Top DFS Pro Donates $1.127M of His Winnings to Charity

Dec 18, 2018 11:30 AM EST
Credit:

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jaylen Samuels

  • Before the weekend, Tom Crowley, one of the best DFS pros ever, pledged to donate half of his winnings from the DraftKings and FanDuel World Championships to charity.
  • Crowley had 10 lineups and ended up winning $2.254 million, including the $2 million first prize in the DraftKings contest.
  • Crowley will give $1.127 million to charity, telling The Action Network, "I wanted to do something other than take money from others. That's only fun for so long."

“Sports is not a matter of life and death,” so the old adage goes.

But Jaylen Samuels’ against-all-odds performance on Sunday against the New England Patriots actually will go on to save lives. Why? Because Samuels happened to be in one of the lineups of the daily fantasy player who won $2.254 million this weekend, and pledged to donate half of it to charity.

Before Sunday, Samuels, a fifth-round draft pick from NC State, had 23 carries for 52 yards. But Tom Crowley, arguably the best fantasy sports player of all time, identified that Samuels could break free with the Steelers’ every-day running back James Conner ruled out.

Crowley, who told The Action Network he had never heard of Samuels before last week, needed the RB to have an insane game for him to win the DraftKings’ $10M Fantasy Football World Championship, a tournament of 180 entries that would award $2 million to the winner.

And Samuels came through, running for 142 yards on 19 carries.

How uncharacteristic was that? Samuels told Peter King that he had never run for more than 100 yards at any level and never had more than 19 carries in a game. And he did this against the Patriots of all teams.

Thanks to Samuels, the 29-year-old Crowley won the DraftKings contest for $2 million. He also cashed out $254,000 via his other nine entries in the DraftKings and FanDuel events.

He confirmed on Monday to The Action Network that he is donating $1,127,000 — half his total prizes — to The Double Up Drive.

When Crowley came out of college in 2011, he was a professional poker player, making enough money to earn a decent living. But about a year in, Crowley felt like what he was doing wasn’t that fulfilling.

“I wanted to do something other than take money from others,” Crowley told The Action Network. “That’s only fun for so long.”

So Crowley learned about GiveWell, a non-profit that sorts through charities and steers money toward the best, most efficient ones.

“They applied hedge fund investing-type rigor to charitable giving and they sold me,” Crowley said.

Crowley played poker until 2015 and then became a professional fantasy player after that. He has made millions and estimates he has given at least $2.5 million of his winnings to charity.

He also has made a habit of announcing how much he’ll donate before he wins. Before this weekend, he said he would donate half his winnings.

“I found that our biases come into play after we win,” Crowley said. “The first time I won $1 million, I had it in the bank and so I realized how hard it was to give it up.”

Crowley eventually gave $75,000, which he said he felt was appropriate at the time, but didn’t want to worry about being selfish again.

“I’m not upset that I’m giving away half this time because I never felt like it was mine.”

Crowley, who has won another football tournament for $1 million, the biggest daily fantasy basketball contest and come in second in the biggest baseball fantasy competition, has donated most of his money to the Against Malaria Foundation.

Crowley doesn’t have any personal connection to the organization and he has never been to Africa, but says it provides him with his best bang for his buck. The Against Malaria Foundation uses money raised to install insecticidal nets, which curtail the disease that kills a half a million people a year.

The Double Up Drive, the organization that will receive Crowley’s $1.127 million in winnings, will distribute the funds to 10 different charities, including GiveWell and one that prevents malaria. (You can read about all 10 charities here.)

“I’ve learned that where you choose to donate can affect the impact of that donation by 1,000 times,” Crowley said.

After giving to charity, Crowley will come away with $1,127,000 before taxes. Samuels, including the signing bonus he received coming out of the 2018 draft, gets $738,066 from the Steelers.

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