How to Win a NFL Survivor Pool
Yes, you read the title correct. For this week’s blog I am going to take a break from researching stats on players or teams and focus on something a little different. Let’s discuss contest strategy! To all my readers looking for their weekly fix of stat dissection, you will still get a little taste as you learn how to win a survivor pool. Well, at least according to my point of view.
To those who may not know what a survivor pool is, the basics are easy. You pick one team to win outright every week, but you cannot pick the same team twice within the season. You win if everyone else picks a loser before you do. What is the best strategy for this? You must survive and follow this strategy:
Never pick a road team
Simply put, last year the road team only won 43% of the time. And for a bigger sample size, dating back to 2002 the road team has only won 43% of the time. So you can see the numbers are consistent. This is an easy step to follow and going with a home team will give you a winner almost 6 times out of every 10 games you pick.
Follow the line makers
This is one of the few times I will advocate seeking out huge favorites. However, in a contest like this there is no other way to play it. Last year favorites won the game outright 65% of the time and the bigger the favorite the more likelihood they will win. Start with the biggest home favorite, work your way down, and make sure it is a team that you haven’t already used. This concept is simple and everyone is probably reading this and saying, Gary, no shit. The catch is finding a favorite that the majority of people are NOT picking.
Go against the majority
Going against the public or majority opinion is something I do often when it comes to sports. It is my personal belief that when it comes to picking sports (especially betting on sports) that the majority opinion is the wrong one. There are plenty of articles written on this and you can even find some good ones on my Point of Reference page if you want to look up more info.
If you are continuously picking with the crowd, how can you ever pull away for the win? Especially in a winner-take-all format, if you finish 100th or 2nd it doesn’t really matter, so why not put a strategy in play that could give you the best chance to win it all.
Sites like ESPN tell us every week who the most popular pick is. I feel it is safe to say that these percentages can be extrapolated to any contest you enter (if the numbers are not already available). The majority of people picking a game will follow whoever the crowd is picking, a phenomenon that could be used in more than just sports called, Social Proof. It basically says that the majority of people look for confirmation from crowds. Because of this, my final step is to pick a home team; that is a favorite; that the majority of people did NOT pick.
For example, let’s look at last year when Arizona beat New England in week 2. At the time, this was being talked about as maybe the biggest survivor pool knockout game all-time. Yes they were home, yes they were a big favorite, but almost 40% of people were on them. It is safe to say a number of people were on them in whatever size contest you participated in. Referring back to the basic rule of survivor pools, you must survive while everyone else loses. What gives you the best chance to win? Is it following the crowd or going with another team and hoping 40% of people get knocked out? I went with Cincinnati in week 2, still had New England to use down the road and after some luck, won my survivor pool.
Winning any type of contest in my opinion is all about developing a strategy and sticking to it. How would I feel if New England won and Cincinnati lost? I would have lived with the result because I believe the play gave me the best chance to “win” not just make it to week 9 and then lose and say, oh well.
The ONLY time I would ever go with a majority pick is if there was simply not another team to go with after following my first two steps in the strategy. This can happen in a 17 week (or sometimes longer) contest. In this case, I would just try to survive and advance and look for my next opportunity to get ahead of the crowd.
That’s it, what do you think?
What do you think about my strategy? Have you ever participated in a survivor pool? What strategy do you follow? What other types of contests have you entered?
If you are interested in looking ahead, here are the odds for weeks 1 through 16 of the 2013 NFL season. Courtesy of Cantor Gaming. Even though these might change throughout the season, they are very beneficial for planning possible picks ahead of time.