FOOTBALL POOL STRATEGIES

Looking for some tips on how to take down your football pools?
You've come to the right spot.

The Obvious

This is going to sound obvious, but the first step you should be taking when joining a new pool is reading up on the rules. Don’t just browse through them, give them a good read. Make yourself familiar with the payouts, deadlines and anything else of importance. You must have a clear and concise understanding of every rule; and if you don’t, you should contact your commissioner for some clarification. Only once the rules are completely understood should you begin to formulate a strategy or game plan.

NFL Survivor Pool Strategy

Should I take the sure thing this week or should I save this team for a later week?

If you believe a team is extremely likely to advance, there is no reason you shouldn’t select them. Saving a team for later in the year can be very risky. The value we place on a team in Week 3 will surely change by the time Week 11 rolls around. The goal of a survivor pool is to maximize expected value over the course of an entire season but you can't do that without advancing to the next week. There is no worse feeling than being the guy that gets kicked out on a mediocre team because he wanted to save an elite team for later in the year.

Use Every Tool Available

Having as much information as possible on any given week is sure to be an advantage. The most useful pieces of information are the implied probability of each team to win (usually derived from sportsbook odds) and what percentage of your pool you expect to pick each given team.

One of the best tools for survivor pool players is SurvivorGrid, which can definitely help you navigate through a season. You can view the entire schedule, current odds and the percentage to which each team is being picked on that week.

Game Theory - Play to win

With every pool you enter, you should have one goal; play to win. Sounds obvious, right? Let’s say you enter a massive survivor pool with 1,500 entries. You should formulate some plan or strategy to take home the entire prize pool, not just a slice of the pie. Here are a few pointers to help you succeed.

  • If you are in a pool with 1,500 entries, chances are there will be more than a few people who simply select the biggest favorite every week. This is not a winning strategy. If you follow the same approach, and by some miracle every “biggest favorite” has won throughout the year, you will be left splitting the prize pool with a bunch of entrants. Remember the goal is to win; not to split.
  • This doesn't mean that you should never pick the biggest favorite of the week. Managing your way through an NFL survivor season is tough. There are definitely weeks where the biggest favorite may be your best option, especially if they are not the most commonly picked team that week.
  • The bigger the favorite, the lower the expected value (usually). Remember, the biggest favorites are the most popular picks. Let's assume that 45% of the pool is on Kansas City; the biggest favorite of the week. You would actually increase your chances of winning the pool if you did not select this team. Why? For those who select Kansas City, and win, they advance, but so will the majority of the entrants.On the other hand, if you really like a team that is a smaller favorite, but you believe have a great chance to win, you should select them. If Kansas City were to lose, you would be maximizing your value because not only did you survive, but nearly half the pool was eliminated on one game. A strategy like this may cost you some entries, but you will be much more successful in winning the pool in the long run.

Last week of the season

A common mistake many newcomers make in survivor pools is saving a great team for the final week of the season. Remember, the best teams in the NFL will have clinched a playoff spot prior to the season ending. This means there is a great chance that they will rest their starters in the final week of the regular season. You do not want to save a great team to the end, just to have them start their bench on the one game you need them to win. A smarter strategy would be to select a mediocre team on the final week who may be playing a good team that will rest their starters. This is no big secret in survivor pools, but many newcomers are not aware of this strategy.

Hedging Your Survivor Pool

The prize for some survivor pools can be life changing for some people. It is not uncommon for remaining entrants to hedge their selections later in the season. Is this the correct approach? It really comes down to personal preference. What one bettor might do, may be different from another. Before making any decisions, check out our advice on Hedging Bets.

NFL Daily Fantasy Sports Pool Strategy

Daily fantasy sports sites, commonly referred to as DFS sites, have taken off in the past decade. Some of these pools offer quite a payday. Here are a few tips to help you increase your chances of winning:

Scoring / Rules

It is absolutely vital that you are aware of how your league rewards points. Here are a few differentiators that you should look for:

  • Is it a PPR (point per reception)?
  • What bonuses are players awarded? Some sites offer bonuses for milestones reached in a game. Example: if your player rushes for 100 yards, he is awarded a bonus 3 points.
  • Does this contest have a flex position?


Injuries

Check the status of your players throughout the week; even right up to game-time. If there is a chance that your player will have limited playing time, or if there is a chance he will not play, make sure to bench him in favor of your next best option. Every week we see DFS contestants start players who do not play. This is the equivalent to flushing your money down the toilet. If you're going to play DFS, take the time to check your rosters frequently.

Alternatively, if you are playing in a tournament which only rewards the best of the best with big payouts, you may actually want to consider rostering a player who was iffy to play. These players are much less commonly owned, and in the off-chance that this player was to go off, you'd be sitting pretty relative to the rest of the field.

Value Value Value

Your goal in fielding a roster is to find value anywhere you can. In daily fantasy sports, every lineup is limited by a salary cap. One way we can measure value is by comparing a player’s performance to his cap number. Let’s take a look at two examples:

Tom Brady - Cap hit: $7,400 - scores 22 fantasy points

Derek Carr - Cap hit: $6,000 - scores 20 fantasy points

Which player had better value? We can calculate this by dividing the players salary cap hit by the number of fantasy points earned.

Tom Brady - $7400 / 22 = $336 / point

Derek Carr - $6000 / 20 = $300 / point

Although Tom Brady outperformed Carr by 2 points, Derek Carr’s selection had more value. By spending less money on Carr, you will be able to allocate more money on other top position players.

Replacement Players

It is often the case that you can find the most value in back-ups who land the starting role before the starter is announced “out” for the game. For example, if Dalvin Cook is announced as “out” on Friday, you can be sure that plenty of DFS contestants will rush to their lineup to add the Vikings' backup Alexander Mattison. Mattison will now get a huge boost to his opportunities and touches, resulting in more fantasy points. Also, he will still be available at the salary cap hit that he was quoted at the beginning of the week. Getting a starting running back for pennies on the dollar is a great way to maximize value.

Game Stacking

Game stacking is the strategy of capitalizing on high levels of correlation by playing multiple players from the same team. The most popular example is stacking a wide receiver and quarterback from the same team. If the wide receiver has a great game, there is a high likelihood that his quarterback did as well. 

Circles Off

If you are interested in more tips and strategies regarding your football pools, check out Episode 29 of Circles Off with betstamp co-founder, Johnny, and betstamp co-owner, Rob Pizzola.