Introducing The World’s Most Intelligent Football Pool Picks

posted in College Football, College Football Pick'ems, NFL, NFL Pick'ems, NFL Survivor Pools

We spent the summer figuring out how to dominate football pick’ems and NFL survivor pools.

This post is going to explain what we did and why we did it.

And why you’re missing out if you don’t pay attention.

If you hate to read and just want to cut to the chase, here are the links to sign up for our groundbreaking new picks and analysis packages for football pools:

NFL Survivor Picks for 2013

NFL Pick’em Picks for 2013

College Football Pick’em Picks for 2013

So…Where The Hell Were You Guys?

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Still Here

Before we get going, let’s clear something up quickly. You haven’t heard from the TeamRankings nerds in a while.

In fact, we’ve been radio silent since March Madness ended. No emails with dumb jokes, no blog posts, no news about preseason football projections. What the heck is going on?

One dude even asked if we were shutting down the site!


We can explain.

After March Madness ended, we challenged ourselves to come up with something BIG for football season — a project that would push the limits of our collective sports + math + engineering skills.

So we locked ourselves in a subterranean concrete bunker and vowed not to come out until we built something new and awesome and smart. Deprived of functional plumbing and fresh water, we subsisted for months on nothing but freeze dried goat’s bladder and Chuckles.

It was a long four months.
Football Survivor Pool Picks: Chuckles

We Built Something To Help You Win

In the end, we narrowed our list of summer project ideas down to three:

  • Project TeThrow. Build a replacement bionic throwing arm for Tim Tebow that can actually hit a cutting receiver at 10 yards at least 50% of the time.
  • Project ManziFart. Release a mobile app that makes a farting noise and screams “I AM SO TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT THIS!!!” whenever anyone within 100 feet of you says “Johnny Manziel.”
  • Project Crush Your Enemies And Hear The Lamentations Of Their Women. Help people like you win money and beat their friends in football picking contests.

The last one was the obvious choice. (Thanks for the inspiration, Governator.)

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Conan

Why was it so obvious? Well…

If you like the idea of exploiting inefficient markets,
you need to get serious about playing in office pools.

After analyzing sports, predictions, and betting for over a decade now, we’ve learned that football pools, and office pools in general, present outstanding investment opportunities, especially compared to other sports-related contests and betting markets.

Most people don’t realize this.

Most people think of office pools as fun little games to play against friends and colleagues — games on which it’s silly to spend much time or energy.

At the same time, most people tend to view Vegas-style sports betting as a much more serious undertaking. Thanks to a mass media that is willing to believe what any self-proclaimed “Vegas insider” tells them, betting games at a casino is often perceived as a market that offers the potential for great financial returns, if you only spend enough time to learn how to beat the bookies.

Most people are wrong.

To illustrate why, let’s compare football pools with sports betting:

  • Betting on sports. You compete against a highly informed Vegas sports book that stacks the odds against you (since you usually have to bet $110 to win $100) with the full blessing of the Nevada government. Oh, and if you actually start winning consistently, the casino can simply refuse to take your action, because it’s perfectly legal to do that and they’re not in business to lose money.
  • Playing in office pools. You compete at fair odds against a group of inherently biased human beings, some of whom are diehard Jacksonville fans convinced that this is the year the Jags make their run to the Super Bowl. Even beyond the numbskulls, though, the vast majority of competitors in sports pools don’t have any clue about the optimal picking strategies to use.

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Gekko

It doesn’t take Gordon Gekko to figure out which of the two options above offers an easier path to success and winnings.

Is it possible to beat Vegas consistently and over the long term? Yes. But it sure as hell ain’t easy. You’re fighting a tiger with one hand strapped behind your back. It’s a lot easier to outsmart a bunch of folks who largely form their opinions of teams by listening to the likes of Skip Bayless and friends.

Sure, sports pools have downsides too. The most popular types of pools (NFL pick’ems, NFL survivors, March Madness bracket pools, college bowl pick’ems) only run once a year, so you need to have patience. Finishing at the top of a sports pool takes both skill and luck, and even with our help, it may not happen for you this year.

Or next year.

Or the year after that.

But over the long term, if you play sports pools intelligently, you can generate a huge edge over your typical opponent.

And if you play in pools often, it’s quite feasible that your percentage returns will outperform almost any other type of investment.

Wait…Doesn’t TR Already Do Football Pool Picks?

