When Michael Penoro tuned into Monday Night Football last month to watch the New York Giants take on the Detroit Lions, he didn’t have much faith in his fantasy football team.
Penoro, 48, of Garden City South, was competing in an online tournament at FanDuel.com, a site that allows users to play in fantasy football leagues that last only a week, rather than committing to one team for an entire season.
It cost him $200 to enter the tourney, and the winner would receive an all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas and a coveted spot in FanDuel’s 2014 World Fantasy Football Championships.
But going into the Sept. 8 Giants-Lions game, Penoro was in 267th place and needed 70 points to take the lead with only three players — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate — on his team left to play.
“I thought I had maybe a 3 to 5 percent chance of getting that many points out of these players,” Penoro said.
But to Penoro’s surprise, Stafford threw two early touchdown passes to Johnson, who had seven catches for 164 yards that night, and ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Later in the quarter, Stafford also found Tate for a 44-yard gain that led to a field goal, and threw to Joseph Fauria in the fourth for a 2-point conversion.
Detroit defeated the Giants, 35-14, but more importantly for Penoro, the Lions earned him the tournament victory and the chance to compete on a bigger stage.
Tom Griffiths, co-founder of FanDuel, said the site will be giving away $10 million in prizes at this year’s World Championships, which will take place on Dec. 14. The winner will receive $2 million and be flown home in a private jet, but even the player who finishes in last place will still leave with $15,000.
Penoro said he would use his winnings to pay for his two sons’ college educations and perhaps take a few vacations with his family.
As of Thursday, a FanDuel spokeswoman said the site still had 71 invitations to the championship to dole out. FanDuel will continue to hold tournaments each weekend until all 100 seats are filled.
Unlike traditional fantasy leagues, FanDuel doesn’t hold drafts. Users can pick any eight players they want and one defensive team, but they must stay within a salary cap. The championship will follow this same format.
“I’m looking forward to having a fun weekend with my wife and some friends that may join us,” said Penoro of the Vegas trip. “And hopefully, I’ll come in the top 10 to make some real money that could make a difference.”