Jackpot!
By Colin Dowling
August 9th, 2011

Many of you play in "money" leagues wherein various prizes and awards are handed out at season's end. Usually, the league winner, runner up, playoff qualifiers, and high-point team earn a few bucks as a result of their team's success.

However, sometimes standard payouts can become a bit of a bore, especially as the season wears on and it becomes evident to certain owners that the chance of them recouping their initial investment is rapidly disappearing.

As a result, it is sometimes necessary to find new and interesting ways to keep people involved in the league right up until the end of the season and the standard "Toilet Bowl" between non-playoff teams often isn't enough.

Here are a few ideas to consider for addition to your league. I've used all of them at one time or another and have found that not only do most teams remain interested, but the camaraderie, discussion and banter they generate can be just as entertaining as the standard scoring/award structures present in most leagues. I've also added a few more ideas that I've gathered since last year from talking to friends and FootballGuys around the country.

*Note: "A few dollars" means a small sum that everyone in the league agrees on. A buck, a twenty, whatever is good for you and your fellow owners.

Jackpots

Worst Owner Penalty - Each week, the owner with the greatest disparity between the points scored by the lineup he/she started and the points that could have been scored if he'd fielded his/her "best" lineup is required to add a few dollars to the league jackpot.

Hard Luck Award - Any team that wins their game by a smaller margin then one touchdown (6 fantasy points in most leagues) has to pay a couple dollars in to an ongoing pot. At season's end, the team with the smallest average losing margin (i.e. only the margin in games that they lost) wins the Hard Luck Award and the corresponding side pot. We all know that sometimes you just get unlucky in certain weeks; this award helps soften the blow for owners that experienced close losses.

Positional Predictions - Prior to each game, each owner examines his/her opponent's squad and guesses whether the opponent's wide receivers or running backs will net a higher average point total. If he's right, there is no penalty. If he's wrong, he adds a couple dollars to the pot which can be applied to the league payout or the high-point payout. You'd think it would be easy to guess, but strange things happen every week, and you'd be surprised how much fun it is to watch a friend get riled up when a no name wide receiver has the game of his life the same week a star running back puts up a dud.

Team Predictions - Prior to a week's games, each owner chooses one NFL team and "owns" that offense for a week. No owner can select the same team. Selection order can be determined by random draw or waiver order, etc. The owner who chooses the team that scores the fewest offensive points that week in their NFL game adds a few dollars to the league jackpot.

Hedge the Bet - Prior to a week's game, each owner examines his opponent's roster and selects one player from that roster. If the selected player outscores all the players at the same position on the owner's own team, the original owner puts a few dollars in the pot. For example, my opponent has Adrian Peterson, who I choose as my "Hedge" player. That week, Peterson blows up and outscores all of my running backs by himself. My opponent is forced to put a few dollars in the pot as 'punishment' for benefiting from such a great performance at my expense.

Zero Penalty - Any time an owner starts a player that does not post a positive fantasy score for the week, they have to add a few dollars to the pot. This becomes particularly interesting when an owner has a bye-week challenge. It's also a good check-and-balance in dynasty leagues to keep folks from tanking late season games to gain a better draft position.

General Manager Pool - This one takes a little longer to process, but it can be a great deal of fun and keep things interesting all the way to season's end. Every trade and waiver acquisition needs a sum of money tied to it for the General Manager Pool to work. The easiest thing to do is for a dollar or two from each trade and waiver transaction to be set aside for the GM Pool. Only players acquired during in-season trade or waiver acquisition are eligible for this category. The acquiring owner gets a point (+1) for every fantasy point scored by a player they acquired in a trade or picked up off the waiver wire as long as they remain on his/her roster. The owner loses a point (-1) for every fantasy point scored by a player they either traded away or released. At the end of the season, the Owner with the highest score wins the General Manager pool. Aside from being fun, the GM Pool also helps maintain competitive balance as not-so-good-teams continue making moves throughout the season to increase their chances of winning the GM Pool.

