Fantasy drafts meet the futures market

How to play a new free-and-easy fantasy game, Omnifantasy

There’s this thing in the entrepreneurial world that because almost everything has been done, the shortest way to explain a new idea is to relate it to an old one. DoorDash and GrubHub could have once been described as “Uber for food delivery,” and you’d have understood. I guess Uber for food delivery also literally exists in Uber Eats.

I want to tell you about a new fantasy contest. I’ve had people pitch new fantasy games to me — more often than you might think — and I’m usually pretty skeptical. Typically, it’s something I see as more work than I have available.

At this point in my life, I pretty much stick to various forms of fantasy football and one long-running baseball league. I’ve tried a fantasy version of a ton of sports — basketball, golf, hockey — but none have really ever resonated with me. My friends and I do always enjoy sprucing up whatever sporting event is on the calendar — we just finished an NFL playoffs contest, we have a fun March Madness eliminator every year on top of our bracket pools, we always find a way to have side action on the men’s or women’s World Cups, or the European Championships (essentially a smaller World Cup), depending on year. But those are mostly self-contained contests that last a few weeks during some event we want another reason to pay closer attention to.

Omnifantasy ties all of these things together, and it’s fantastic. It not particularly complicated or time consuming, at least not after you learn the basics. It’s best summarized as “a fantasy draft but for the sports futures market,” and as a draft-only format, you just make your picks and then your work is done.

“This is what Omnifantasy is — having rooting interests in a ton of different sports, and then casually mentioning whenever possible that you were totally right about the Bucs long before you told anyone who would listen how the Chiefs were going to beat them.”

Like any fantasy snake draft, you’re picking against leaguemates. But instead of choosing players, you’re picking teams across various sports, and you score points when those teams win championships. If you thought there was some truth to Tom Brady leaving New England last winter, and believed the buzz that Tampa was a frontrunner to land him, you could have placed 30/1 or 40/1 bet on the Buccaneers winning the 2020 Super Bowl. If you were in an Omnifantasy draft, you also could have drafted the Bucs in something like the 13th or 15th round of your draft, like I did in two leagues. This is what Omnifantasy is — having rooting interests in a ton of different sports, and then casually mentioning whenever possible that you were totally right about the Bucs long before you told anyone who would listen how the Chiefs were going to beat them.

The first pick in an Omnifantasy draft might be a choice between some of the biggest favorites in their respective sports — the Lakers as the NBA favorites, Alabama in college football, or Novak Djokovic as the top tennis player. As the draft unfolds, the top options in every sport will be drafted, and you’re forced to take some longshots. This process might even lead you to consider some fun futures bets to make, like the Bucs.

One of the best parts of Omnifantasy is how it gives you a reason to care about sports you otherwise might not. Two years ago, I took the St. Louis Blues in the 11th round, knowing little about hockey or their team other than a friend was a fan. When they got hot the rest of the 2018-19 season and made a run for the Stanley Cup, I watched more playoff hockey than I had in probably the previous decade combined. It was an absolute blast.

In an Omnifantasy draft, you’re required to pick at least one team from every sport/league. Most drafters are going to follow futures odds to a certain degree, and they act as a proxy for ADP. The big choice you have as a drafter, though, is to decide what sports you want to target early in your draft — where you’ll nab a betting favorite — and what sports you want to wait on and pick a longshot later. If you hate a sport entirely, you can punt it and draft it in the last round, and because of how the scoring works, it isn’t a huge deal. You don’t need to do well in every sport to win your league — if you have reasonably good picks in half the sports, you might be the favorite, depending on the size of your league.

Ultimately, you wind up with your picks, and then your work is done. By the end of the draft, you’ll have picked what amounts to a futures bet from a bunch of different sports, and then you sit back and watch your teams over the next year. The best time to draft is right now, in February or March, and then you watch the results of each of the different sports roll in through next year’s Super Bowl, the final event on the Omnifantasy calendar. 

Another thing that attracts me to this fantasy game so much is you can go as deep with it as you want. It’s very accessible to anyone — I have friends who have played it for years despite not playing in any other fantasy leagues. You don’t need to do a ton of research into individual players like in traditional fantasy leagues, and while you won’t be an expert on every sport, neither will anyone else be. It’s been fun over the years I’ve done this to learn some of my friends have some hidden knowledge of the inner workings of tennis or NASCAR, but pretty much everyone has their weaknesses, too — sports they are totally clueless about. 

Of course, you can also get next level with it, mapping out draft strategies and weighing when in the draft to approach different sports based on how predictable the playoff formats are or whatever other factor you think is important. We did a little of that on Ship Chasing this week as I introduced this concept to a new audience, including cohost Pat who knew nothing about it. (The Omnifantasy talk begins around the 15-minute mark.)

Whether you want to know how to find an edge or just want a rooting interest, Omnifantasy is ultimately about picking winners. Casual fans can pick a few winners just as well as someone who is trying to optimize their draft for whether to take a favorite or a longshot in every sport — if we knew who would win championships every year, sports wouldn’t be fun. We did an early launch of the site last year and even after 2020 featured canceled and postponed leagues, nearly all of the dozens of people I know personally who were first timers last year wanted to give it a go again in 2021.

If this sounds like a fun idea, I’m going to write a couple more emails this week explaining: 1) how to start an Omnifantasy league of your own at omnifantasy.com, and 2) some of the strategies I’ve considered. If you’re not at all interested, rest assured I’ll be soon creating a separate email list for Omnifantasy-related stuff, and these posts will only be temporary.

I’ll close with this: I genuinely think Omnifantasy is the type of contest that every person with even a passing interest in sports, or fantasy, or sports betting should try. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this email, and we wouldn’t have built a website so that anyone who does want to try it, can. It’s probably my single favorite fantasy contest, and if you’re bored with the end of football season, I highly recommend finding some people who might also be interested and keeping an eye out for my next post to learn how to create a league of your own.