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6 votes (46.15%)

13 members have voted

Joined: Oct 14, 2009
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January 11th, 2015 at 11:57:10 AM permalink
For those who don't know, a suicide pool is a last-man-standing contest, generally based on the NFL, although any sports league will do. Here are the fundamental rules.

  1. Every player pays the same amount to play.
  2. Every week every player must predict the winner of one game that week. All games are scored straight up, not against the spread.
  3. If a player is ever wrong he is immediately eliminated from the contest.
  4. No player may choose the same team more than once.
  5. The last man standing wins the pot.

There may be additional rules, like the person running the pool getting a cut, and splitting the pot once it gets down to a few people, if and only if by mutual agreement.

Before going further, here are the results from last season from officefootballpool.com.

Week Team Number Spread
1 Phil 54 -10.5
1 Chic 29 -7
1 Pit 14 -6.5
1 Det 6 -6
1 KC 5 -3
1 NYJ 5 -5.5
1 NE 1 -4
1 SF 1 -4.5
1 StL 1 -3.5
2 Den 38 -12.5
2 GB 23 -8
2 NO 7 -6.5
2 SF 5 -7
2 TB 3 -5.5
2 Wash 2 -6
2 Cin 1 -5.5
2 NE 1 -5.5
3 NE 44 -14
3 NO 16 -10
3 Atl 3 -6.5
3 Cin 1 -6.5
3 Ind 1 -6
4 SD 34 -13
4 Ind 20 -7.5
4 Pit 10 -7.5
4 Bal 1 -3
5 NO 21 -10
5 GB 13 -8
5 Den 6 -7.5
5 Det 5 -6.5
5 Phil 3 -6.5
5 Dal 2 -6.5
5 Pit 2 -6
5 SD 1 -6.5
5 Sea 1 -7
5 SF 1 -5
6 Sea 21 -8.5
6 Den 13 -9.5
6 SD 7 -7
6 Cin 5 -6.5
6 Ten 2 -4
6 Atl 1 -3
6 SF 1 -3
7 NE 9 -9.5
7 Sea 9 -6.5
7 GB 3 -6.5
7 Bal 2 -6.5
7 Buf 2 -5.5
7 Wash 2 -5
7 Dal 1 -6.5
8 Dal 12 -9.5
8 KC 5 -7
8 Clev 1 -7
8 Mia 1 -6
9 SF 3 -10
9 Cin 2 -10.5
9 Sea 2 -14.5
10 Bal 2 -9.5
10 Cin 1 -6
10 Sea 1 -9
11 GB 1 -5.5
11 Mia 1 -6
11 NO 1 -7
12 Ind 2 -14
13 Bal 1 -6.5
13 Det 1 -7
14 NO 1 -10

The "number" column refers to the number of players who picked that team.

Note that not once did anybody ever pick an underdog. If the 497 picks made, the average point spread was 9.3.

I do not know why they recorded a pick in week 14, because there was only one player left at that point.

The preamble out of the way, I open the thread up to discussion of suicide pool strategy. I'll start with my own basic strategy. These are all just general guidelines and not hard and fast rules you must follow every week.

  1. Remember that your enemy is the other players. Don't focus too much on handicapping the NFL but on beating your competition.
  2. Don't pick the biggest favorite. That is what most other people will do. Hopefully that big favorite will lose and the field will be significantly thinned down. You don't want to be a survivor rather than a victim when a huge favorite loses.
  3. Don't forget the rule that you can't pick the same team twice. That said, you can't always pick great teams. At times you should pick average teams playing awful teams, to preserve the easy wins on the best teams.
  4. Don't bother handicapping. Just use the point spread as an indicator of your changes to win any given pick.
  5. If a week has exactly two huge favorites, I would avoid both of them. Remember that you're trying to balance picking games likely to win while not following the masses. As a very general rule, I think picking the third highest spread is a good idea, especially if you're not wasting one of the best teams.

What do you think?

The question for the poll is, had this been week 1 this season (2014), which team would you have picked? The spread on the game is indicated in parenthesis.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” -- Carl Sagan
Joined: Dec 1, 2012
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January 11th, 2015 at 12:23:21 PM permalink
I've participated in these types of contests.
Actually won it one year, 10 buck entry, about 45 players, winner take all, won about 450 bucks.
I pick the 2nd favorite, PIT, to get a little separation from other players picking overall favorite.
Do that 1st few weeks picking 2nd or 3rd favorite, then pick overall favorite if I haven't picked that team before for the rest of the season.
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Joined: Dec 23, 2009
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January 11th, 2015 at 12:39:45 PM permalink
It depends on how many people are in the pool. I won mine this year (I picked the Steelers week 1) that had 17 people in it.

