Survivor Football Pools (also known as Eliminator Football) are probably the easiest type of football pool to run or participate in, but also one of the toughest to win. As it is with most football pools, the size of the pool should definitely be a consideration in how you want to play it. It’s somewhat similar to poker, where you play much differently in early stages of a multi-table tournament vs sitting down with the final few players. The difference, however, is in Survivor Football Pools, only one person gets paid, so you need to play to not only make it deep, but to put give yourself the best chance to actually win. Every move you make should be focused on being the last person standing, not just the person that made it through this week. If you participate in a decent sized Survivor Pool, one win likely makes you profitable over your lifetime of participating in these pools. It’s why you’ll find most people make multiple entries in a large pool.
Just Make it Through This Week
For a large portion of those that participate in a Survivor Football Pool, this is their strategy. They don’t look beyond the schedule for the current week, and tend to pick the team that’s the largest favourite for the week. While there is a time and a place for this strategy, the early stages of your pool, especially if you’re in a decent sized pool, is not it. If you do make it through, there’s a very good chance that most everyone else did as well, as most of your opponents will be riding the big favourites as well.
Once most of your pool is eliminated, and you’re down to only a handful of teams, this often turns into the best strategy. You don’t want to get cute and cost yourself the win, when the best option was staring you in the face all along. Plus if you’ve planned ahead for tough weeks, you very well may have better remaining options than your opponents.
Plan for Tough Weeks in the Schedule
This is always a good way to start your planning for the season, and can give you a huge advantage once you’re into the mid-season bye weeks. Knowing when there’s only 1 or 2 really good options in a week, and saving those options until that week can give you a pretty good advantage when you get there. The first thing I do each season, is to look at the entire schedule week by week, and find the games where the spread is likely to be 7 or higher, with double digit spreads being more valuable. Circle the weeks where there are the fewest of these options available, and make note of which teams are key in each of those weeks. Try not to burn those teams early in the season, and then when others are scrambling to find a decent pick, you’ll be sitting pretty with what should be a relatively safe selection.
Obviously, things can change in a hurry during the 17 week grind that is the NFL schedule, but having a plan will definitely give you a leg up on those that are flying by the seat of their pants.
Don’t Take the Most Popular Picks
Early on in a Survivor Pool, we advise against taking the biggest favourites as they’ll be the most popular selections for the week, as you have less to gain by doing so. Consider a week where close to 75% of all entries take the biggest favourite. If you’ve also selected this team, you don’t really gain much expected value if you make it through. If you stayed away from this team, and they were upset, you’re down to only a quarter of the entries surviving, and you have a much greater shot at winning the pool. And really, that’s what it’s all about, giving yourself the best shot to win the entire thing. You may say, well that never happens, but it seems to happen at least once every season or two. I remember a New England/Arizona game a few seasons ago which completely decimated pools in Week 2. The season before that, Seattle knocked off the Giants in Jersey as double digit underdogs. Always remember your end goal…not just surviving, but giving yourself the best chance to be the sole survivor.
Things to Consider
West Coast Teams – When these teams play the early games on the east coast, it’s like their 10am for their body clock. Take note when one of these teams plays back to back on the east coast though, as some teams will stay east between the 2 games. The same can be said for East Coast teams going west.
Byes or Short Weeks – Keep an eye on teams playing following a bye or a short week. The extra rest and time to game plan an opponent can make a big difference.
Divisional Opponents – A lot of entries like to avoid taking divisional opponents or big rivalry games where possible. Most teams get up for their rivals and these are often tougher games to pick.
Road Teams – Most people try to avoid picking road teams as much as possible.
Trap Games – I try to avoid a good team going on the road in between 2 divisional opponents or rivalry games, as there is a tendency to look past a lesser opponent and focus on those big divisional games.
New Coaching Staffs – Early in the season, it’s often a good idea to avoid teams with new coaching staffs, that may be implementing all new systems. Football is a sport that thrives on familiarity and consistency, so an overhaul of the staff or the playbook can make for some early season hiccups. Give these teams a few weeks to work out the kinks before putting your entry on the line with them.
Obviously, you won’t be able to avoid all of these situations during the course of your season, but keep them in mind when making your selections and you’ll be much further ahead than most.