Jade Roper Tolbert, a former contestant on reality-TV series "The Bachelor," is no longer the winner of a DraftKings daily fantasy football contest from early January.
On NFL wild-card weekend (Jan. 4-5), Tolbert finished with the top score in DraftKings' Millionaire Maker contest. She bested more than 105,000 entries and thought she had won the $1 million top prize. Controversy ensued, however, and DraftKings began looking into allegations that Tolbert worked with her husband, Tanner Tolbert, a known high-volume daily fantasy player, to circumvent entry limits into the contest.
On Saturday, DraftKings announced that it was updating the standings for "several contests" and began notifying impacted customers. Tolbert was no longer listed as the winner of the Millionaire Maker contest. An entry with the username spclk36, who had been in second place behind Tolbert, was now at the top of the leaderboard. Tolbert was no longer listed and as recently as Tuesday had not received the $1 million prize, according to her husband.
DraftKings declined to expand on its statement, and Tanner Tolbert did not respond to messages from ESPN on Saturday.
Jade and Tanner each entered 150 lineups, the maximum allowed, from their individual accounts in the Millionaire Maker contest on wild-card weekend. Many of the couple's lineups were built around the same players but were kept unique by the quarterbacks they chose. Jade's lineups featured AFC quarterbacks, like Houston's DeShaun Watson and Buffalo's Josh Allen, while Tanner went with NFC quarterbacks like New Orleans' Drew Brees and Philadelphia's Carson Wentz. Out of their 300 entries, 298 were unique.
Fantasy experts say that exceeding the entry limit with unique lineups -- especially in contests involving just four games and therefore with a smaller player pool -- is an advantage. Jade has not spoken publicly as the controversy has played out over nearly three weeks, other than a joint statement the couple released after the contest, saying that her win was "nothing more than pure luck."
Jade is not a sports fan and has often poked fun at her husband's love of fantasy sports on social media. At a Hollywood event in November, when asked to name something that most annoys his wife, Tanner replied, "Fantasy football stuff."
The couple says Jade decided to try fantasy sports this season as a family activity and created an account in August. "We'll play for things like picking date night or loser cooks dinner," Tanner told ESPN in January. They also played for higher stakes, with each regularly submitting the maximum entries into weekly NFL contests and even an NBA contest on Christmas Day.
In August, DraftKings temporarily restricted Jade's new account, citing a "shared payment method with another DraftKings account," and requested additional documentation. According to emails reviewed by ESPN, the Tolberts complied with the requests, received confirmation from DraftKings that their information had been verified, and Jade began playing regularly.
The Tolberts, who met on the spinoff "Bachelor in Paradise," played on DraftKings openly throughout the season, never with much success or scrutiny other than from an occasional fan on social media. According to contest data provided by a third party and verified by ESPN, the Tolberts were down nearly $62,000 on their football entries at DraftKings this season before wild-card weekend.
"I just wish if [DraftKings] had problems with anything, they would have addressed them early on, since they knew we were husband and wife," Tanner told ESPN earlier this month.
DraftKings customers received emails notifying them of updates to past contests, some as far back as October. "As a result of these updated standings you had one or more entries move up to a higher payout level," the emails to customers stated. "We have credited your account with [dollar amount] as reflected below."
Allegations of multi-accounting -- one player using multiple accounts to exceed entry limits -- and collusion between players have plagued the DFS industry for years. DraftKings considers group play designed to gain an unfair advantage over other contestants to be "unacceptable behavior."