Insurance - Owners can buy insurance on their top three picks. Insurance for first round selections costs 30% of the league entry fee. Second round selections cost 20% of the league entry fee. Third round selections cost 10% of the league entry fee. If the "insured" player is placed on Injured Reserve by his NFL team before the league's fantasy playoffs begin then the owner is refunded his or her league entry fee. For example, if Adrian Peterson is selected in the first round of a league with a $100 entry fee, then insurance on Peterson could be purchased for $30. If Peterson blows out his knee in week 5, then the owner is refunded the $100 entry fee (but not the insurance premium). And if the insured player makes it to the fantasy playoffs, the money paid for insurance is added to the league jackpot.

"Your Team Stinks" - After your draft but before the NFL season begins, owners can place bets on which team will finish with the fewest total points scored. The money in the "YOUR TEAM STINKS" pot is paid out evenly to anyone who correctly chose which team would be worst. If no one chooses the correct team, then the money is added to the league pool.

Trade Veto - This Jackpot can lead to hard feelings between owners but with the right group of thick-skinned friends, it can add a substantial amount of money to the pot and help make the league more competitive. In the event that a trade is pending between two teams, another owner can pay a substantial sum (20-30% of league entry fees is what I've most often encountered) to "block" the trade for a period of 4 weeks, after which the original trading owners can continue with the trade if they both choose. It's fun to see the top teams add more cash to the league pool as they jockey for advantages later in the season. And when you factor in that many in-season trades have no bearing on the outcome of the league, the TRADE VETO mechanism can add substantial fund to the league pool without drastically effecting how things shake out in the end.

Low Dog - Simply put, the team that scores the fewest points each week adds a few dollars to the pot. The money is added to the league pool. This is yet another way to keep teams from tanking late in the season.

Monday Madness - Emailed to me by a fellow FootballGuy last season, this Jackpot addition helps lesson the blow for folks that go to be Sunday ahead in their games and wake up Tuesday with a loss. In the Monday Madness edition of Jackpot, any owner that wins a game as a result of what happened on Monday night has to add a few bucks to the league pool. Of course the meaning of Monday's results is exclusive simply because of scheduling, but it can be a fun way to grow the league pool and keep interest a little deeper in to the week.

GM Award (simplified) - Another suggestion emailed to me last offseason. A fellow FootballGuy wrote that his league was going to try the "General Manager Pool" above and found it far too complicated and time-consuming to track with any accuracy. Instead, they simply had every transaction cost $1 from each participating team (so waiver adds would generate $1 while trades generated $2) and created a separate pool of the transaction money. At the end of the season, they sent out a league-wide email and took votes for which team had the best transactions for the season. The email contained a summary of key transactions for each team so league-mates could cast an informed vote.

More Monday Madness - Not mandatory, but each interested owner picks the "over" or "under" with regard to the total number of fantasy points scored on Monday night combined by BOTH NFL team's quarterbacks in relation to their own fantasy team's quarterback. Losers pay in, and winners get divide the spoils.

And now for a few more recently submitted "Jackpot" variations...

  • FBG Kurt Kunst: Our Toilet bowl features the non play-off teams, however the goal is not to win it. Basically, if you lose you advance, and the seedings are reversed based on standings with the last place team seeded #1. The winner is the one who loses all their play-off games. The winner is then responsible for bringing pizza and beer to the draft the next year. No tanking going on in the toilet bowl here!
  • FBG Sean Gilbert: It's really not an award but rather a $10 fine to any team that has a player on their roster or Team Defense get arrested, charged, convicted, sued or imprisoned during the season. Imprisoned is defined by, but not limited to; having a mug shot taken, handcuffed and brought to a local law enforcement office or spending an evening in the jail. We even have an "OJ amendment" wherein fines are reversed in the event charges are dropped or the player if found innocent. The event directly related to the charges, conviction, etc. must have taken place after the draft for that respective season. There is no limit to the number of awards handed out in a season.
  • FBG Reginald Arteigh: We pick a single player in each of the noon games, the 3pm games, and the Sunday night games. Whichever person's trio scores the fewest fantasy points pays $10 to whichever person's trio scored the most fantasy points that Sunday.
  • Some of these take some time to manage. Some may seem silly or pointless to you or something that wouldn't interest your leaguemates. No harm in that. But I know some folks have leagues of fantasy die-hards and longtime friends who are always looking for different ways to consume the great game of football together. If that's you and your league, give one or two of these a try. They can add some fun and make the jackpot a bit more full at season's end.

    Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to dowling@footballguys.com.

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