Videos by OutKick
By Craig Hayes
When you’re single and a football fan, gambling is typically as much a part of your football Sundays as setting your fantasy lineup and drinking. Whether you are the high rolling type who takes in a full Sunday at the Caeser’s Sport’s book in Vegas, have an on-line acount with some Costa Rican Website, or have an “arrangement” with a local bookie, putting money on the games is just as important as rooting for your favorite team, and for many fans, it’s more important.
But like a lot of things that are fun when you are young and single- staying out all night, drinking insane amounts of alcohol, the occasional one night stand- betting half of your weekly take home salary stops being fun when you have a wife and a mortgage. And while even the toughest wife will give you the sporadic one night free pass for a good friend’s bachelor party or birthday dinner that doesn’t end in a seedy strip club, she doesn’t want to hear stories when the bills are due. The excuse, “It was a lock, I mean Kyle Orton versus Aaron Rodgers, there was no way they could lose!” just won’t cut it. And if you have kids and gamble like you are single, then you are just an asshole and doomed to the fate of a horrible divorce, a studio apartment and your children forever hating you for giving their college fund to some goon named Vito with ties to Mexican Drug Cartels.
But don’t worry, I have an alternative. I give you the Knockout Pool, also known in some circles as a Survivor Pool, King of the Hill, and for the non-pc types out there, the Suicide Pool. The rules are simple: get a group of players together (I have been in pools as small as 40 but as large as 300), set an entry fee (usually ranging from 50-200 dollars), and pick one game a week on the NFL schedule. Your team needs only to win to advance, point spreads are irrelevant and ties are as good as a loss (which caused my friend to lose a few years back when a favored Philly team tied the hapless Bengals. He still despises Donovan). If your team wins then you advance to the next week. Last one standing gets the pot. Simple. The only catch is that you can only use a team once.
Sounds easy right? Well, I have been doing these pools for years (I have been fortunate enough to win twice), and I can tell you, even if you have 70-80 players you will typically have a winner by around week 10 or so. I have yet to see an entire season go by without a winner. There are ways to ensure this by tweaking the rules. Instead of picking one team require players to pick two winners around week 12 or so… even a group strong enough to get that far will eventually produce a winner.
So, as an homage to this website’s founder, let me give you a short list of not only the benefits of such a pool, but a few tips on how to win it.
1. It’s so easy to explain, and appears so simple to win, that you can get a good sized group together with minimal effort. Most of these pools are started by your local dive bar. It makes good business sense, patrons have to walk in, write their pick on the board, and hopefully have a drink or two while they are there. But even if you are in a small office, say 25 people, if you get 20 people to join at 100 dollars a head, that’s a two grand payday for the winner.
The fact that it is easy to understand gets even non-football fans involved. I work in a law firm, and like most firms we have an appellate specialist. Appellate attorneys are typically anti-social trolls who live in their offices typing briefs and only come out of their caves to drink yet another cup of coffee and ask you judgmental questions about a transcript of a case that you lived and breathed for six months. They are the type of people who walk around after a war and loot from the casualties.
But I digress. My point is, we have a guy like this (I’m not sure he can distinguish a football from a basketball) and he is all in this year.
The fact that it seems easy on the surface to win (just pick winners; no spreads) attracts every fat-assed, XXXL jersey wearing, buffalo wing gorging know-it-all at the bar who just can’t wait to tell you how awesome his fantasy team is this year because he drafted Kevin Kolb in the 12th round. These idiots will fill the pool with cash, and always lose in the end to over-confidence.
2. If you know a little bit about football, the pool gives you the action of gambling for a potentially large payoff (do the math, some of these get up to 100K) with very little risk.
Getting back to the wives for a minute, the typical exchange goes like this:
Wife: Why are you rooting for the Cowboys, you hate them.
Husband: I took them in a pool.
Wife: YOU’RE GAMBLING! HOW MUCH?
Husband: 100 Dollars.
Wife: ON ONE GAME!
Husband: No for the whole year. If I pick just one winner a week I can win 10 thousand dollars.
Wife: (As she thinks of risk/reward ratio): Oh, ok.
Then she leaves, and if she doesn’t, good luck because you married a lunatic.
3. To paraphrase Matt Damon in Rounders as he tells off Knish, when the pool narrows down to only about 3 or 4 players, you really start to learn about who has stones and who doesn’t. Granted, this perk is only a lot of fun if you are friends with the other players, but that isn’t impossible, especially in a pool being run at a local bar. People start bargaining, some guys want to split it (Usually the married ones), and there is always the former GA member who isn’t splitting no matter what and screws up any deals. I love that guy.
4. A few tips to win. First, don’t “save” the best teams. This strategy is extremely risky since it may force you to pick a team that you don’t love in a game, and make you pick them rather than say a squad like last year’s Patriots playing the Colts in New England. You end up taking the less “sure’ bet to save the Pats, and then losing with a top team effectively sitting on your bench. Plus, it is no guarantee, you think the guys who saved Green Bay felt good two years ago when they went on the road in Week 14 to play the last place Chiefs? I bet they were, and they all lost. Which brings me to my next point.
5. Avoid road teams if possible. Most upsets occur when a home team plays out of its ass and gives the home fans one good game in a horrible season, like the Chiefs example above. I’m too lazy to get stats on this, but I’m basing this on personal experience and years of gambling losses.
6. It isn’t so much finding the great teams but just going against the lousy ones. Every year there are the NFL bottom dwellers. Start the season taking the teams that are clearly stacked when they are home, particularly if they are against rookie QBs who rarely win on the road (See prior disclaimer for stats). After a few weeks, this year’s versions of the 2011 Rams, Colts and Bucs (After October) will be revealed. Then just load up against them.
Play your cards right, and you will have weekly gambling action, a chance at a big payday, and an intact marriage.