By this point, some of our loyal users are probably thinking:

“Hold up, bro. Either I’ve been caught in a reverse time vortex for the last three years of my life, or you’re trying to pull the wool over my eyes here. I already follow TR’s survivor and pick’em picks via your blog posts! What’s going on here?”

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Vortex

Don’t worry, and please — stop dumping that freezing cold water on your head and slapping yourself in the face. You’re right. For the past few years, we have published blog columns about football survivors and pick’ems.

Here’s how we’ve done, by the way.

Recent Football Pool Picks Results

  • NFL Survivor. Our official weekly NFL survivor picks went on a 29-game winning streak, putting up a perfect 17-0 season in 2011-12 and opening last season 12-0. Over the past two seasons, our final NFL survivor picks have gone 32-2.
  • NFL Pick’em. Our conservative pick sets for weekly NFL pick’em pools finished in the top 2% and top 5% nationally on ESPN for game winner based pools in 2011 and 2012, respectively. For point spread based pools, our conservative NFL pick sets finished in the top 2% of the nation in both years.
  • NFL Pick’em, Part 2. Competing against some of the brightest minds in sports, we won the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference NFL pick’em contest in 2011, and followed up with a third place finish last season.
  • College Football Pick’em. For point spread based pools, our conservative pick set for college football pick’ems finished in the top 1% of the nation on Yahoo! last season, the first year we tracked it. Our game winner based picks ended up in the top 7% nationally on ESPN in both 2011 and 2012.

To recap, that’s nine recent pick’em contests we’ve tracked, and our worst result would have been expected to take first place in a 10-15 person pool.

Our best results won survivor pools outright and landed top-three finishes in pick’em pools up to and over a hundred people — and that’s not even considering pools that offer weekly prizes for best score.

We’re very proud of that performance.

But we knew we could do even better.

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Better

So over the summer, we took the solid foundation we had established for football pools and built a shiny new house on top of it.

We’ve now turned our football pool advice into full-featured products, powered by more sophisticated analytics, new designs and improved technology.

Here’s an overview of what’s new this year feature-wise:

New NFL Survivor Pool Features

  • Survivor Report Card breaks down every team, every week
  • Thursday and Sunday Pick Sets based on when your picks are due
  • Multi-Entry Pick Sets designed to be played simultaneously
  • Season Planner Tool for analyzing future win odds for all teams
  • Optimal Path Tool shows picks that maximize season survival odds

New Pick’em Pool Features (NFL and college)

  • Custom Picks optimized for your specific pool characteristics
  • Win The Week Picks designed to capture weekly prizes
  • Support For Custom Point Spreads you enter to match your pool
  • Elegant Handling Of Early Picks like the Thursday night NFL game

When it comes to objective and intelligent football pool strategy, no other site comes close to TR. You can’t get this level of analysis and features anywhere else.

We Gotta Eat Too, Ya Know

One last change related all this investment of our time and effort may not come as a surprise to you. Or maybe it will.

Whatever the case, starting this season, our football pool picks aren’t going to be free anymore, and we will no longer publish our weekly survivor and pick’em blog columns.

In short, we’ve proven our approaches to football pools work well, and that we’re not just some lucky one-hit wonder. We published years of free football pool picks in the public forum and answered hundreds of reader questions to demonstrate our skill.

Along the way, we’ve received a stream of communications from users who have won serious amounts of money following our advice.

Now it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the cost.

We’ve done our best to come up with what we feel is fair pricing for what you get, but we also recognize that for several reasons, the decision of whether to pay for our advice this year won’t end up being “Yes” for all of the followers of our former blog columns.

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Cheap

Some people are in very low stakes pools. Others just hate paying for stuff. A few spend all of their disposable income on vintage WWF action figures and have no money left over for food or football pool picks.

To all of those people, we simply want to say thanks. Your readership over the past few years motivated us to keep raising the bar for our football pool analysis, and your questions and comments helped us learn. We would not have gotten to where we are now without your engagement.

At the end of the day, though, TR is a business. Generating revenue is what enables us to continue to expand and improve the site. It also funds the thousands of pages of free content we currently offer. To keep this ship sailing, we need to find stuff we’re really good at, build great products, and get people to pay for them.

What To Expect

So what should you expect if you sign up for one of our new football pool picks packages?

