How to Play in DraftKings NFL Survivor Pools in 2023

DraftKings is offering five different NFL survivor contests for Week 1 of the 2023 season, plus multiple second-chance survivor pools.

DraftKings has expanded their survivor offerings for 2023

For 2023, DraftKings is offering five different survivor contests at different price points for Week 1, as well as 2nd chance pools that start in Week 2. You can see a description of all four at the DraftKings Survivor Pools page. (This is a substantial increase in the variety of offerings compared to last year.)

As a site that specializes in NFL survivor pool picks and strategy advice, we wanted to provide some high-level thoughts about how to win pools like these. Our subscribers have reported winning over $5.7 million in prize money in survivor pools since 2017, including some big victories in larger pools.

First we’ll review the basic rules and parameters of the various DraftKings survivor contests, then provide some strategy tips. If you want our weekly pick recommendations this pool or any other survivor pools you enter, check out our NFL Survivor Picks product.

DraftKings Survivor Contest Basics

Here are the details for this year’s DraftKings Survivor contests.

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Overall Contest Rules

The DraftKings 2023-24 NFL Survivor Pools utilize mostly basic standard survivor rules. Each entry must successfully pick one winner each week. If your pick loses its game, you are eliminated. (However, if your pick ties, it advances, which was added as a rule after some controversy in 2021.)

You can only pick each NFL team once over the course of the 18-week regular season. However, you can pick against teams as often as you would like. The winner is the entry (or entries) that survive the longest.

The pick deadline each week is 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, unless you are picking a team who plays in a game that starts prior to that deadline.

Five Different Week 1 Contests

The five different contests offer quite the range of entry fee price points, different rules on number of entries, and different guaranteed prize amounts.

Here is a summary of each (data on number of entries in contest pulled as of 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, September 5th):

Contest TitleEntry FeeMax EntriesGuaranted PrizesTotal Entries (9/5)
Micro NFL Survivor$150$25,00048,220 (100%+)
Mini NFL Survivor $1025$100,00015,711 (100%+)
Main Event NFL Survivor$10025$1,000,0005,207 (52%)
High Roller NFL Survivor$1,00010$100,000118 (100%+)
The Ultimate NFL Survivor$10,0002$100,0002 (20%)

The addition of multiple lower-cost contests (the Micro and the Mini) and the higher-cost entries (the High Roller and Ultimate) and are new for 2023, and DraftKings has also expanded the number of entries for each contestant.

The Micro and Mini have already exceeded the entry numbers to go above the guaranteed payout amounts, as has the High Roller, so the prize purses in those contests will continue to rise. The Main Event is only just over half-filled with five days until the contest closes. The Ultimate only has two entries so far.

All of these contests have a 2nd chance version (with a lower guaranteed amount) that will start in Week 2, with the exception of the Ultimate.

Who Is Eligible?

Anyone of legal age who can submit picks in a jurisdiction where DraftKings Sportsbook is offering the contest. Right now, this includes participants in the following states:

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

You have to be geo-located in one of these jurisdictions to both enter the contests, and to enter your weekly survivor picks.

What Is the Prize Payout?

The guaranteed prize payout differs across the four different contests.

The Micro contest has a guaranteed prize pool of $25,000. It has an administrative fee of 15%, which means if DraftKings has more than 25,000 entries, the prize amount will not go above $25,000 until 29,412 entries have entered.

The Mini contest has a guaranteed prize pool of $100,000, and also has an administrative fee of 15%.

The $100 entry fee contest has a $1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool and a 10% administrative fee.

The $1,000 entry fee contest has a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool and a 6% administrative fee.

The last entry standing will claim the prize. If multiple entries make it to the end of the season, they will split the prize pool equally. If the final entries are also all eliminated in the same week, they will also split the prize pool equally, in all of these contests.

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DraftKings Survivor Contest Strategy

Understand Large Pool Strategy for the Micro, Mini, and Main Event

The Micro ($1 entry fee) is at nearly 50,000 entries and climbing, and will certainly exceed that by contest close. The Mini ($10 entry fee) is at nearly 16,000 with several days to go. The Main Event ($10 entry fee) could have some overlay depending on how many contestants rush to that contest late, but already has over 5,000 entries.

