Updated on 09.15.14

The CNBC Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge

Trent Hamm

Ever wanted an opportunity to play around with individual stocks with no risk, just to see how good your stockpicking skills are? CNBC is running a contest called the Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge which basically amounts to a fantasy stock market. You can spend one million fictitious dollars buying stocks, and the person with the most valuable portfolio at the end of the contest (mid-May) will win $1 million. Also, the person with the most valuable portfolio at the end of each week until then will win $10,000.

It’s a lot of fun, and I myself have entered the contest. However, if you enter it actually playing to win, it won’t teach you a thing about individual stock investing, and here’s why.

If you’re playing to win, you have to be absurdly risky. My portfolio in the game is made up of three stocks, two of which are in overlapping industries. They’re all small cap stocks, too. (Curious as to what they are? Here’s one of them – it is obscene that this is under 4). I would never, ever invest this way in real life because of the risk factor. How so? First of all, all of my investments are in rather small-cap stocks, which can be really volatile. Second, my portfolio isn’t diversified at all. Third, I’m invested in these companies only because I suspect them to go really big in the next month or two and that’s it – I’m not even picking ones that I think will provide a great gain over the next six months or a year.

You’re not competing with the market. In reality, people do individual stock picking to try to beat the market, so they can make choices based on cycles and such. Here, you’re competing directly with other people: you don’t really care about anything other than this tiny timeframe, and you only really care about beating the people that are ahead of you. Thus, your choices aren’t really based on any normal fundamentals – you’re only looking for things that can go to the moon really quick – and that’s a complete crapshoot.

I’m not discouraging anyone from entering – by all means, get in, because it can be a lot of fun. I’m merely stating that if you’re playing to win, you can’t play as if you are investing real money (unless you’re absurdly rich and view it as a game). That’s because it is a game above all else.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use it as a learning experience. It can be a great opportunity to effectively practice simplified daytrading and get a taste for the fluctuations and speculation that goes into individual stock trading. Just remember that if you follow this contest and look at the leaderboard, those people are doing things that toss all fundamental stock investment logic out the window – using them as an example will do nothing more than bankrupt you if you attempt doing such things with real money.

Now go sign up and have some fun.

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  1. Bobby says:

    Already in and we will see what happens.

  2. jake says:

    All i can hope for is that my one dollar and something stock, hits some big returns like 5 or ten folds ^^

  3. TJP says:

    You’re right on target with this post. The whole concept is to make money as fast as possible, and All my picks are speculative plays.

    But hey, where is can you win a million bucks for picking letters at random?

  4. charlieiq says:

    Perhaps what you say is true—but you’re feeding your readers with a lot of BS if you suggest that you’re playing “small cap” stocks in this game. Small caps (anything with less than a half-billion) are ineligible. Your phantom buy of CRGN is totally bogus.

  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I discovered that tidbit after posting this, but the same still holds true. The winner will be the person who puts everything into whichever stock happens to skyrocket in the next two months.

  6. Here’s a comment I came across earlier, and it proves exactly what you’re saying:

    “One of the anchors mentioned that the 248 leaders all were 100% in SYKE, which was +23% yesterday. So, the leader must be at $1,235,000 with those bonus bucks.”

  7. Chris B. says:

    One strategy is to open up multiple accounts in other family members’ names who aren’t participating. That way you have many portfolios and a better chance of winning. I didn’t see anything in the rules about opening multiple accounts in the same name, so you may be able to just use your own name.

  8. Dave says:


    I’m currently ranked 174 (Top 1%)with my largest gain coming from FMT up 25% earlier this week. I dumped it at the end of the day fortunately because it’s off its recent closing high of $8.53 where I sold it.

    There has been major cheating which CNBC said it was going to resolve through IP tracking, but it doesn’t appear that they have done so to date. Nancy Beaumont from California has 25 or more separate accounts. Dylan Radigan mentioned this two days ago yet her multiple accounts are still showing up on the leader board.

    GE/CNBC really did this website on the cheap too. You would think they would have purchased enough bandwitdth and staff so that the site didn’t crash all day long and Bonus Point would be updated by 8:30 per the Rules.

    By the way, your stocks have to have a Market Cap of at least $500 million. It looks like some of the stocks mentioned don’t even qualify.

  9. Larry says:

    no where in the rules does it say that only one account per ip address however it does say this in the challenge rules………..

    but in no event may any Participant be eligible to win more than one (1) Weekly Prize.

