Advice and Tips for NFL Suicide Pools
by Trevor Whenham - 07/10/2007
The best part of the NFL is that there are hundreds of different ways to get some action and hopefully make a bit of money. You can play your basic point spreads, totals or money line, but there is so much more out there. Everybody knows somebody who is running some sort of pool or fantasy league, and if you follow football closely you'll have an edge over the long term over the people who pick teams based on mascot name or uniform color. One of the most difficult but entertaining and potentially lucrative ways to put your money in play during the pro football season is in an NFL suicide pool - also known as an NFL eliminator pool. This season at Doc's Sports we will provide week-by-week suicide pool advice to give you the best chance to win the pot.
The concept of a suicide pool is simple. Deceptively simple. All you have to do is pick one team each week that you think is going to win their game straight up. If you are right then you are on to the next week. If you lose you are out. The last man (or woman) standing gets all of the money. For an added level of difficulty, most pools add a rule that you are only allowed to pick any team once during the season. It's a very difficult thing to do well, and it is uncommon to see a suicide pool that lasts until the end of the season. It sounds easy, but it's really not.
If you want to have a good chance at being the only one alive at the end of the road, then here are a few things that you may want to keep in mind:
1. Don't save a safer bet until later - Because you can usually only pick a team once, many people seem to think that you should save the best teams until later on when you really need a win. This is a terrible idea for several reasons. First, having a 'safe' pick in your pocket does you no good if you get knocked out before you use it. The point of a suicide pool is survival, and that must be your focus every single week. More importantly, what is a safe pick now can turn into a less comforting pick down the road. Teams can start strong and then struggle, or run into a schedule that is harder than it looked like it was going to be based on how their opponents are playing. Most significantly, a saved safe pick can be totally sabotaged by injury. You might want to save the Colts for a couple of weeks, but what happens if Peyton Manning gets hurt and you are left with a quarterback that took his last meaningful snap back when he was in college? Every time you make a correct pick you get to move on, and you will be facing fewer competitors. It simply doesn't make sense to make anything other than the best possible pick every week.
2. Don't take unnecessary risks - Sure, you might get bragging rights if you correctly predict a big upset, but you'll look like an idiot in the more likely case that you are wrong. If you want to play upsets, bet them on the point spread or money line where you get rewarded for the extra risk. In a suicide pool it only makes sense to pick solid favorites, or at least teams that you believe are solid favorites.
3. Don't over think it - Some people will get very worked up about making their suicide pool picks. You know the type - they have charts and graphs measuring every obscure stat and trend out there, and they spend hours reading and re-reading dozens of articles and formulating harebrained theories about who to bet and who to avoid. It's not a coincidence that that guy never wins anything - he puts way too much thought into it. A suicide pool is a very imperfect science. Even the best teams are going to lose a couple of games a year or more, so sooner or later you're going to lose whether you like it or not. The best approach to take, then, is to look over the games, find the one that feels right, and just go for it. Putting much more into your selection than that is just wasted effort.
4. Avoid the easy traps - There are enough games every week that you can almost always find a team to pick that stands a solid chance of winning. To maximize those chances, you might as well avoid the situations that aren't likely to be consistent winners over the long term. For example, you would probably want to have a pretty good reason to pick a road team. That's not to say that you should never pick a visitor, but if two relatively well-matched teams are playing the one at home obviously has an edge. You'll also probably want to avoid teams fielding an inexperienced quarterback, one that has significant injuries in key positions or teams mired in long losing streaks. Teams can obviously win in all of those situations, but it's probably not the best idea to bet that they will.