Strategy for survivor pools with hundreds or thousands of entries can be vastly different from how you should approach a smaller pool among your officemates or friends. We have a survivor strategy guide with articles on a variety of topics, so you should check that out if you want to dig deeper.

Pools with over 1,000 entries have the lowest win rate because of the number of competitors you have to beat. But there is a silver lining; based on our extensive historical data on subscriber pools, they also offer the biggest hypothetical edge.

In large pools, our subscribers have won 7.5 times as much money as you would expect compared to a typical entrant in those contests.

Last year, our subscribers reported winning a prize in contests with over 1,000 entries at a rate 11.6 times higher than the average contestant should expect.

You almost certainly have to make it to the end with an 18-0 record in these contests, given the size, and the lack of any multiple pick weeks or any other rules twists. You are also probably looking at pot split situations, so set realistic expectations on what the ultimate payout per entry could be.

In the Micro contest, for example, the increasing number of entries doesn’t change the math that much. It just means that both the purse and the number of entries that should make it through Week 18 is increasing. You should probably view that as a contest where you are playing to win $1,000, give or take, if your $1 entry can make it to the end. You aren’t playing for the full $40,000+ that prize purse will be at, because it would be extremely unlikely for only one winner to emerge from over 50,000 entries, with no specialized rules twists like late multi-pick weeks.

It may also be worth checking back in on the Second Chance contests to see if those entry sizes are a little smaller and give you a chance to win without a pot split at the end of Week 18.

High Roller: Balance of Value and Future

The High Roller contest is just over 100 entries right now.  Using our estimates from our “How Long is Your NFL Survivor Pool Expected to Last?” article, the median expectation should be that this contest goes deep into the year (Weeks 16 or 17) but is more likely than not to end with a solo winner or before Week 18. But it could finish with multiple entries splitting the pot after an 18-0 season, and it could also end by about Thanksgiving if it’s a year with lots of highly popular teams getting wiped out.

But even if it extends into the final weeks of the season, it will likely be down to the end-game strategy portion with just a handful of entries remaining by the final month.

You will still need to manage future value since the median expectation should be having to make some December picks to win, but it may not be to the level of the massively-sized lower entry fee contests. You will also want to balance value and playing against the crowd to benefit if the wipeouts do come and the contest ends earlier.

The Ultimate: Small Pool Values

If you decide to play the Ultimate ($10,000 entry fee), it’s a completely different game. You very much will be playing the value game and shouldn’t worry about the December schedules. This is the type of contest size that could be decided by early October depending on the specific teams picked, and should on average last into the middle of the season.

So you are really going to want to play the Expected Value game and make picks that give you the best chance now if your opponents are concentrated on one to two teams in a given week, and the chance of winning outright exist in the first half of the season.

The remainder of the advice below is primarily applicable to the Micro, Mini, Main Event, and High Roller contests.

Be Willing to Take Early Risks

If your primary focus is to avoid risk in a large survivor pool, you will have a difficult time winning.

If there are exactly 10,000 entries in one of these DraftKings contests, you have a baseline 1-in-10,000 chance of winning the full prize amount. Those extremely low odds are offset by the upside of winning a huge sum of money if you can outthink, outluck, and outlast your opponents.

Survivor pools are risky ventures. Even picking the biggest favorite each week often gets you knocked out by Week 6. In a typical year, over half of all entries are out of survivor pools nationwide by the end of Week 3.

You win survivor pools by making correct picks while your opponents get eliminated, not by frequently making the same picks as everyone else. You have to be willing to take on a little more risk for a bigger payoff.

Note that we say “a little more risk.” We don’t want you to confuse that with being reckless. You don’t need to go out and pick seven-point underdogs each week to win these DraftKings contests.

But you can often increase your expected winnings from a pool like this one by taking an unpopular six-point favorite, while a lot of other entries are taking an eight-point favorite. You do want to make a combination of picks that can both give you a fighting chance to get through the pool while also benefitting when the crowd gets wiped out by popular picks that lose, reducing the number who could ultimately split the pot.

Use Pick Popularity To Guide Your Picks

How do you create value in survivor pools? You pick teams when others are less likely to pick them.

If a large chunk of the pool is concentrated on one team, you are one big upset away from making a huge leap in the pool. If you are part of the crowd picking the popular choice, you stand to benefit far less even if the team advances.

