You wouldn’t expect Survivor Pool dominance from a female elementary school teacher who has never gambled on sports in her life. But that is just what Emily D from San Diego has accomplished as she has earned the top spot in her Eliminator Pool, containing an average of 150 entrants per season, in two of the five years she has played. Not only has she won the pool twice, but her worst finish in five years saw her knocked out in Week 9.
Emily first showed up on my radar late this past football season as I was one of three remaining contestants in my pool late in the year. I was surprised to see a female’s name on the list and still alive that late in the season. I figured, ignorantly, that either A) there was a man behind the scenes controlling the picks for the ticket or B) the prize money was as good as mine as there is no way a girl can beat me at my game.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Not only did Emily beat me by becoming the last (wo)man standing, but then I come to find out that she also won the pool the previous season when I was knocked out a bit after midseason. I have absolutely no prejudice against women and believe they can do anything a man can and normally do it better. However, I have been covering the sports betting industry as a journalist for more than 20 years and I can count on both hands the amount of women I have meet that excel at this type of endeavor. Even though sports are becoming more popular with women every year, gambling on said sports is not something that is very common for the fairer gender.
However, Emily infiltrated the boys club of Survivor Pools and has dominated. If they were to put odds on such a thing, my money would be on her to be the odds-on favorite to take the cash next year, too.
“My strategy is a more feminine version of different strategies, I think,” said Emily. “I know it sounds weird, but I like thinking about what the team is like mentally or emotionally. I think sometimes women have different intuition then men. So I can judge from the feelings I get from watching interviews with quarterbacks and what they say at the end of the game. It may influence who I may choose for the next week. If they were pumped up or if they were sad about this or that. Emotional things would influence my choices a lot.”
A great example of this strategy was implemented during one part of the season when the Royals were playing in the World Series and the Kansas City Chiefs were hosting the St. Louis Rams in Week 8 of the NFL season. Emily could sense something special in the air that she thought would spread through the entire city and positively affect the Chiefs in their home game. The strategy, of course, paid off as the Chiefs rolled 34-7. Emily points to uncovering emotional factors like this as one of the main keys to her Survivor Pool success.
Emily has been an NFL fan most of her life. Growing up in Maine, she gravitated to the Patriots during her formative years. She had an older brother, and the family dynamic was always competitive when it came to sports. Now she is pretty much considered the family expert when it comes to pro football, and her friends, family and coworkers all follow along and root her on in her pursuit of Survivor Pool glory.
And since Emily’s fiancée has also won the same survivor pool twice (between them they have four wins in five years entered), office pool success is a family affair. She wants to make it clear that she does not get any help making her picks from her fiancée. In fact, picks are normally kept secret from either member of the couple until they are released to the pool as a whole on Sunday game days. Emily loves the competitiveness of it all.
“My strategy is so different than his,” she said of her future husband. “Sometimes we don’t even tell each other who we are picking. It’s interesting because sometimes we make the same pick even though we went about making that pick in different ways.”
Emily is extremely focused and efficient in her weekly routine of making her pick. She is very busy educating her students during the workweek, so she sets aside a couple hours every week on Saturday to do her research. She does not, however, even look at the matchups prior to Saturday (Emily pretty much avoids Thursday matchups altogether as there are too many intangibles at play for teams with a short week of preparation). And she always submits her pick on Saturday because by then teams’ injury situations are normally clearer close to game time.
Her first point of research is looking at the odds for all the games that week and narrowing her possible picks to a handful of teams. She never picks road teams until she absolutely has to, and she tries to stay away from divisional games and rivalries as well. Once she has a list of a few teams she is considering, she will do research on each of those teams and watch some videos online to see how experts evaluate the matchups.
When making her weekly picks, Emily never “saves” teams for later in the season. She always uses the best possible pick that she thinks will advance her that week in the pool. She thinks that looking ahead, a common strategy among losing Survivor Pool players, will “get you in trouble” and influence you into making a bad pick. She says she never looks ahead on the schedule and tries to give her full attention to that week’s matchups.
“Once I have narrowed my choices to about three, then I look at who is at home, what their record is for their previous 3 of 4 games, and how many points they scored last time they played,” she said. “If they lost but the score was 24-21, at least they can score some points. Sometimes it takes looking at how many points they can score. If they won 13-10, well they only scored 13 points, so that is not impressive to me. That’s not enough for me to be able to bet my money on them.”
More and more women are entering survivor pools as their popularity increases. One pool runner I interviewed said 26 percent of his entrants last season were women and that a whopping 46 percent of the winners over the past dozen or so seasons he has been running his pool have been females . And Emily is proof positive that you can’t just discount a woman in your Survivor Pool because of her gender.
While some women Survivor Pool players may make their picks based on which team has the cuter quarterback or which jersey is stitched with their favorite color, Emily really examines the games as a true handicapper. And her hard work and dedication are undoubtedly the biggest factor in her success.
“It’s fun when it goes down to all men and I am the only girl in there,” she said. “I play to have fun, but I also play to win.”