  • Picks. The only football pool picks on the web that are 100% objective, driven by sophisticated mathematical models, and computer optimized to give you the best chance to win your specific pool. Again, no one else comes close.
  • Tools & Data. Access to analysis tools and the raw data underlying our picks.
  • Integrity. Honesty and transparency in all dealings.
  • Improvement. A commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Personal Touch. Friendly customer service from the people who actually run the site.

And what should you NOT expect?

  • Guaranteed Results. Any sort of promise that you’ll win your football pool (or even do well in it) with our picks, because that would be deceptive and idiotic for us even to suggest. Unless you’re playing in a tiny contest, even with our help you should never expect (math geek definition: having 50%+ odds) to win any one particular pool.

That point is worth expanding upon:

We almost never expect to win any one particular pool. But over time, our skill edge means we win a lot more often than most people do.

Ideally, you’re signing up for our office pool picks because you’re attracted to the opportunities pools present, and you’re committed to playing for the long term.

In addition, you recognize that thanks in part to luck, our picks are going to have some awesome years, some pretty good years, and some not so great years. But you’re still confident in the final outcome.

(On that topic, here’s what some of our loyal customers have to say.)

Emphasizing the long term mindset is also why we offer such an incredible discount on our All Contests Bundle package. We know that if you stick with TR for multiple cycles of pools, the odds that you’ll be thrilled with our service will go up significantly.

Football Survivor Pool Picks: Luck

Nevertheless, if you just want to take it one contest at a time, that’s OK too. Just be realistic with your expectations. Recognize that you’re leaning on lady luck a lot more if you’re only giving us one shot to help you win, and banking on it being an “awesome” level year.

Time To Get Picking!

To wrap up, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about what we did this summer, and hearing our perspectives on why you should take football pools seriously.

Football pools aren’t just games — they’re investments too, and very attractive ones to boot. So we’ve doubled down on our goal to help you profit from them more often.

Now that we’re launching our new football pool products, we can’t wait to hear your feedback. We hold ourselves to high standards when we build new stuff, and especially products we intend to sell.

So to let all of our users kick the tires, we’re happy to announce that we’re making all three of our new products free to use through Week 2 of college football season (College Pick’em) and Week 1 of NFL season (NFL Pick’em and NFL Survivor, which is slated to go live on Friday 8/30). Enjoy checking them out.

If you’re ready to sign up now for the 2013 season right now, here are the links again, and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

NFL Survivor Picks for 2013

NFL Pick’em Picks for 2013

College Football Pick’em Picks for 2013

  • Chris

    Posted lots last year. Loved this site.


    Thanks for following. We had a lot of fun interacting with readers in the blog comments. If it made sense for us to continue the columns, we would, because we really enjoy those types of interactions.

    As much as we liked it, though, as a very small company it just wasn’t sustainable for us (mostly David) to literally spend two full work days a week doing survivor analysis, writing posts, and answering questions. So our decision for the future was either to scale it back significantly or find a way for it to actually make sense from a time investment standpoint.

    The goal we set for ourselves was that we wouldn’t just start charging money for what we did last year and the year before, but that we would push the envelope significantly in terms of features and service. If you check out the free Week 1 trial after we launch the new Survivor features in the next few days, you’ll see what I mean.

  • Gus

    I have to turn in my tomorrow …any thoughts


    Gus, saw your emails too — will be replying soon. We’ve just been crazy busy launching all our office pool products this week and got a bit behind on support email. :-)

  • Trex

    That was the hardest sell I have ever read. I enjoyed the free picks where you made money by running ads on your site.


    Haha, well, fair enough. We’re pretty excited about everything we’ve built this summer, though, so guilty as charged on that front.

    As for the ads part…not sure what you’re remembering, but we’ve never really run ads on TR. And we certainly haven’t ever made any significant amounts of money from them.

    It would be nice if the ad-supported site model could work for us and we could keep all of our content free to all users that way, but it doesn’t. Our site’s traffic isn’t nearly large enough to justify premium rates from the big brand advertising buyers. We produce niche content; it’s not like 20 million people are out there every week looking to read a ridiculously detailed analysis of survivor picks.

    As a result, we would end up having to run ads from Google AdSense or some other network, which are all fine and good, but don’t pay that well. After doing some spot testing in past years during March Madness, my guess is we’d probably make a few thousand bucks a month in ad revenue from Google ads, and much less than that during the summer when not much is going on.