The best survivor picks are those where your team has high odds of winning while others are heavily concentrated on different teams. To know when these opportunities might present themselves, you need to be aware of public pick popularity.

Public pick popularity—the percentage of opponents expected to select each team—is a useful tool in estimating how your opponents will behave. Public pick popularity data is based on how people are actually picking in survivor pools on a variety of big pool-hosting sites.

When someone sets a pick for the week, that information is recorded and becomes part of the public data. At TeamRankings, we gather data from multiple sites. That allows us to estimate how frequently each team is being selected in survivor pools every week.  

You may have fluctuations in how a small group of entries behave. But in a large NFL survivor contest like the DraftKings pools, the behavior of the crowd is going to closely resemble what we see across the public pick popularity data.

Using that info is a powerful tool to find out where your picks have the most bang for the buck.

Plan On Having To Survive The Season

Lots of survivor players focus on surviving the current week and will worry about the future if they get there. If you think bigger picture, you’ll have an edge over opponents with such a mentality.

Since 2010, the median cumulative survival rate through 17 weeks is 0.4%. That means 4-in-1000 entries, on average, get through a full regular season. The NFL expanded to an 18-week schedule in 2021, and over each of the last two years, we’ve seen only about 1-in-1000 entries make it to the end.

Given the potentially large sizes we are talking about for the first three DraftKings contests, that means that there will likely be several entries that get through in the $1 contest, and probably multiple that will make it in the $10 and $100 contest, depending on how large those pools get.

That means you have to be prepared to use 18 different teams. You cannot just rely on picking the biggest favorites all year. Odds are, you will have to use some mediocre or even bad teams at some point to win this thing.

Understanding this harsh reality allows you to attack the contest with a better strategy than most.

Use Teams When They Offer The Most Value

If you will likely need to pick 18 different teams to win, how should you choose which one to use each week? You should pick teams when their value is the highest.

Let’s say you know Buffalo will have a 75% or higher chance of winning in several different weeks. Would you rather use them when 40% of opponent entries are picking them, or when 10% are?

You should prefer the latter, because that will often means that your opponents  on a few other risker teams—likely because they’ve already used Buffalo.

To maximize your season-long competitive position, you typically will want to try to avoid using a great team when they are highly popular early on in the DraftKings contest. You would benefit immediately if there is a big upset, and you will have that team available in the future when a lot of your competitors won’t.

Play a Smart Portfolio Strategy

DraftKings has expanded their maximum number of entries allowed in their survivor contests, allowing you to use a portfolio approach and diversify to increase your overall odds of cashing. The $1 contest allows up to 50 entries, and given the expected overall size of that contest, maxing it out is fine. Same with the $10 and $100 entry contests, which are maxed at 25 entries.

For the $1,000 entry contest, you probably want to be more judicious with how many entries you play. The optimal number of entries will depend on the overall pool size. You probably don’t want to go too much higher than 3% of all entries in the contest, even though the max is 10 total.

Our customized pick recommendations will support up to 30 picks each week, and will use a portfolio approach to optimizing how you distribute your teams across all pools. The $1 contest exceeds that amount, but if you don’t want to play for a second subscription, you can proportionally divide the early week entries. So if we told you to use 12 entries on Minnesota, 8 on Seattle, 6 on Washington, and 4 on Baltimore, you would just use those same ratios across the additional entries. Then, once you got below 30 total entries, you could set up a “new” pool and only enter the entries that are still alive.

Get All The Data At Your Fingertips

If you’re serious about winning survivor pools—from the DraftKings Survivor Pools to the 25-person pool with your buddies from college—we’ve built the most comprehensive set of tools and technology for making the smartest survivor pool picks.

TeamRankings provides tools that evaluate the Expected Value of each pick. We assess the future value of saving teams and do not use a cookie-cutter approach to simply give you the same advice regardless of what type of contest you are in.

We customize pick recommendations for your survivor pools based on the size of the pool, as well as any optional rules like strikes or multiple pick weeks. Plus, we’ve built interactive tools like our Data Grid, Season Planner, and EV Calculator to help you strategize and analyze your way to the biggest edge.

To learn more, check out our NFL Survivor Picks.