NFL Survivor Pools for 2021

Once upon a time, NFL survivor pools were reserved for Las Vegas sportsbooks or office contests like what you’d find around March Madness. But as legal sports betting continues to go mainstream, survivor pools are coming along for the ride.

NFL betting is absolutely massive in legal betting states, and NFL survivor pools are one of the huge attractions. There are free and paid-entry contests to choose from at almost all online sportsbooks, and some of them have absolutely eye-popping prizes for the winners.

If you’re just getting started with NFL betting, survivor pools are an easy entry point. There’s also plenty to love for the experienced bettors out there. Here’s where to find the best NFL survivor pools this season and how to make some noise with your entries.

How does an NFL survivor pool work?

What are the basic rules of an NFL survivor pool? NFL survivor pools are very simple in nature. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to win. For each week of the regular season, entrants have to pick a team to win outright. If the pick is correct, players advance to the next week.

Losers are eliminated if their selected team loses the game. The majority of pools follow this simple format, but there are some that have “second chance” options. Before entering any NFL survivor pool contest, take the time to review the rules of the road.

For an added wrinkle, players can select each NFL team only once. As an example, if you pick the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win in Week 1 and they do so, you’ll advance to the next week. However, you won’t be able to choose the Bucs again for the remainder of the seasonal contest.

As for price, some pools are completely free to play with prizes attached. Then, some popular ones require buy-ins ranging from as little as $10 to well over $100. Many pools are winner-take-all, but some will reserve funds for other top finishers.

Which sportsbooks have the top NFL survivor pools?

Several of the top legal US online sportsbooks have caught on to the NFL survivor pool craze. There are some really big prizes out there too, but that naturally comes with the caveat that you have to survive the season to win.

Here are the books that you’ll definitely want to check out.

DraftKings $1 Million NFL Survivor Pool

DraftKings Sportsbook holds the current title for the online football survivor pool with the biggest prize. The DraftKings Pro Football Millionaire Survivor Pool offers $1 million to the last player standing. The buy-in is set at $333, though. If that’s out of your league, there are also smaller pools to be found on the DraftKings sports betting app.

FanDuel $100,000 NFL Survivor Pool

FanDuel Sportsbook has a football survivor pool that’s completely free to play. The entrants left standing at the end will share in the $100,000 grand prize. If no one manages to make it all the way through, the prize goes to whoever lasted longest.

BetMGM Free Trip to Vegas Survivor Pool

BetMGM Sportsbook has teamed up with Yahoo Sports and Verizon for another popular free-to-play NFL survivor pool contest. The bounty for the winner is an all-expenses-paid trip out to Las Vegas.

The free-to-play contests will generally attract thousands of entries. While that sounds daunting, remember that the field gets cut when entrants pick teams that lose. If you can make the right calls more often than not, you at least have a shot.

For the paid contests, the general rule is:

  • The higher the buy-in, the fewer entrants in the field.

That said, even the priciest contest on DraftKings can attract a thousand or more entries. For its smaller version at the $20 price point, you can expect to see 10,000+ competitors.

How do NFL survivor pools pay out?

For your standard NFL survivor pool, the winner takes it all. The entrant or entrants left standing at the end claim a share of the prize. For a simple example, consider the parameters of the following fictitious contest.

  • $20 entry fee, with all money going to the prize pool
  • 1,000 entrants join in and play
  • The total prize pool is $20,000
  • 4 entrants make it all the way to the end
  • The share for each of the winners is $5,000

In some pools, a certain portion of the pot will be reserved for high finishers, such as those who make it to the penultimate week. The amounts will vary, but the share could be something like 5 to 20 percent of the total pool for those contestants.

Our example is for a smaller pool, but the prizes ramp up dramatically for the massive paid entry online contests, such as the aforementioned DraftKings option. For that one, all of the players left standing at the end take home a share of $1 million.

Free NFL survivor pools vs. NFL survivor pools for money

NFL survivor pools can be lots of fun and provide you with an additional season-long rooting interest. Of course, that ultimately depends on how long you survive. When trying to decide on where to play, you should take the time to assess your risk tolerance and goals.

Is this your first try at an NFL survivor pool, or are you just getting started football betting? The free contests can be a great starting point. You can take multiple cracks by playing in some different contests and testing out various strategies.

Have you been really eyeing online football survivor pools or found some success in a free or offline pool? Then maybe it’s time to jump up in weight class and try out a paid entry contest that has larger prizes.

You can also take a hybrid approach by choosing some of the intriguing free contests along with a pay-to-play game. If you want to take multiple swings at paid contests, DraftKings allows up to three entries per player in its millionaire contest.

When playing in free pools that have a really enticing top prize, you can expect to play against thousands of other users. The field gets a little smaller on the paid side, but you can also expect the competition level to be much greater.

Can betting odds help with NFL survivor pool picks?

No matter how you plan to bet on the NFL, cultivate a close relationship with the odds board. It’s helpful to view the latest NFL betting odds as a free research tool. Lean on them throughout the week.

If you think about it, the oddsmakers have already done a lot of the heavy lifting when setting the lines. The moneyline odds tell us the most likely outcome, spreads point us to a fair estimated margin of victory, while totals betting give us an idea of how many points to expect.

For those who would like to do all of that on their own without taking a glance at the odds, be prepared to put in lots of work to come up with anything that makes sense. NFL odds alone can be helpful with research, including with football survivor pools.

Over/unders provide you with a good benchmark of what kind of game you’re looking at. Will it be a potential shootout or a tight defensive game? Then, the spread can help you pinpoint an estimated score. They can both be helpful, but moneyline odds can be even more so.