My typical strategy is to pick the 2nd highest home favorite. I know you're playing against everyone, but some weeks if I'm nervous about the 2nd or 3rd biggest favorite, I'll just pick the biggest favorite so I can survive.
Joined: Nov 17, 2009
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January 11th, 2015 at 12:42:47 PM permalink
If a team is a 10 point favorite, they are historically a lock. Early in the season, I play very conservatively, choosing big favorites, or whoever is playing the weakest teams (which is often the same pool). Barring an early upset, the field thins until you run out of eligible opponents for the Jaguars or Raiders.

I am not that big an advocate for "saving" a good team. It won't do you any good if you are eliminated before you can use it due to a losing pick on a closer matchup.

One thing to consider is how the winner is determined when multiple contestants are all eliminated in the same week. An even division of the pot could make a more chancy pick worthwhile if you are still in contention when there are only 10 or so teams left.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - Leonardo da Vinci
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January 13th, 2015 at 4:54:06 PM permalink
Thanks for the comments. Any others?
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” -- Carl Sagan
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January 13th, 2015 at 5:20:12 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard

Thanks for the comments. Any others?

Need a lot of luck.
The year I won, won 1 game due to a miracle comeback.
Won another game due to a blown refs call at the end.
My last pick that won it, last game of season I think, got incredibly lucky. Had to go with an underdog, Vikings with a rookie quarterback against Vick and Philly the year Vick did very well. Vikings won.
2010 season, came in 1st out of 64. Just looked it up :-)
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January 13th, 2015 at 8:52:40 PM permalink
The ones I play are not blind. Everybody can see everybody elses picks. Clearly in this format it is bet to pick last.
Order from chaos
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January 14th, 2015 at 3:09:13 AM permalink
Quote: DRich

The ones I play are not blind. Everybody can see everybody elses picks. Clearly in this format it is bet to pick last.

The ones I played were blind.
We used Yahoo fantasy survivor.
Don't know everybody's pick till kickoff Sunday.
Yahoo does give stat info on overall percentages of teams picked, but those numbers are compiled from all leagues.
I recommend using Yahoo for this, very easy convenient system.
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January 14th, 2015 at 10:46:53 AM permalink
1) I agree most players will indeed pick the top top favored team each week. That's usually how it goes.

However, depending upon how many opponents you are up against in your pool and THEIR overall picking strategy, you certainly might wish to at least consider picking the top favored team, and not avoiding it completely, at least on some weeks.

The idea is, if many of your opponents are also utilizing the same strategy of NOT picking the top team, it would then certainly be okay for you to consider doing so.

Consider Week 2 for example. Denver was the top favored team (-12.5) and 38 players picked this team. But notice MORE than 38 players (42 in this case) picked a team other than Denver. (Of course, some of these players may have been forced to pick another team, if they picked Denver the week before.)

Week's 5, 6, and 7 also all saw more players combined NOT picking the top team, than the total number of people who did pick that top team. (And Week 4 was close... 34 vs 31)

(So my point is, the strategy of "not picking the top team" shouldn't be a hard and fast rule.)

2) "If a week has exactly two huge favorites, I would avoid both of them."

I would be very careful with this rule too, and also not have it set in stone. If that week all of the other games are much harder to handicap (for example if all of them were essentially pick 'em games), I think it would be okay to avoid these other games and just go ahead and pick one of those two top favorites, just be assured you're surviving another week. (Let someone ELSE use that strategy of not picking either top team, and let them gamble with another game.)

3) I also agree with Ayecarumba of not saving a good team for the reason he mentioned. But in mid season, when you're down to just a few other players, it can't hurt to look ahead at the next week or two's schedule, and attempt to determine ahead of time who you might wish to pick for those upcoming weeks.

For example, assume you have used the Ravens nor the Packers yet, and you're considering picking either of them this week. If the Ravens have two tough games coming up in the next two weeks, and the Packers do not, it should be obvious you almost certainly want to pick the Ravens this week and the Packers next week.

Has anyone ever done a computer simulation to see what type of strategy is best? I don't think it would be that hard to program at all. As far as determining a random winner for each game, we would just use your wonderful "Probability of Winning in the NFL by Point Spread" chart. If the spread is 7 points for example, that team has a 74% chance to win and the simulation would give a win to the underdog 26% of the time.
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January 14th, 2015 at 2:04:10 PM permalink
Just pick the team that you feel has the greatest chance to win each week, without worrying about "using up" that team, or what anyone else is doing.

If you pick the greatest favorite in any given week, you gain by other people picking lesser favorites. Obviously if everyone were playing optimally, everyone would pick the same team each week.

In real life, people don't do that. So just go with the biggest chance to win every week.

About "using up" teams -- the NFL is a fast-changing league. Injuries, unexpected contenders, unexpected bad teams, etc. Your goal is to maximize the information you have when it's at the highest value. That's why you simply need to pick your best option each week.

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