How to Dominate Your 'Bachelor' Fantasy League (Even If You Don't Watch)

the bachelorette
ABC/Craig Sjodin

The 14th season of The Bachelorette, starring Becca "Let's Do the Damn Thing" Kufrin, kicks off on Memorial Day, and also means the return of our real national pastime: Bachelor Fantasy League. Yes, for each new cycle of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, 10 of my closest friends and I spend an admittedly excessive number of hours agonizing over and betting on which realtor, dental hygienist, or personal trainer will find love on the long-running ABC reality shows.

We're not alone. Groups of friends have been informally betting on winners since The Bachelor's inception back in 2002, but it's jumped to a new level in the past few years. The first online game and one of the most well known, The Bachelor Bracket, started in 2013 and now has more than 70 million accounts created. Many news sites now create custom printable brackets each season for groups to use. And even ABC cashed in, when it created its Bachelor Fantasy League ahead of Nick Viall's season in 2017.

Sure, it's a little ridiculous, but I'm not ashamed to say I've gotten oddly good at it -- I've won my league four of the past five seasons. I'm no relationship expert or love guru or psychologist, either. And, no, I don't read Reality Steve. The reason I win every year is pretty simple: data.

It's well known that, while The Bachelor franchise isn't scripted, it's heavily edited. Ten-plus years of watching can make you great at reading between the lines of the edit and picking up on the signals the show can send about a cast member's fate. But if you take it a step further and analyze the numbers behind every season of the shows, you'll find data-driven trends right in the first episode every year that are infinitely more reliable than any hunch you'll have watching the show.

Seasoned Fantasy League veterans often stalk the cast members on social media or endlessly re-watch the "This season on The Bachelorette" promo clip after the premiere to find clues about the season's future to increase their chances of winning. But if you know what to look for, you don't have to be a certified member of Bachelor Nation or even a casual fan of the show to win your friends' pool (and maybe even some money).

While each fantasy league is a little different, they all follow the general premise of a March Madness bracket. You lock in picks for which cast members you think will make it through each elimination rose ceremony and get points for each contestant you choose correctly, with the points increasing after each round. Here are the five things to pay attention to in The Bachelorette premiere to help you skip the time-consuming social-media stalking and still dominate your Bachelor Fantasy League this year:

the bachelorette
ABC/Paul Hebert

Limo order matters!

Every season of the show begins more or less the same way, with a ton of men or women pulling up to the mansion in a limousine and introducing themselves one by one to the Bachelor or Bachelorette in question. When 2013 Bachelor Sean Lowe released his book, For the Right Reasons: America's Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First, he announced what many fans had been suspecting for years: the order of the limousines matters. Apparently, producers sent him out of the limo first because they thought he stood a good chance of winning. Does this theory actually hold true? The data certainly supports it. Over the past 12 seasons of The Bachelor, two-thirds of the cast members with the first limo entrance made it to the final four.

The last contestant out of the limo has historically been another safe bet. Prior to Season 21 of The Bachelor, 61% of cast members with the final entrance made it to the final four. But be careful: This number has dropped to roughly 44% over the past few seasons as producers have, beginning with Alexis and her infamous shark costume, instead saved the fan-favorite gimmick entrances for last.

Update: Colton, a football player from Colorado, was first out of the limo in the premiere. Chris, accompanied by a choir, was last.

the bachelorette
ABC/Paul Hebert

First impressions are important!

Ah, the First Impression Rose. Introduced in the fifth season of The Bachelor and the fourth season of The Bachelorette, this magical rose and its promise of immediate safety from the first round of cuts incites the ungodly egos, sassy clapbacks and petty drama that makes this show such a wonderful disaster. The First Impression Rose is meant to go to the contestant that the Bachelor or Bachelorette feels an immediate connection with after the first, stress-inducing cocktail party. It turns out "love at first sight" might be real after all. In the 27 Bachelor franchise seasons with First Impression Roses, 63% of recipients have made it to the final four.

Surprising no one, Bachelorettes are considerably better than Bachelors at recognizing long-term potential from an initial introduction. In all, 70% of men who received the First Impression Rose from the Bachelorette made it to hometowns, with 50% of them actually winning. Just under 59% of the women given a First Impression Rose from the Bachelor made it to the final four, but only one in 17 seasons also got the all-important final rose: Catherine Giudici from Season 17, but that season was an outlier in that nearly half the women received a First Impression Rose.

Update: Garret got Becca's First Impression Rose.

the bachelorette
ABC/Paul Hebert

Pay attention to the backstories

Within the first 20 minutes of the premiere episode, ABC selects a set number of cast members, usually five to eight, to receive a little extra attention with short 30-45-second backstory clips. These clips have the cast members leading tours of their hometowns, showing off their strange hobbies, and telling the personal sob stories. It's your first insight into the personalities of the cast, and it's one of the most accurate predictors of who'll make it to the final four.

It makes sense, right? Why would producers spend extra time introducing you to cast members who aren't sticking around for a while? In the past 16 seasons, approximately 63% of hometown (final four) cast members had some form of supplemental backstory clip shown, as did over 56% of season winners. Among those featured in clips, keep your eye out for the person with a semi-tragic backstory looking for love again that a producer is most likely building up for a season-long arc.

Copper: The King of Barkfest! ❤️ #thebachelorette

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Season 13's Rachel Lindsey on her first one-on-on date with contestant Peter Kraus.

Pay attention to the first one-on-one date

It's Reality Show 101 that the producers pick a contestant for the first one-on-one date up to set them up to be an audience favorite for the season. They almost always go for someone soft-spoken, charming (but not too charming) and exceedingly relatable (sweet and simple Caila from Ben Higgins' season is the perfect example of this). It's a stark contrast to the mansion drama the audience is usually being shown by that point.

That extra, extended one-on-one time with the Bachelor or Bachelorette out of the gate is also a major advantage for the lucky contestant. Of the men and women selected for that first one-on-one date each season, 50% made it to the final four. One of the challenges cast members face in surviving the first few rounds of the show is simply finding enough one-on-one time with the Bachelor or Bachelorette that he or she remembers them come rose ceremony time. On a show where the most cliche answer to why a contestant is sent home is that "the relationship just isn't progressing as quickly as the others," an early one-on-one date usually ensures the momentum most cast members need to stick around for at least a few weeks.

But it's not necessarily a great indicator of who will ultimately win. On the most recent season of The Bachelor, new Bachelorette Becca K. became just the first contestant with the first one-on-one date to actually win (well, kind of -- Arie Luyendyk Jr. infamously changed his mind weeks later). The producer-picked audience favorite just rarely ends up being the Bachelor's or Bachelorette's first choice. That would be too easy.

after the final rose

The game begins "After the Final Rose"

This one is a new wrinkle on the limo order question. When Rachel Lindsay was announced as the new Bachelorette in 2017, during the "After the Final Rose" live special for Nick Viall's season, ABC mixed things up by bringing up four of her future suitors to meet her right then and there. Two of them ended up making it to the final four. ABC did the same thing with Becca, introducing her to a small group of guys during this year's "After the Final Rose" special. While one season isn't enough to make a compelling argument for this as a predictor, I still think it's something to keep an eye out for. Personally, I'm betting on Lincoln the Brit and Blake, the guy with the horse, to go pretty far.

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Margaret Derby is a Program Manager at CARE by day and a Bachelor fan girl by night. When she’s not watching trashy reality TV, you’ll find her reading less trashy books or obsessively browsing Google Flights in attempts to plan her next vacation.