    Our web hosting bill from Amazon Web Services alone is almost $3,000 per month, so that business model breaks down pretty quickly. :-)

    If you want an example of what sports content needs to look like in order to draw a big enough mass market audience to make lots of money off of ads, go look at Bleacher Report. Kudos to them for building a successful and valuable business, but we have zero desire to run a sports site that looks anything like Bleacher Report, which I consider to be kind of like the TMZ of sports content.

    Fortunately for us, even though we produce niche content, that content is very valuable to at least some of the people consuming it. And over time we’ve found that enough of them are willing to pay for it that we’re able to keep the site going and growing, and actually pay ourselves competitive wages to do what we love to do (geek out over sports data and build cool products) full-time.

    So that’s TR Business Model Economics 101 in a nutshell.

  • Trex

    I appreciate your candor. You have sold me.

  • Davisra

    Besides, aren’t we all better off NOT having too much publicity? Math & statistics & such are not my strong suit, but wouldn’t your product lose some of its niche value if EVERYONE used it? We’re all trying to get an edge up on our clueless pool competitors. I’m afraid the edge would evaporate if everyone else knew about it.

  • David Hess

    Yep, very true. If everybody’s following the same advice, then there’s no way to gain an edge from that advice.

  • Sundown Al

    You guys provide great objective analysis. Last year, I used your analysis along with other free online advice columns. But I have to say, your advice did better. The other sites sometimes picked with their gut rather than with the numbers. Given your track record, I’ll likely be signing up. But I hope you didn’t change the algorithm too much. Why change something that seems to work well.

    Good luck on this new venture.


    SA — thanks for the kind words, and glad that you had success using TR. We’d love to have you back this year.

    On the algorithm side, you’re right, it can often be difficult to justify “mucking with” anything that you feel is already set up to do pretty well. We definitely have kept the foundation of what we’ve done so far intact, but here are some examples of things we did:

    1) Take things we formerly did manually, and build a smarter, automated process to do them. For instance, last year David pored over custom-built Excel spreadsheet models to do our weekly Survivor analysis. We spent time building computer code to do all those calculations for us, and in the process, we were able to improve their sophistication as well. We did a lot more research on coming up with optimal strategies for making picks that improved on our work so far, and incorporated those findings into the code.

    2) Build completely new features we always have wanted to build, but just needed to set aside time to do. Stuff like our new Season Planner and Optimal Path tools for Survivor, and Custom Picks (optimized for your specific pool details) and Win The Week picks for pick’em contests. We still publish our basic picks, but these are new options built around new analytics we developed.

  • Lou

    I kicked the tires and it’s exactly the garbage that I suspected. I checked the picks Saturday morning. You had BYU PK as a 3-star play. I then I log-in today after the games on Sunday morning and it says you had Virginia +2.5 as a one-star play and called it a winner (and actually said you went 4-in 3-star plays). ALL LIES. First of all, not one book in Vegas ever had the game as a PK on Friday or Saturday. So anyone who saw BYU as a 3-star play on Saturday (like it was posted) and decided to take your advice, has to play BYU -1 AT BEST) and lost. Then you guys put it down as a winner on your site and post a record of 4-1 in 3-star plays (and don’t include the BYU PK loser that you gave out). Also, How exactly can a line that moved only 1.5 or 2 points change your pick from a top play to the other side completely. Nothing pisses me off more then trusting a service’s advice, losing, and then them trying to tell me they advised the other side.



    Apparently you didn’t take the time to read the text on top of our picks pages, which reads:

    “Picks are subject to change until game time based on new information, and we strongly encourage all users to read more about our methods (see links to the right) before using this information.”

    Our models are geared to always predict against the latest lines we have. If the line changes and other box scores come in from other games, our models will react to that information and issue a new prediction that incorporates all the latest info. This way, whenever you check our site, you’re always getting our most up to date projections.

    If we didn’t do that, we’d be making projections based on stale information, and well, that’s just not very smart.

    I don’t know where you get your lines. We get ours from Pinnacle Sports, which is widely regarded as a market setting offshore book.

    And finally, for every time something like this happens — when our models are one side, and then there is a significant influx of new information and the pick happens to “flip” — it both benefits us and hurts us. You caught a game where we originally had a loser, but as the game got closer to kickoff and lines changed, the models updated their predictions to the side that happened to win.

    We get hit with plenty of the reverse as well — when our models were on the eventual winner early in the week, but new information came in, the pick changed, and that pick ends up losing.

