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What type of pool are you playing?

Sep 30, 2003 8:10 AM

NFL Office pools are everywhere, with more and more casual and serious handicappers throwing a few bucks into a pot every week in hopes of yes winning some money, but also seeking bragging rights over friends, co-workers and, most enjoyably, the boss!

The first guideline for any kind of contest you enter is to read the rules and understand what it will take to win.

Football pools break out usually by the following setups:

”¡ Time frame: weekly winners or season-long chase

”¡ Number of games: all games each week or select number of games

”¡ Pick Mode: spread based or straight up

”¡ Pick Differentiation: all games count the same, or you weight the games from highest value to lowest value

There are of course other types of poolS, like elimination pools (pick one team each week to win, keep going until the last player is left alive), or team-win pools (draft certain teams whose wins count for you during the season), but the vast majority are based on the settings listed above.

The next key information points to consider are number of players in the contest field and handicapping ability of the players as a group. Once you factor in these elements, you should be able to gauge what it will take to win the top prize.

Here are some general thoughts to consider based on the type of setup for weekly contests:

Games ATS: Not a lot of room for strategy. Check for soft lines and a tendency to overplay favorites.

SU winners: The simplest of pools. Avoid taking bold upsets. The key is nailing the games looking to be close on the spread (with a favorite of say less than five points). People are reluctant to pick all favorites and actually overplay the underdogs, so play those favorites. With a lot of entrants, playing unpopular teams (and avoiding the heavy hype teams) can be smart.

Rating winners: Picking SU victor from high to low value (1 to 14-16 points). A top game worth 16 points counts for as much as the bottom five picks! Most players will take obvious favorites as top picks. You can play the favorites, but try to weight some less obvious ones at the top. Picking outright dogs at high point values is a dubious strategy in a pool with a small number of players. If the pool is large, taking chances can pay off.

In Week 1 of the NFL 2003 season, two of the four largest favorites lost! Another good move is rating highly a game where you like a team that is only a small favorite (or even a small dog). Most players will avoid putting too much weight on "pick’em" type games.

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