How to Run an NFL Survivor Pool: Running an Eliminator Contest Tips and Advice from an Expert

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TK of San Diego has been running an NFL Survivor Pool for 12 football seasons. He sat down for an interview with to give some expert advice and tips for how to run a pool. Even though running an Eliminator Pool is very hard work, it can also be very rewarding, he said. Getting to know new people and enjoying the social aspect of running a pool are things that bring him back each year for another exciting season of Survivor Pool action.

“It’s all about fun for me,” said TK. “I have gotten to know so many people all over the country. I have made new friends, and through word of mouth the pool has now gone international with some competitors from overseas.”

TK first entered the world of NFL Survivor Pools as a competitor. One day he was enjoying cocktails with his buddies at his favorite watering hole in Ocean Beach, Calif., when he decided to start his own pool. That first year only 35 people played. But since then that number has steadily grown each year, and the pool now boasts close to 200 players each season.

The entry fee for TK’s pool is only $20. “It’s enough money to make it interesting,” he said. “But also enough money to where anyone can play.” Collecting the entry fees is probably the toughest aspect of running the pool, especially since TK prefers to collect the money face-to-face. He comes into his favorite neighborhood sports bar a few Fridays a month before the season starts to give everyone a chance to come in and pay his or her fee. It’s very important to collect money from every player before the Week 1 games are played as once people get knocked out of the pool it becomes very difficult to collect. TK has heard all the sob stories that normally accompany a non payment, and often if he doesn’t collect the entry fee quickly enough he will choose to add in the money out of his own pocket to compensate for the stiff.

Next to collecting the money, the next crucial aspect of running a Survivor Pool is setting the rules — most importantly deadlines. Competitors have to e-mail TK their picks every week by a deadline of Saturday night during the season. When TK first started the pool, he had a deadline for picks that was a couple hours before the games started on Sundays. This turned out to be a logistics nightmare with many picks coming in late and a myriad of excuses from competitors every week. He would routinely get picks e-mailed to him in the minutes leading up to the early games as well as even after the games started. TK said that some competitors don’t like the strict deadlines but that they are of utmost importance in order to assure everyone competes on a level playing field. If he makes an exception for one person, he said, everyone will expect the same favorable treatment.

Every season TK eliminates a handful of competitors that don’t send their picks in by deadline. He also said that every season he has competitors that try to use the same team twice (most Survivor Pools let competitors use each team only one time and then that team is unavailable to the player from that point on). That player that submits a double pick is eliminated, and no excuse will suffice. He said that some people hold a grudge but that he is just being fair to the people that followed the rules and played the pool correctly.

“Deadlines are big,” said TK. “Sometimes people e-mail at halftime of the late games, and they want to use the Monday Night Football game. It’s harsh. Because you have to be kind of a dick. But if you let one person do that then everyone will expect that. Be consistent with the rules.”

Getting double picks happens very often, he said. And one of the harshest examples of rule enforcing was when TK himself submitted a double pick in his own pool (TK allows himself a free entry for both he and his wife Carla along with taking a 10% administration fee for the costs and time invested in running a pool), eliminating himself from that season’s competition.

For those that do get knocked out early, TK offers a loser’s pool that anyone can join. The entry fee is only half of the fee for the main pool at $10, and the pool size is much smaller than the main pool. However, this gives competitors another chance to enjoy the pool and another chance to claim the cash.

Some of TK’s pool competitors have told him that he should bring the pool online via one of the many hosted Survivor Pool sites on the Internet. But he believes that takes away from the personal aspect of the pool and prefers to run the contest by hand.

If you do a good job running the pool, the competitors will always come back and play the following year, he said. He gets a 95 percent retention rate from year-to-year along with another couple handfuls of new competitors that heard about the pool via word of mouth. He has built up some nice credibility with his player pool by being communicative and always paying out on time and with no hassle.

The most important job of a Survivor Pool runner seems to be public relations. The pool itself is pretty simple and straightforward enough that just about anyone can understand. But dealing with the contestants and making sure everyone is happy can be the biggest challenge.

“My biggest compliments come from the old guys who play,” he said. “When I get compliments from them I know I’m doing a good job. I pay on time, and the money is always there.”