    It’s just how the system is designed. If you don’t like it, you’re under no obligation to use it. But if you think about it for a minute, always making predictions using the latest information — even if it means picks change over the week — is the smarter thing to do.

    If our models said BYU had a 60% chance to win that game on Thursday, and then their starting QB went out 12 hours before game time, you can bet your life our models are going to update that prediction.

  • David Hess

    That was Tom above. This is David, I just want to add a couple notes.

    1) The line on that game was a Pick at Pinnacle from late morning 8/26 to early morning 8/31. You can check the line history here:

    2) When the line moves in the direction of our pick, that basically means the gambling markets think we had the right side, for that line. If you told me that every one of our picks would have the line move 2.5 points in that direction after I bet it, I would be absolutely THRILLED. So though I’m obviously not happy that the BYU pick lost, I think the pick itself was fine.

    3) That said, once the line moves 2.5 points, yeah our pick may very well change, for a couple reasons. First, our models are going to be re-run (for example, the Similar Games model is now going to be looking at games with spreads close to -2.5, not close to 0). Second, even if we didn’t re-run the models, those extra 2.5 points are going to be worth a several percent boost to Virginia.

    4) As for the right/wrong tracking, we track the last pick made because, well, we have to track SOMETHING, and the last pick seems less arbitrary than some prediction X hours before the game starts.

  • Lou

    1) Oh please…

    First of all, most players in the US can’t even play at Pinnicle. What good does that do your US players?

    2nd, I checked the picks at 8am and it still had BYU at PK. Pinnicles line was BYU -1.5

    I thought this was a simulation based on raw data. But, now you claim to have ground-breaking information (that moves the play from a 3-star play on one side to a 1-star play to the other side entirely). Even better, you don’t even tell visitors what it is.

    How exactly is one supposed to use this service if you can go and change the pick right before kickoff? BYU became a bigger favorite (meaning action was loaded toward BYU) and PK was a good line. Now, because the spread moves less than a field goal in YOUR FAVOR, you switch picks entirely (claiming new information).

    What information did you get that tells you to play the other sides when you actually posted the best line at 2.5 points better then the kickoff line??

    (2) Are You Kidding me? You just said that BYU at a PK was a solid pick because the public bet in their direction. So, you’re saying as long as the action moves in your favor, you can go and switch the pick and say “Well the action moved in your favor on the one side. Therefore, we did good (even though we switched the pick, and also gave you a loser)”. Even better, you actually claim you have information that told you to bet the other side wen the public was hitting BYU.

    3). LOL. Are you kidding me? 2.5 points is enough to change the play from a 3-star pick to a one-star pick the other way completely based on less than a field goal? Apparently 3-stars isn’t worth very much is 2.5 points is worth a 4 star swing.
    4. LOL. So what you are saying your information is useless up until game time as that is what your records is based on.

    Nobody cares about survivor pool percentages based on standard point spreads for games that are 10-weeks away, especially from a service who claims that a lot can change in 4-5 hours and a 2.5 point line swing changes everything.

    I hope people are reading and can see. This is exactly how typical tout services dance around their real records and make excuses for changing picks and fudging numbers.

  • Lou

    Again, just tell me what this information you had was that the public didn’t (where you were so much smarter than the public who was betting on BYU). What information between 9am and 3pm EST did you stumble upon that moved the play 4-stars?

    If a customer bets $100 in each of your stars and was to bet your picks on that game based off your info, he would have bet.

    BYU PK – $330 to win $300

    Virginia +2.5 $110 to win $100

    That customer is down 2.3 Units (-$230)….and then you actually claim you gave them good advice.

    Anyone can pass long picks changing the sides through out the day and claim they had key information that told them to change it. But, at least they would retain half their customers.

    College football lines move like crazy. That’s part of betting. But, once you place a bet, that’s it. How do you expect your customers to adapt. If your information is only good right before kickoff.

    This statement;
    “Picks are subject to change until game time based on new information, and we strongly encourage all users to read more about our methods (see links to the right) before using this information.”

    Might as well say;
    “Don’t take this information seriously and don’t bet based on it. These are all very loose predictions that could change at a moment’s notice. Any member criticizing us for changing the picks compared to what you saw a few hours earlier, will be directed to this statement and be told that we knew something that you didn’t about the game. “



    You’re making a bunch of claims here we don’t claim to make. This is how it works:

    1) Our models make picks based on the latest information we have. By information, I mean odds, stats, and other hard data. These are 100% automated, computer models completely driven by stats. We’re not claiming to have any vague “inside information” like you’re making out…no idea how you came up with that.

