Running a March Madness Pool
by Matt Severance
It's that time of year, where your NCAA Tournament office pool turns everyone that fills out a bracket into a fledgling college basketball expert.
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So we're here at Doc's Sports to give you a "March Madness Pool for Dummies," so to speak. All you need to know about running a March Madness pool - and hopefully succeed in winning it.
First off, you will need to print out a bracket for all of your office cohorts to fill out. No doubt, even your boss will want to be part of it - in what other month than March will your boss condone gambling?? Here's where you can get one from Doc's: Printable March Madness Bracket
OK, send out that e-mail and put copies of those brackets in all of those office mailboxes - getting customers to join your pool is the first crucial step in running a March Madness pool. If you are wondering how much to charge, it really depends on how many people you expect to lure. Most times, it's either $5 or $10, although in this economy, it's really up to you. But make sure you collect the entry fee, if there is one, before the tournament starts, or you will be chasing that money for a month. Some don't charge money and offer a prize. I know of one company that gave its winning employee the day off for winning the office pool. Another sold bracket spots to advertisers and gave each advertiser that got a team into the Final Four a discounted rate. So, really, the prizes are left to your creativity.
That creativity also goes with scoring, although you certainly want to make the point total rise in each round. The standard scoring goes like this (always assigning points to each game winner): one point for Round 1 winners, two for Round 2 winners, four in Round 3 (Sweet 16 winners), six for Elite Eight winners, eight for Final Four winners and 10 for the national champion. Again, this is really up to you, but you want to significantly reward whomever gets the national champ and not just someone who got lucky in picking upsets in the first round or two.
You also won't want to bother with the play-in game, as there's just not enough time to turn around everyone's bracket by that Tuesday game following Selection Sunday.
You will want to e-mail out, or put up in the mailroom, the point totals after every weekend so people know where they stand. And obviously make sure that the contestants keep a copy of their bracket for themselves. You also will want to put out an original e-mail saying what each contestant predicted for the Final Four and national champion. You might be pondering doing all this online as opposed to the old print version, but I guarantee that if you are doing this in a large setting that you will encounter at least a few people who aren't comfortable doing this on the Internet or who will do it wrong and then refuse to pay. I think you will find doing it the old-fashioned way is still pretty fun. But at worst, you could have people fill out the brackets on paper and then input those results into one of those online sites that will tabulate it for you.
As for strategy, I won't pretend to have all the answers despite having won a few pools in my day.
I will say that all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just once since the field expanded to 64 in 1985 - and that was last year. There has been only one season where zero No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four - in 2006.
There almost always is an upset in one 5-12 game. Thirty-one times since 1985 a No. 12 has upset the No. 5 in the first round. But while there are plenty of upsets, it's still best to pick a No. 1 seed as your national champion. Since 1985, No. 1 seeds have won 14 championships.
Good luck in your pool, and stay with Doc's for game previews, etc.