    Additional Rules:
    By entering the Contest, Participants agree to waive any right to claim any ambiguity or error in these Rules, or the Contest itself, and agree to be bound by these Rules and by all decisions of CNBC, which are binding and final. Failure to comply with these rules may result in disqualification from this Contest. In the event of any unanticipated occurrence that was not fully addressed by the Rules, CNBC may modify the Rules to address such occurrence. Any changes to the Rules will be posted on the Site.

    Participant Behavior:
    CNBC reserves the right to prevent access by any Participant who acts irresponsibly or inappropriately in playing the Contest. Although all trading in the Contest is fictional, Participants are expected to engage in trading activity that fully complies with all federal and state securities laws (including without limitation insider trading), as if they were trading actual stocks. CNBC reserves the right to terminate Contest participation by any Participants suspected of cheating, attempting to exploit the contest or other inappropriate behavior. All such action will be determined by CNBC in its sole discretion.

    ……….we will just have to see if Nancy Beaumont’s additional accounts are booted. If you feel so strongly about her exploiting the game then email the contest rep. the email link can be found in the cnbc challenge help section.

  10. Dave says:

    Wikipedia entry regarding the multiple accounts controversy. The Rules clearly forbid multiple accounts.


    Contest “Multiple Accounts” Controversy

    The Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge, which is being sponsored by OptionsXpress,[16] has become embroiled in controversy after just its first week when it was revealed that one participant, Nancy Beaumont from California, registered 800 separate portfolios in the contest, exponentially increasing her probability of winning the $1,000,000 prize, and leading to her occupying no fewer than nine places in the Top 25 Leader Board. [17][18][19][20]

    The express terms of the Rules, however, provide in material part:

    Description of the Contest: The contest is a stock trading game that provides Participants with a fictional trading account, One Million (1,000,000) fictional dollars (“CNBC Bucks”) and the fictional ability to trade individual stocks on the NYSE, NASDAQ and/or AMEX exchanges.


    The Rules further state:

    Trading: Each participant begins the Contest with One Million (1,000,000) CNBC Bucks to create a fictional portfolio of the NYSE, NASDAQ and/or AMEX-traded stocks. … Each participant can make a maximum of fifty (50) trades per Day, based on the time the trade is entered by the Participant.


    As a result of Nancy Beaumont’s registration of 800 accounts, therefore, she has $800,000,000 CNBC Bucks available to her in the contest, spread over 800 separate accounts, and the ability to make a total of 40,000 trades per day. Other participants who registered one account per the express terms of the Rules, by comparison, have $1,000,000 CNBC Bucks available to them and can only make 50 trades per day. As a result, the probability of Nancy Beaumont winning the contest is dramatically skewed in her favor.

    The sponsor of the contest, OptionXpress has yet to make a statement regarding the controversy.

  11. Michael says:

    CNBC’s Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge is a big SCAM! I was ranked 61177 on Monday morning (3/12) before the trading began. My portfolio was up 8.99% as of Wednesday close (3/14). Yet, I am still ranked 61177 today (3/15). This means that the entire ranking system is corrupt. My best guess is that this contest is just a marketing ploy. The infrastructure to manage the contest is far too inadequate to provide accurate results. Whether that was done on purpose or lack of resources is unknown. What is obvious is that my ranking has not changed since Monday. Other players are probably having same problems. CNBC has not replied back to my email. Even though they promised to get back to me within 24 hours. It appears CNBC has received over 59,000 emails since the contest started. My guess is that many of these emails are because of problems contestants are seeing with the contest.

    I hope you will look into it and get CNBC to fix the problem or cancel the contest.

    Michael Yi

  12. Albert N. Milliron says:

    I am in the top 1% right now was at 4500 but due to a loss today back to top 1% at 8400. Very difficult to gain 450K in a few weeks. guess the tops are near double. Where many have traded over and over. I have focused on 3 stocks. We will see where I end up. I have an page on my site that looks at alternative energy stocks

    Money is begining to find its way as these stocks are finally showing promise. I am not invested in any of these.

    Good luck to all.

    Al Milliron

  13. Jeff Johnson says:

    im an australian and you guys might like to know that cnbc is doing the dodgy trading contest down here at the moment. its called Trading Matters Challenge and we’re having the same cheating scandals you guys had!! for them to do it again the Million Dollar Challenge must have been a complete success even with all the negative publicity that came out of it…

  14. moving says:

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the best websites on the web.
    I’m going to recommend this website!

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