    2) “New information” means line changes, completed game box scores from other games that have finished lately, and injury information. We rarely make subjective adjustments for injuries; outside of those, all of this information is automatically grabbed by our software, and predictions are re-run every 2-3 hours.

    3) The models are sophisticated, and the output isn’t always what a human would logically expect. Just because our models like a team at -7 does not necessarily mean they will like that same team at -5.

    Why? Because a new line of -5 means that something has fundamentally changed about the game. The bottom line is, the team that used to be thought of as 7 points better by the market is no longer being thought of as 7 points better.

    So instead of then saying, “Oh, then we like them even more at -5!” which is how most humans might react, our models effectively say, “Hmm, the market’s opinion about this team has changed significantly for some reason, let’s start from scratch, go back and look for historical trends based on this most recent data.” And the end result could be that there is less historical data that supports a cover at -5 than at -7.

    That’s the whole point of using algorithmic models. If they’re good, they identify insights that humans normally wouldn’t come up with, because they can parse through thousands of historical data points in minutes, and humans can’t.

    I can go on here, but what’s the point? What’s your agenda? To expose us as shameless touts that fudge our numbers, just because you came on here without having any clue as to how our site or models work?

    We’re roundly praised for being the most transparent predictions site on the web. You don’t stick around for 10+ years and grow to 2.9 million unique visitors in the last 12 months pulling the wool over your users’ eyes. That game breaks down a whole lot earlier than that.

    You just don’t like how the site works. So be it. Then don’t use the site. Pretty simple.

  • Hugh Jasso

    Sounds like Lou was betting with money he couldn’t afford to lose 😉

  • LP9086

    Hugh, What? No i’m not. I don’t know what gives you that idea. I am just displaying and pointing out the simple fact that nothing here is concrete as far as the predictions they give you and there’s nothing of value. I’ve seen slightly more bad information and losing predictions than I’ve seen winning good solid advice (and I’ve spent money on this service in the past). If you add in the fact, that they can change the picks (from a 3-star play to a 1 star the other way) on a moment’s notice (due to route college football line movements) before the game and say, “see…we gave you the other side…it’s so sophisticated, that’s why the pick changed”

    There are services out there that will work personally for you for $60/month and make sure you’re getting value and lines that you can actually bet on

    Notice they never even responded to the fact that Pinnacle is a book that can’t be used by US players. Yet, this is the book they use as the authority on lines.

    Just look at tonight’s NFL game. Their projected score is 23-16 (39 total points) and then if you go to the Over/Under picks, they have a 1-star play of Over 48.5. How does this make sense? It doesn’t.

    1) You really think this is a winning model? You gave out BYU to at least half (if not more) to most of your customers. A small 2 point line swing moves a play from a 3-star play to a 1-star play on the other side. I can pretty much guarantee that you are about as close to clipping a coin as betting gets. There was nothing else “NEW” as far as information on the game when the pick switched on than the line going from -1 to -2.5 (AT MOST BOOKS).

    The models are so “sophisticated” they you can’t even tell you what moves the pick from a strong play on one side, to a “gun to the head” pick the other way. That’s not “sophistication”, it’s random and has little to no handicapping value. I guarantee if you take a game that is OTB, the average better can come up with a more accurate line than this software can.

  • David Hess

    “Just look at tonight’s NFL game. Their projected score is 23-16 (39 total points) and then if you go to the Over/Under picks, they have a 1-star play of Over 48.5. How does this make sense? It doesn’t.”

    Hey, wanted to chime in and say that if you saw this somewhere, that’s definitely an issue we didn’t know about, and want to fix. Can you post a link to the page where you saw the 23-16 score?

  • David Hess

    Ah, never mind, I found it:

    I forgot we had that model page up. That’s *one* of the models that’s used as input into the official pick. We provide the full data, so people can see the info that the model is using to make the pick. If you look at our picks page, you’ll see — unsurprisingly — that the Similar Games model is listed with a prediction of Under 63.3%.

    The Overview page (the one that is linked to from all over the site) shows a projected score of 28.3-20.5, right around 48.5, matching the narrowly-above-50% official TR Pick of Over.

  • David Hess

    By the way, LOL at “a small 2 point line swing”. Both because it went from Pick to -3 before closing at -2.5, and because a 2 point swing is not small. It’s not free to buy a game from Pick to +2.5.

