NFL Survivor Pools are not the newest phenomenon on the office pool landscape, but they are growing in popularity exponentially year-by-year. Here at SurvivorPoolPicks.com, we will provide expert advice and tips every week during the pro football season to help give you the best chance to win your pool. As a former Survivor Pool champion, an avid pro football handicapper and a long-time sports journalist, I know a thing or two about how to successfully navigate a Survivor Pool, and I want to share some of my wisdom with you here.
Every year more and more people around the country are joining a Survivor Pool for the first time. If that is your situation, let’s break down what a Survivor Pool consists of. The initial step of joining a pool consists of providing an entry fee that is designated by the pool runner. Entry fees are normally between $10 and $50 for one ticket. Some Survivor Pools, also known as Eliminator Pools and Suicide Pools, have entry fees in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. But if this is your first time wading into the Survivor Pool waters you probably want to keep your entry fee down to a reasonable level. Remember that this is gambling (there are many Survivor Pools out there that are free to play, but for us it is no fun unless you have some money involved!) and never put in more than you can afford to lose.
Once you have an entry into the contest, the premise is simple. Survive as long as you can throughout the NFL season. You pick one team per week — that team has to win the game or you are out of the pool. You can only use that team once. After you pick that team they are unavailable to you for the rest of the season. Ties eliminate you in most pools (always knowing all the rules for your Survivor Pool is paramount!). Most pools go through to the end of the regular season, and any competitors still alive at that point would split the pot. Some pools go through the playoffs or have special tiebreaker rules. There are a number of variations from the standard Survivor Pool (pick a team to lose each week instead of win is a popular example).
I have made a solid profit playing Survivor Pools. When I play it is partly for entertainment, but I also plan to be in competition for the money. Anyone who takes the cash at the end of the season has obviously benefitted from some luck along the way, but there are some general rules I like to follow that I believe will give a player the best chance for a cash grab in his or her pool.
Buy Multiple Tickets
I normally play in pools in the $20-$50 range. This affords me to buy multiple tickets. The more tickets you have in a pool, the better chance you have at scoring the cash. Survivor Pools, in general, are filled with total squares, a common term for the totally uneducated bettor. If you are in a pool with 200-300 people, a good percentage will get knocked out in the first few weeks when using their favorite team or making a ridiculously uneducated pick. If you play Survivor Pools smart then you already have a mathematical edge over a big chunk of the entrants in your pool.
Check the Pointspread
The first thing I do when I am planning my picks for the week is to look at the pointspread for the games that week. The current spreads are available on many different sites, but we like to use Doc’s Sports NFL odds. By viewing the odds you can figure out which teams are favored that particular week and by what margin. If you don’t know about the point spread, click here for an explanation. The point spread is set by oddsmakers to get equal action on a game and is not a true standard of the talent differential and circumstances of a matchup. So don’t treat the pointspread as gospel. But this will give you a good idea of the biggest mismatches for the week. When I am looking at the spreads I normally circle five or six teams that will be the teams I am considering for that given week.
Stick With Home Teams Until You Have Very Limited Choices
I almost always use home teams for my Survivor Pool picks. It is incredibly rare that I use a road team until late in the season. I don’t even consider it, so I am basically making my picks for the week from the pool of home teams and betting favorites of the week. Road teams win every week in the NFL, but upsets are more unlikely when a team is at home, and a competitor that picks road teams on a regular basis is going to get knocked out of his or her Survivor Pool very early. I can’t stress this enough: Stick with home teams until you have no better choices! I also make it a point to avoid teams with a quick turnaround like those that played on Monday night or teams playing Thursday Night Football (Also avoid the international games like the plague!). On the flip side, a strong team at home coming off a bye is a great option to consider.
When 50/50 On Two Teams, Always Pick the Better Team
When I just can’t decide who to pick when I have narrowed my choice to two teams, I always go with the better club. The best teams will wind up with the best records, and they will win more games, which is what we are looking for in pursuit of Survivor Pool winnings. If you take the weaker club you run a bigger risk of an upset. Many Survivor Pool players like to go against the worst teams in the league week to week. But if I have a chance to take a Super Bowl contender against a weaker competitor as opposed to a middle-of-the-pack team against the worst team in the league, I am always going to go with the stronger team. Even the worst NFL teams win a few games a year.
Don’t Save Teams
Some Survivor Pool competitors like to save teams for down the road. What good is having that team in your back pocket for if you are no longer in the pool to use it? I always take the best option that week. I do check later schedules for the teams I am considering. If I am 50/50 on two teams, and one team has a weak opponent in a week or two, that might help me chose one over the other. But in general I use the team from my available pool of remaining teams that I think has the best chance of winning that week.
Don’t Be Afraid to Gamble
This point seems counterintuitive to everything I have written up until this point, but every time I have finished in the money in my Survivor Pool I have made one decent gamble during the season. Many weeks there are about 5-6 teams that most in the pool will have picked. Sometimes none of those matchups are too appealing to me, so I might want to find a home team that is slightly favored that I feel very confident in but that will not be a popular pick in Survivor Pools. You get closer to the winner’s circle when massive amounts of people are getting knocked out on big upsets, so if you are very confident in a smaller-spread favorite when this team won’t be a popular pick then it may be worth a gamble.
Submit Your Pick at the Last Possible Moment
Many Survivor Pools have a Saturday midnight deadline for your picks. Always be very vigilant of any deadlines, but also wait until close to the deadline to submit your pick. Injuries happen in practice all the time, and you never know what wacky antics NFLers might get themselves into during the week leading up to the game, so be cognizant of any breaking news involving the teams you plan to use. When you make your pick late in the week you will have the most informed pick you can make since any news that occurs after the deadline will affect all those that chose the team involved in the “breaking news”.
Split the Pot!
If it comes down to the final weeks of the season and you and one or two other competitors are the only ones left standing, consider a cash split between yourself and those remaining players. Normally your share of the pot will be substantial compared to entry fees, and it’s better to split a big prize than be left out in the cold if you lose late in the season. Always compare the teams you and your competitors have remaining to make sure that you don’t have a clear edge. If you think the remaining teams are even or that your competitors have a distinct advantage moving forward then you may want to strongly consider a split. I have done this more than once and never had a competitor fail to agree to it.
If All Else Fails, Visit SurvivorPoolPicks.com!
If all this sounds like too much work, SurvivorPoolPicks.com is here to do the research and heavy lifting for you! I will be providing a weekly column during the NFL season telling you the best teams to consider and the teams to avoid. We will have a weekly YouTube video with expert analysis as well as an array of weekly articles intended to help you win your pool. We will also release a weekly newsletter where our panel of Survivor Pool experts, including myself, will give their expert picks for the week. Check the site every week during the 2014-15 NFL season for the best Survivor Pool advice and tips on the Internet!