While the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros is set to begin Tuesday, the 2021 regular season has already produced a record-setting champion. The 2021 season marked the culmination of one of the most remarkable runs in the 18-year history of the National Fantasy Baseball Championship.
Phil Dussault, who began competing in the high-stakes NFBC back in 2017, invested $17,500 in 22 leagues for the 2021 season. His total winnings: $324,000.
Dussault’s dominance was highlighted by his main event title ($157,000), in which he secured 145 of a possible 160 points in a 15-team league with five hitting and five pitching categories. His two other main event teams came in third ($32,000) and 24th ($8,800) overall out of 645 entries.
In addition, Dussault won the Auction Championship ($20,000, plus $20,000 for winning his league; the entry fee was $2,500). He almost pulled off the “Triple Lindy” by pushing to second overall in the online championship. Instead of taking home $125,000 as the winner, Dussault settled for a second-place payout of $39,000 ($30,000 for second overall plus $9,000 for winning his league; $1,500 entry).
In the online championship at the NFBC, most of the 2,388 entries paid $350 to compete in 12-team leagues. Each owner tries to win their league. Then their stats are ranked overall to see who finishes with the best team.
Dussault came in first and second in two $2,500 Draft Champion Leagues to win another $27,500. The majority of entries in this format (15-team leagues with 50-round drafts and no in-season management) come from $150 and $400 leagues.
The NFBC competition started in 2004 with 195 teams. It was created by former Fantasy Sports Trade Association president Greg Ambrosius, who envisioned building a “fantasy field of dreams.” However, in the contest's first year, the event fell 105 entries short of the projected prize pool, leaving some trepidation of the future success and profitability of the event for Krause Publications.
In 2021, the NFBC had over 21,000 entries with a wide range of entry fees. The high-stakes contests include the Main Event (645 entries), Online Championship (2,388), Draft Championship (4,545), Best Ball Cutline Championship (1,960) and Auction Championship (120), which equals 9,658 teams.
While Dussault’s winnings and success are impressive, the real double-take comes when you consider the investment: Dussault paid $17,500 in entry fees to compete in the 2021 NFBC leagues. How and why would someone put up that kind of investment in fantasy baseball? In Dussault’s case, he was merely reinvesting money he had already won.
In 2019, Dussault finished eighth overall in the main event ($6,000), leading to his first league title ($7,000). The following season, he won three more main titles while winning $26,800. His success allowed him to reinvest in 2021.
The golden bar in the NFBC for the main event came in 2009, when Lindy Hinkleman took the main event title ($100,000) and the Online Championship ($40,000), plus another $75,000 bonus for winning both events. Hinkleman built his teams around these 15 players:
The combination of Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw won 27 games over 411 innings with a 3.18 ERA and 1.175 WHIP while delivering 454 strikeouts. Ultimately, the growth and dominance by Clayton Kershaw set the stage for duel ace theory in team development over the next couple of seasons.
Hinkleman won his second NFBC main event overall title in 2011 while catching another great season from Justin Verlander (24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts over 251 innings).
Dave Potts parlayed his 2012 NFBC main event title ($100,000) to a pair of million-dollar wins in the daily games and a new career at Roto Grinders.
Chris Fessler won the main event in 2019 while taking the Online Championship ($125,000) in 2021. Were it not for Fessler relegating him to second in the Online Championship, Dussault could have won another $170,000.
Before the start of next season, I will take a deeper dive into Dussault’s teams to see the how and why of his success. For now, here’s a look at his final stats for hitting and pitching: