Managers of fantasy sports teams - where people draft rosters filled with players of their own choosing - spend countless hours and sometimes thousands of dollars on analysis to develop a sophisticated method of getting the best roster.

And sometimes, just like real sports, some superstition is involved.

But most fantasy sport players overestimate the role of skill and knowledge in building a winning team, and underestimate the role of luck, according to a paper in the Journal of Sports Management

Forming a good team definitely requires skill and knowledge. As you know if you watch the FX comedy "The League", you won't do well if you draft players who no longer play, but a new study shows that fantasy sports players believe they have much more control over the outcome of games than they actually do, said lead author Dae Hee Kwak, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology.



You're not a sports management wizard. Credit and link: University of Michigan

Researchers produced this illusory control over outcome in study test players by showing experienced players one of several mock advertisements for a fantasy baseball subscription service. After only one exposure to an ad promising players more control over things like team building or more expert analysis, players said they thought they had a better chance of winning.

Kwak said that players gave the fake subscription service high marks without even trying the actual service, and higher ratings could ultimately lead to new subscribers and higher revenues for the burgeoning industry.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, fantasy sports is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, with 7.8 percent annual growth projected over five years, to $1.8 billion. Last year, an estimated 33.6 million players participated in basketball, football, baseball and hockey. Kwak has another paper pending that looks at fantasy football entry fees and payouts.

There are millions of dollars at stake, and this inflated sense of control over winning outcome is closely tied to gambling psychology, Kwak said.

"For instance, throwing a dice on your own does not necessarily change the probability, but may make you believe that you are the 'causal agent' for a specific result," he said.

This connection merits a closer look, especially as these games become more available on mobile devices, thus easily accessed by college or high school-aged players who are even more susceptible to such advertising ploys.


Citation:  Dae Hee Kwak, Joon Sung Lee, Joseph Mahan III, 'Ad-Evoked Illusory Judgments in Fantasy Sports Participation: Effects of Customization Level and Expert Information', Journal of Sports Management Volume 27, Issue 5, September. Source: Laura Bailey at University of Michigan