You can take the moneyline odds and translate them into implied probability, as in how likely a win is for each side. There are lots of online handicapping calculators that make it easy to do so, but you can also run through the calculations on your own if you’d like.

  • For negative odds: value of the odds divided by the value of the odds plus 100, then multiply the result by 100.
    • Example: Odds of -130
    • (130/230)*100 = 56.5
  • For positive odds: 100 divided by the value of the odds plus 100, then multiply the result by 100.
    • Example: Odds of +110
    • (100/210) *100 = 47.61

If a game had an odds split of -130/+110 as in our example, you’ll notice that the total implied probability doesn’t add up to an even 100. That’s thanks to the vig charged by sportsbooks, so any amount over the bar can be chalked up as juice.

By taking the time to find the implied probability for upcoming games, you’ll be able to quickly narrow down the field of likely plays. From there, you’ll be able to dedicate your research time to those clubs in a quest to find the best possible pick for the week at hand.

Reasons to pick underdogs in NFL survivor pools

OK, so since the goal of football survivor pools is to be standing at the end, you should focus your picks on big favorites, right? Not exactly. It’s important to remember that you can only pick each team once over the course of the contest.

Since the league’s stronger teams will generally be those that fall into the category of big favorites, there will come a time when you’ve used up all of the top selections. Additionally, you’ll want to separate yourself from the pack at some point.

As a result, there will be times when picking an underdog makes sense. However, don’t fall into the “cute” trap by trying to land on an upset that just isn’t there. If you wouldn’t actually place a bet on a team to win, then you have no business taking them in a survivor pool.

When doing your weekly research, it’s certainly possible that you’ll uncover factors that are being missed by the majority of the betting public and pundits. If that happens, you may start to feel like there’s the potential for an upset in certain games. Listen to that voice. There are upsets each and every week of the NFL season. You should do your best to pick out the potential spots, but remember not to force it. For one simple approach, go through the schedule and make note of potential upset spots.

Afterwards, drill into the games that made it to the short list even further and build out the case. When you land on one that you’re really confident in, you have a contender for your weekly survivor pool pick.

What are the best strategies for winning NFL survivor pools?

It’s challenging to win an NFL survivor pool, but there’s lots of fun to be had along the way. For an added bonus, there are some lucrative prizes available for those who make it happen. To give yourself an even better chance of becoming one of the select few, here are a few essential tips to implement.

  • Plan out your own NFL strategy: Winging it is a bad idea with NFL betting. When going into a football survivor pool, take the time to think through your overall approach. Do you want to play it completely safe in the early going? Are you planning on holding some strong teams in your back pocket for later in the season? When you have your approach down, you’ll be able to focus on each week with clearer goals in mind.
  • Study the full schedule: The complete NFL schedule gets released early in the offseason, typically sometime in late April or early May. Once it comes out, there’s homework you can be doing. There’s no need to go overboard, but you can take the time to go through the weekly calendar and look for trouble spots and potential layups for each team. Take some notes while you do so and you’ll make things even easier when the season gets started.
  • Review and adjust preseason expectations: Entering the season, there are clear favorites to win the Super Bowl. Drilling down even further, you’ll find the projected winners of conferences and divisions, potential playoff teams, and even estimated season win totals. This bounty of information can be found in the NFL futures market. As the season plays out, the odds board will update for a real-time look at reasonable expectations for each team.

No matter how well you prepare, there’s always the chance of being knocked out of an NFL survivor pool when you least expect it. That’s the excitement and challenge of the whole thing and simply comes with the territory. However, if you do your best to prepare to make the best possible picks each week, your chances of success will rise.

Biggest mistakes to avoid in NFL survivor pools

For any form of NFL betting, there are things that you just don’t want to do. The same holds true with football survivor pools. Your entry can go by the wayside with one single, avoidable mistake. Here’s a trio that you’ll want to watch out for.

  1. Blindly making picks: Sure, the proverbial throwing of darts at the board will land on some winners here and there, but it’s not a strategy that’s built to last. Eventually, the willy nilly approach will come back to bite you. You’re going to have to put in some work to make the optimal picks or at least gather intel from sources that you trust.
  2. Following the herd: Each week, there will be plenty of stone-cold locks thrown out by various pundits. Many will follow the advice. They will, of course, often be wrong. For an interesting alternative, take the temperature of the overall environment and find the most popular choice of the week. Then, find another optimal play.
  3. Getting way too cute: To make it to the end, you’re going to have to be right more often than the consensus picks. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to go overboard to stand apart from the crowd. For example, if a team is a 16-point underdog in an upcoming game, they’d be an awful play for a football survivor pool.

If you can avoid making the above three mistakes, you’ll find yourself with a much better chance of making it each week. Along the way, plenty of entrants will be eliminated, and the reason for their downfall can often be traced back to one of the above.

Tools and picks for NFL survivor pools

As you prepare for this year’s NFL survivor pools, there are plenty of different resources that you can lean on. Having a good knowledge of the league and its teams is a great starting point, but it’s not the end-all and be-all. Among the various tools that you can use are the following:

  • NFL betting odds
  • Game previews and matchup breakdowns
  • Free picks from various publications
  • Paid information from reputable outlets
  • Implied probability calculators

While there’s nothing wrong with leaning on sources that you trust as a time-saver, remember that the ultimate decision on which team to pick is up to you. As opposed to relying on one single source of info, it can be helpful to gather pieces of intel from a few spots as you build out your case.

Once you have a simple system in place, you can rinse and repeat each week as you make your picks. By extension, that system should be useful for other forms of NFL betting.

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