  • Lou

    A line change from a pick to not even a field goal (-2.5) is not enough to change it from a strong play (3-star) to a small play the opposite side (1 star the other way). Rarely do spreads of 2.5 or less have any effect on the bet; which is why books will allow you to buy 2.5 points when the spread -2.5 for less than 40 cents.

    Anyway, I looked through the college football results today and they are atrocious as I expected. This is not sharp analysis at all.

  • David Hess

    By “40 cents” do you mean moving a price from -110 to -150? … Because that makes a 7.6% difference in the break even point (150/250 = 60% … 110/210 = 52.4%) … which is enough to move a play from 3 stars one way (defined as 55%+ cover odds) to 1 star the other way:

    56% – 7.6% = 48.4%

  • David Hess

    For anybody reading Lou’s comment, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not take his advice on how to bet our Star picks. The explanation for the Star ratings is found here (which, by the way, is the first link in the explanatory section up at the top of each picks page):

    For ATS picks, the summary is:
    3-stars: a couple percent point edge over a typical -110 line
    2-stars: projected to win more than 52.4% of the time (the break even rate on a typical -110 line)
    1-star: “gun-to-our-head” pick, not projected to be profitable, but some people want our pick on every game, so we publish them

  • TThe FurmanaTTor

    Any chances of posting a 500 entrant Survivor analysis for 3 and 4 entries as additional options as it seems like it is a large spread jumping from 100 to 1000 entries and I would surmise (perhaps incorrectly – you guys would know best) that a 500 entrant pool would not mirror either the 100 or 1000 entrant pool picks/recommendations? Thanks guys .. great to be back as your Survivor, College Bowl, and March Madness pick expertise have contributed some significant funds to my “investment” portfolio the past few years! :-)

  • David Hess

    A 500 is closer to 1000 than you might think — both are big enough that it has a good chance of lasting all year.

    At any rate (you may have noticed this) we’ve changed the pool size bins across the Survivor section, to help people choose the picks and info most relevant to them. Partly do to your suggestion (and other people asked similar things). Thanks!

  • NJR

    Hey guys, just signed up for the All Bundle package. New features look great! Similar to TThe FurmanaTTor’s question, is there any reason why the drop down is limited to only a few choices, as opposed to actually entering how many picks we have in a pool or 500 or 5,000? Also, will you be continuing with the weekly explanation of picks such as EV, moneyline, etc, like how it was tructured last year? Thanks guys!

  • David Hess

    Our original goal was to actually do custom simulations for everybody’s individual pool, but in the end we decided we just don’t have the computing power — so we (carefully) chose a few sizes that should cover a broad range of strategies. In the beginning of the year you may not see a ton of difference, but that should change as we move on.

  • David Hess
  • Ed

    Hey guys, have been a fan of your site for 4 years. I have a question though, our pool of about 35-40 people is a confidence type pool, for NFL games, and because of Thursday night games, we have to have all of our picks in Wednesday night, for the full weekend schedule. In previous years, there were only a few Thursday night games, so it was only a problem occasionally, but now it seems the Thursday night games are going to be every week.
    My question is, since your picks can change between Wednesday and Sunday, I only could rely on your picks as a reference, along with other sites, knowing that your picks would change AFTER I had to turn in my picks, will the new format be more reliable for people in pools like mine ?

  • David Hess

    Ed — Just for you, (and a few others who asked), we added Wednesday picks, which lock Wednesday morning. Hope you caught them in time! I think this week the picks are pretty similar, so shouldn’t be a big issue.

  • RCC22

    I want to sign up…for the the survivor Lite ( I have 3 entries in a pool size of 600+)

    will it offer many of the same things you did on your blog site last year? Such as comments and updates from ur team?

  • David Hess

    It will offer a write up each week, but the Q&A Forum will be Pro only.

  • swirvi

    Hey, I’d love to sign up, but I wanted to check to see how your site could help me with my pool first. I’m in a 75 person pool where we pick 10 games (out of ALL NFL and College FBS games) and submit those (point spread), 1 point each. I’d like to use your service and thought maybe if I used the confidence points I could pick the games with the highest confidence (5 college and 5 NFL or maybe 7 college and 3 NFL) and submit those. Would that be a decent approach and properly using your picks?
    Also, I have to agree with Lou (below) on one point. You guys claim being in the top whatever % for all of these pick’em leagues each year. The problem is that a lot of people cannot submit their picks moments before a game and must submit by a certain day. The picks for my league are due by Friday. So I have to go off what your site says on Friday. But then I check after the weekend, and you have games you claim to have won that you told me to bet the other way before the weekend. I’d like to see stats for both of these categories. Maybe you could have stats on how your site performs on picks made at least 24-48 hours before kickoff. That way, people who are in those types of leagues can see for themselves and make an informed decision on whether your service is right for them.

