Survivor Strategy Guide: How to Win NFL Survivor Pools & Knockout Pools
Our strategy guide for winning NFL survivor pools walks you through key topics and insights that maximize your edge.
Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills will try to go 2 for 2 against New York teams (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
Welcome to our Survivor Pool Strategy Guide, where we provide data-driven advice on what it takes to improve your chances of winning NFL survivor pools, also known as knockout pools and eliminator pools).
FYI, we also published an e-book on survivor strategy that you can download.
How We Help People Win NFL Survivor Pools
Before we get to the meat of our analysis, here’s our resume in brief. Since 2017, our subscribers have reported winning NFL survivor pools 2.9 times as often as expected given the size of their pools.
In addition, although winning a survivor pool is something that many players rarely experience:
- 30.1% of our subscribers won a prize in a survivor pool in 2021
- 25.0% of our subscribers won a prize in a survivor pool in 2020
- 32.6% of our subscribers won a prize in a survivor pool in 2019
- 20.7% of our subscribers won a prize in a survivor pool in 2018
- 40.9% of our subscribers won a prize in a survivor pool in 2017
Our subscribers use our NFL Survivor Pool Picks product to get this edge. It’s the only product that customizes picks for survivor pools based on important strategy factors like your pool’s size and rules.
It also supports a variety of survivor pool rule variations including strikes, buy-backs, byes, multiple pick weeks, and season wins tiebreakers.
The Key Elements Of Survivor Pool Strategy
We’ve been researching NFL survivor pool strategy for over a decade now, including simulating millions of pools with various combinations of sizes and rules.
We’re also the only site that has gathered direct feedback on how our pick recommendations have performed from subscribers who put our picks to the test in tens of thousands of real-world survivor contests.
We’ve distilled much of that learning into a series of free articles that lays out what it takes to maximize your edge in NFL survivor pools — the foundational strategies that increase your odds to win a pool, and the common traps to avoid when making your picks.
Whether you go it alone this year or enlist our help, as G.I. Joe once said, knowing is half the battle.
Free Survivor Strategy Articles
In the first article, about setting expectations, we discuss some of the reasons to play survivor pools. We also delve into some of the challenges, and the nature of survivor pools, which include having a low probability of winning, and the role of luck. We also talk about the potential to win a good amount in certain pools if successful.
You may think it’s obvious that the goal is to win the pool, and to do so, you must survive this week. However, plenty of survivor players make decisions that run counter to successfully reaching that goal. For example, just trying to survive the first month by being risk-averse may not align with the best strategy to ultimately win the pool. We discuss some of the mentality you will need to maximize your chances in survivor pools.
In this article, we talk about the three strategic considerations for developing your picks: win odds, pick popularity, and future value.
In our Expected Value article, we dive deeper into what goes in to determining the expected value for each team each week. We start with some simple examples to illustrate expected value, then build from there with more examples of how expected value works. We also discuss the impact your own pick decision can have on expected value, and close by going through an actual NFL week from the past.
In our Future Value article, we go further into why you need to always have an eye on future weeks in survivor. We talk about how predictable the future of a NFL season is, and how future value is determined. We also talk about how future value is dependent on a lot of factors, including your pool size and specific rules of each pool.
Ideally, you want to use teams that have the highest chances of winning, but are not popular (and thus have high expected value). But you also want to use teams that have no future value, and want to save teams with high future value. What happens when some of those considerations conflict? We go through some examples of how we have handled combining expected value and future value.
Size matters in survivor pools. We discuss the various ways that size can impact your survivor strategy. This includes your chances of winning, the amount of risk you should be willing to take, and how long the contest could last.
In this article, we talk about a wide variety of different rules variations that we handle for survivor pools. After giving an overview of different types of rules, such as strikes, byes, or multiple picks, we also provide some strategy tips for how to handle each type of pool.
We always encourage subscribers to play more entries if they are able to do so. Having more than one entry allows for diversification and the ability to use a portfolio strategy. We go through some strategy considerations for how you want to divide up multiple entries.
NFL Survivor Pool Myths
In addition to our general strategy articles, we also have a series of articles debunking some popular survivor strategy myths — often heard popular “wisdom” that will do you more harm than good.
Our myth series starts with a common one you will hear in survivor circles: avoid division rivalry games because they are more unpredictable. The data, though, does not support that position.
Another popular survivor myth is that you should avoid picking teams playing on the road. But the betting market info accounts for home field advantage, and this one does not hold up if you go by win odds.
Plenty of survivor advice will tell you to just get through the early part of the season. However, even if you pick the “safest” teams (like many entries do) surviving the first month is difficult, and avoiding the crowd can often be profitable.
We hear from plenty of readers who feel they must pick a certain team because it is the only remaining week to use them. And our answer is, well, don’t use them if they are not the best value pick. You should never lock into feeling you have to pick a certain team if the value is not there.