Also known as Suicide Pool, Elimination, or Last Man Standing Leagues, the rules for a survivor are deceptively simple – just pick one winner each week from the list of NFL matchups on the schedule to win straight up. Point spreads don’t apply. The catch? You can’t select the same team twice. Unfortunately, many players forgo logic when it comes to playing in pools. To approach survivor pool intelligently, consider these tips:

1- Your ego may be your toughest opponent

Many players try to prove they are smarter than everyone else. The goal here isn’t to impress your friends, it’s about winning everything. If your pick wins, you move on to the next week. If you lose, you are out. Unlike a game of musical chairs, the last person standing gets the big prize. Choose the team that is most likely to win regardless of how it looks. Don’t try to pick a seven-point dog to win outright just so you can brag to your friends how sharp you are later. Don’t be scared to make the “public” pick because it looks square.

2- Wait till the last minute

There’s nothing wrong with mapping out a
long-term game plan early in the season. But a team that looks very strong might not be so powerful later in the season due to injuries, a slump, or a recent problem. Also, you don’t earn extra points by putting in your pick early in the week. Part of the game is positioning yourself apart from the other players. This can only happen when you have an idea of what other players are selecting.

3- Be wary of divisional games

It’s very difficult to predict the performance of a road team in a divisional contest. These games are often much closer than others because of grudges or revenge factors. These teams are familiar with their opponents. Upsets are more frequent in these games. Try to stay away from these games if you can, especially early in the season.

4- Let the point spread be your guide 

Online oddsmakers are very aware of how each team looks at any given time in the season, so you might as well let them do all the hard work and follow their leads. Select the team that is the biggest favorite of the week. Sound too simple? If your favorite is an underdog, the risk factor may be higher. Sometimes the smart play is to go with the experts’ opinion.

5- Play it safe

Players who win suicide pools are usually very disciplined, the ones who carefully minimize risks and analyze matchups like a clever handicapper. Focus on the teams with proven track records and favorable matchups. Playing it safe does not mean saving a strong team for later in the season. This will do you no good if you are eliminated.

6- There’s no place like home

Why choose a road team battling issues like travel, rest, and unfamiliar weather conditions when you can select a team playing at home? There are no guarantees, of course, but selecting powerful home favorites has proven to be extremely effective. This doesn’t mean that a 13-point home favorite should automatically be selected without any research, but these options should definitely rank at the top of your weekly list. Check the playing conditions. Know the stats. Spotting trends under the radar will give you an edge.

7- Fade the bad teams

Identifying the winners isn’t enough. If you want to advance into December, pay attention to the teams that are most likely to lose too. You’ll need to plan for a total of 17 wins to get to the money in a suicide pool. Keep a close eye on which clubs are playing disappointing teams, like the Jacksonville Jaguars or New York Jets, each week.

8- Beware of Thursday night games

Factors such as rest and travel distance can create an advantage for the home teams during Thursday night games, but the numbers may not reflect this. The 2012 NFL season quickly showed everyone that these contests can be more of a crapshoot than other games. If you can, avoid Thursday. The results have been unstable the last few seasons.