  • David Hess

    Hey, sorry for the late reply … Yes, I think your approach is what I would recommend in your situation, mixing our NFL and college confidence picks.

    As for the record against various time points … thanks for the suggestion, and we’ll take it under consideration.

  • icu

    swirvi, Time to move to a new pool. This is 2013. Have your commissioner find a way so you can make your picks up to kick off of any game Tuesdays-Saturdays. A deadline of Sunday at 1:00 EST is reasonable time to get your information for NFL

  • Mike from CT

    Hello, I want to believe in your site. I saw you went 8-8 last week in the free trial, what I am not grasping is the betting picks start at $49 a month. And the pickem pools start at $29.

    So why would there be different picks between the two packages. Picking a winner ATS, is picking a winner regardless of the use of the information.

    Also can you clarify, the $29 package has Custom Pool settings, which I used last week. My pool is ATS. But the $49 package says picks for point spread contest. So is the $29 package of custom pools not customizable to ATS.?

  • David Hess

    First things first — yes, for ATS pools you’ll need a Pick’em Pro package. That would be $49 for the whole season. Or, you get access to all our contest advice if you buy a betting picks package, but those are more expensive.

    As for how ATS pick’em pools differ from just getting betting picks, great question. Couple answers here.

    1) Our betting package offers much more than just a thumbs up or down on the spread for a game. It includes totals picks, money line picks, and it displays our projected odds of each team covering, the total going over/under, etc.

    2) Ideal pick’em pool strategy actually does take into account more than just picking which team is more likely to cover This is related to a question we received in our pick’em forum, so I’ll just re-post the Q & A here…


    Why are you picking so many underdogs?


    The main reason is that the goal in an ATS pickem is NOT to maximize your average correct picks. It’s to maximize your odds to win your pool. In all but the smallest pools, that involves taking advantage of public picking biases in order to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Here’s a VERY oversimplified example:

    Say you are in a pool where there is only 1 game. That’s right, the whole season is only 1 game long. It’s a 10 person pool, with a $10 entry fee, and you know that all 9 of your opponents will be picking the favorite. Even if you think the favorite will cover 65% of the time (which is about as confident as an ATS prediction could ever be, without inside info), picking the underdog is still the smart play:

    65% of the time, the favorite will cover. If you pick the fave, like all your opponents, you split the pot with them, and win $10. If you pick the underdog, you’ll win $0.

    35% of the time, the underdog will cover. If you pick the fave, you split the pot with all your opponents, and win $10. If you pick the underdog, you just won the whole pot — $100.

    So, picking the favorite is worth an average of $10. Picking the underdog is worth an average of $35 (65% x $0 + 35% x $100).

    That’s obviously an extreme example, but that strategic concept still applies to larger pools involving all the games.

    So why would that mean we’re picking so many underdogs? Well, simply because the public bias is overwhelmingly to pick the favorite. So if we don’t have a strong prediction either way on a game, the default pick is going to be the underdog.

  • icu

    You Guys are Awesome. Thanks for the website
    Who’s the smart one of the group?

  • David Hess

    Ha .. well, given that Tom convinced me to answer all these forum questions, I’d say he’s the smart one. 😉

    Glad you like the site!

  • Mr Covert

    OK, its now week 9 and I am dominating a small pick ’em pool. Glad noone in the pool is doing statistical analysis, because picks (from your info) is an anomaly! Couldn’t be more satisfied, thinking about taking my foot off the gas …

  • David Hess

    Good to hear! Though not sure about taking your foot off…

  • ivanhoe

    Why not give to a paying customer; LOCKED PICKS! That will not change from one *star* level to another?

  • David Hess

    I’m guessing you yourself are a paying customer? In that case, please read our explanation here:

    The short version, for those of you that can’t access it, is that information changes over the course of the week (For example, this week the Browns’ QB situation is uncertain, and will probably become a bit more certain closer to game time). If we DON’T use the new information that becomes available, we’re doing a disservice to anyone that cares about getting the best picks possible.

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