large base of loyal fantasy sports customers, many will naturally bet with us as well, as each state legalizes sports betting.”
Sulsky added that it really is starting now, with the chaotic, fits-and-starts return of U.S. professional sports. “We’re on the precipice of an exciting time for digital sports fans. Everyone’s hungry for live sports, and we’re ready for it.”