The most important aspect of running a successful pool is setting your entry fee and payout structure, and ensuring everyone’s money is accounted for and in good hands. If people don’t trust you, they aren’t going to hand over their money, it doesn’t matter how great your set up is, so be transparent in everything you do. Setting your entry fees and your payouts is easy and here is some information to guide you:
Managing Office Pool Money
In our opinion the best thing to do if you’re going to be handling money for an office pool is set up a separate account and require 2 signatures, especially if your prize pool is going to be a significant amount of money. Money generally only comes out once a year, so requiring 2 people to withdraw money isn’t a big deal to ensure that piece of mind for your poolies. This will probably be overkill for a number of pools, but we’d still suggest keeping a separate account in your personal banking to deal with it if it’s any amount over $500. Anything under that and just keep solid records so you know what you have that belongs to your pools (or throw it in some sort of safe). There are also services online now that will handle payments for fantasy leagues and office pools (e.g. LeagueSafe)
Office Pool Entry Fees
The biggest key to setting your entry fee is knowing what type of person is going to be in your pool. If it’s reasonably low, you’re probably looking for more casual fans and a potentially larger pool, while if it’s at the higher end, you’re most likely running a smaller pool of more serious participants. Pretty much any pool we run is a minimum of $10, which is less than a meal at most restaurants. For any office pool that lasts an entire season for everyone involved, we lean towards $20-$25 as that usually works out to about a dollar per week. For football pools (pick’em) where there is also a weekly prize, we generally go with $2 to $5 per week, with an extra $20 to $50 each for the overall prize. That works out to about $55 for the season on the low end, and closer to $135 at the high end. For fantasy leagues, we like something between $25 and $100 per person, which usually keeps people from just letting their team slide after a few early season losses. Note that these are guidelines for a more casual entrant. There will obviously be some pools that play for more significant amounts of money.
Office Pool Payout
There are basically two schools of thought when it comes to paying out any fantasy league or office pool. First, you have the “winner take all” approach, where there is a sole winner, who wins the entire prize pot. The second spreads out the prize pool over a number of positions and/or ‘bonus’ prizes with a gradual decline in value for each position. Different methods work for different types/sizes of pools:
As these are usually smaller in size with 8-16 participants, the “winner take all” approach works well here. Some leagues will distinguish between regular season and playoff champions and have a prize for each.
Obviously these types of office pools are geared specifically towards “winner take all”, but there are usually opportunities for splitting once you get down to the end if the pool is large enough. When it comes to splits, we always like to leave a significant amount still on the table to play for, and any split must be agreed to by all remaining participants prior to being approved by the pool manager.
Season Long Pick’em/Box/Player Pools
These types of pools tend to be the ones where multiple payout spots work best, especially if your pool is more than just a few participants. Anything over 10-15, and you should start adding payout positions. Our rule of thumb is roughly one payout spot for every 10 to 15 entries, so a pool with 50 entries would pay out 4 or 5 positions. Unless your pool is very large (well over 100 entries), we suggest making the first prize as close to 50% of the prize pool as possible, and lean towards going further above 50% the smaller the pool.
In some season long pools, it sometimes makes sense to have ‘bonus’ prizes, that aren’t determined by overall score at the end of the season. The most common is to reward a first half or second half winner. A second half prize can be a good way to keep people interested, even if they have a slow start in the overall standings. Another interesting twist is to payout the person finishing last with their money back, with the caveat that they have to have made all of their picks in order to ‘win’ the prize. We generally suggest avoiding bonus prizes unless the pool has a significant number of entries (at least 50).
There is no right or wrong way to set up your payout, just be sure to lay it out clearly for participants prior to the pool starting to avoid any complications during the season. When setting your payout, don’t forget to account for any fees you have to pay out to manage the pool, such as a site fee, or banking fees so you don’t end up out of pocket.