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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Defending Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco still available. FYI.

(LAUGHTER)

LYDEN: This was the scene one night this past week in a townhouse in Falls Church, Virginia - nine men with their laptops aglow, all huddled around a dining room table ringed with half-empty beer bottles.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Those wide receivers were fast.

LYDEN: They, like thousands of others around the country, were engaged in a fantasy football draft.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Scott, you have to take Larry Fitzgerald. You've had Larry Fitzgerald every year we've had this league.

LYDEN: 'Tis the season for football-starved fans to pretend to manage their own teams - selecting players and tabulating their real-life statistics after every game, and sometimes at the end of the season, receiving a cash reward. Fantasy sports is a huge business, with an estimated 36 million people in the U.S. and Canada picking teams and talking trash. And now, we may be at a tipping point. Meet Drew Dinkmeyer.

DREW DINKMEYER: I'm a 31-year-old former investment analyst turned fantasy sports professional.

LYDEN: That's right, a fantasy sports professional. He left his job for a full-time career playing fantasy sports. Now, before you get any big ideas, Drew Dinkmeyer is among the elite. He's been recognized as an expert for years. So you can stop writing your resignation letter right now. Mm-hmm. And this guy's not playing the leisurely game that you and your buddies do. Dinkmeyer's involved with a lesser-known form of fantasy sports that requires daily wagers. Most gamers, you know, they just lay down one bet a season. Not him.

DINKMEYER: If you're playing multiple games on a given night of over $500, you could see a scenario where you're making thousands of dollars a week very comfortably. But that, of course, requires the risk tolerance to be able to outlay that capital on a given night. And so after a few years of playing, I started to have income levels that were commensurate with what I was making in the financial world. And it started to become more of a reality and less of a dream.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LYDEN: Dinkmeyer likens what he does to day-trading on the stock market.

DINKMEYER: What you're doing is you're trying to find a company that is trading for less than it's really worth. You're trying to unlock value. So if there's a company out there that's priced at $50 on a given day, and you think that company is really worth 60 or $70, you want to own that company and invest in that company, and that's the same thing daily fantasy players are doing. They're given a list of prices for all the individual players, and they have to figure out which ones are worth more than those actual prices to compile the best team that can put together the most points.

LYDEN: Now, if you're still thinking this dude's nuts or just really, really lucky, he's not entirely reliant on his gambling income. He still gets paid to write for fantasy sports websites; he hosts a show on satellite radio. Plus...

DINKMEYER: I'm fortunate enough to have a wife that does very well in the financial industry as well, so there's a little bit of financial risk taken off the table.

LYDEN: So Drew Dinkmeyer feels he can live out this sports fantasy dream for the long haul.

DINKMEYER: This is something that allows me to do all the other things that I wanted to do, which was be a very involved father down the road, hopefully. This is something that I imagine doing for the rest of my life, really.

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