How to Set Up an Office Pool For NFL Playoffs and Other Sporting Events

Office pools are good-natured fun that appeals to sports fans and non-sports fans alike. If your workplace has never hosted a betting pool, or if you’ve been asked to serve as “commissioner” this Super Bowl season, there are a few things you need to know to make for a winning, morale-building event.

First and most importantly, be sure you’re not breaking any rules: neither the gambling laws of your state nor the guidelines of your place of employment. Then, let the fun begin!

This person who runs the office pool is usually called the “commissioner.” But don’t get too full of yourself: Being the commissioner is not all fun and games. Not only do you have to keep track of the game stats, you must also make sure the participants are getting their picks and money in on time. (The commissioner is usually also allowed to participate in the betting.)

The most common time for office pools is during the NFL playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl, or NCAA basketball’s March Madness, but pools may also be held for hockey, college games or virtually any other event.

At least a week before the playoffs, the commissioner should begin to round up the players, being sure to invite everyone to participate. (Office pools should be a welcome escape from office politics!) Make sure everyone agrees upon the game setup and wagering amounts.

If you’re hosting a NFL playoffs pool, you’ll need to make a Super Bowl bracket or find one to download and print online. In 2009, the AFC and NFC divisional playoffs begin Jan. 10, and the season culminates with the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. For each game, have participants say which team they think will win (and, perhaps, the point spread) and as the games are played keep track of who’s winning-both among the pro football teams and in the office pool.

Another common office pool game is the betting grid. Depending on the number of people playing in your office, create or find online an office pool grid with 25, 50 or 100 squares. Set a limit (which you can raise after everyone has had a shot) on how many squares each player can buy, as well as a price. ($1 to $5 per square is common.) Have each participant write his or her name in the square(s) purchased. Once the grid is full, randomly draw numbers from 0 to 9 and write them across the top of the grid. Then, draw again and write the new numbers along the left edge of the grid. Make copies of the grid for everyone to take home so they can track it on game day. The last digit of the score at each quarter, the half and the final score is what counts. The winner is the player whose name is where the two teams’ scores meet on the X and Y grid. Agree beforehand how the payoff will be split among winners.

You can also make use of printable tournament brackets year-round if your office softball (or other sports) team participates in single-elimination or double-elimination tournaments, or for personal or league use. Look for templates that are in PDF or .DOC (Microsoft Word) form so you can write on or customize them as the tournament progresses.

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