Royal Oak Man Beats Staggering Odds to Win FourPlay’s $1M Prize

In September, we profiled FourPlay Football, a Birmingham, MI-based startup that billed itself as an alternative to weekly fantasy leagues by giving participants the chance to predict the winner of four NFL or NCAA football matchups in any given week instead of managing a full roster of players for the season’s duration.

Co-founder Jeff Johnson told Xconomy he was still in college when he stumbled onto the game FourPlay is based upon, which was invented about 25 years ago by a group of football fans at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

He soon became so taken with it that he persuaded co-founder CJ Karchon to start playing. After both found that they enjoyed this new form of fantasy football more than the original, they decided to build a business around it.

To entice players to sign up, FourPlay offered a $1 million prize to any player who completed a perfect season in a FourPlay Football league with at least 10 participants. In addition, FourPlay said the commissioner of any league in which a player won the $1 million prize would take home $100,000 himself or herself, as a bonus for getting the prizewinner to sign up. At the time, Johnson said the odds of winning the $1 million prize were one in 5 million for NFL leagues.

Despite those steep odds, the Detroit News reported this week that a Royal Oak, MI man has won FourPlay’s $1 million prize. Dominic Mirabella, a 39-year-old financial planner, “[successfully bet] against the company’s unique ‘spread’ in four games a week, all 17 weeks of the regular season, as well as games throughout the playoffs, 81 in all.”

Johnson told the News that FourPlay has 3,000 to 4,000 players worldwide, with about 85 percent of them located outside of Michigan. And yet, the $1 million prize winner lives a mere six miles away from the company’s headquarters. In fact, Mirabella’s league commissioner was Karchon; because he’s a co-founder of FourPlay, he’s not eligible for the $100,000 bonus. Johnson told the News that having someone win the $1 million prize is “good for business, but having that person be local is even better.”

The unlikely tale has already raised suspicion in the sports blogosphere. A post on the website Barstool Sports reads, in part, “Nope. I mean there is a zero percent chance you can go 81-0 against the spread picking games in the NFL. None. I can’t even hit a four team parlay in the NFL without getting burned on the last leg by some (expletive) play.”

We’ll leave it to our readers with knowledge of math and statistics to judge for themselves.

Because fantasy sports exist in a bit of a legal gray area in the United States, they can be controversial. Last fall, Johnson told Xconomy that FourPlay did not feel its game constituted gambling. Plus, given the staggering odds, the $1 million prize was unlikely to be paid out anyway, he added.

The News reports Mirabella’s prize money will be paid by FourPlay’s investors in 10 annual installments of $100,000. Johnson told the News the company is funded by 10 angel investors, whom he declined to name.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

Trending on Xconomy