How to Run an NCAA Tournament Pool


The NCAA men's college basketball tournament is a month-long event that captivates sports fans around the country. One reason is the NCAA tournament pool. Entrants fill out blank NCAA tournament brackets, choosing the winner of all 63 games during the tournament. Knowing the basics of running such a pool is key to keeping those participating in your pool happy.

  • Determine the maximum number of people you want in the pool. Factors that impact this decision are whether the pool is just for members of your office and if you're hosting the pool using an Internet service--such as Yahoo!, ESPN or CBS Sportsline. Knowing the “cut-off” number before you tell others about the pool gives you the option of declining entry into the tournament pool at your discretion. However, there doesn't have to be a limit at all.

  • Choose the entry fee. Consult with friends and other potential entrants before setting this fee so people are not dissuaded from entering the pool.

  • Locate and print blank NCAA tournament brackets for everyone participating in the pool. While those in the pool can locate their own brackets using the Internet or from a newspaper, it doesn't hurt to acquire a few extra brackets just in case. Popular sports websites such as ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sportsline and all offer printable brackets after “selection Sunday”--the Sunday before the start of the NCAA tournament, which is always on a Thursday.

  • Determine a scoring system. Some pool organizers increase the points awarded for each round. For example, award 1 point for every correct pick in the first round, 2 points in the second round, then 3, 5, 10 and 15. Some people do not weight the points, awarding the same number of points in each round. Make sure participants know the rules before they enter.

  • Decide on a “tiebreaker” in case it becomes necessary. Doing so ensures only one person wins the pool. In most Internet pools, the tiebreaker is the total points of the final score in the NCAA championship game.

  • Choose how winnings will be distributed to the winner or winners. Some pools pay out just the person who wins the entire contest. Others pay the top two or three winners. An example might be 80 percent of the money to the winner, 15 percent for second place and 5 percent for third. The system you use is largely determined by the number of participants.

  • Create a cut-off time for the collection of both brackets and money. Most Internet pools have a cut-off time of noon on the first day of the tournament, when the first game tips off. Collecting the money along with the brackets ensures nobody backs out of the pool once the tournament begins.

  • Tally the total wins/points at the end of each game, set of games or round. The time you choose to check the brackets is up to you, but you'll find most people will want to know who is winning at the end of each day of the tournament.

Tips & Warnings

  • Tell participants to make a photocopy of their brackets, or do it for them. Doing so will quell any “misunderstandings” while determining the winner of the pool.
  • Consider using an Internet pool service. These websites allow you to create private pools just for you and your friends and co-workers. Rules are determined by the creator of the pool (you, in this instance), and the website automatically tallies total points for each bracket, making your job much easier and less time consuming. It also ensures results will be accurate, with no math errors, for example.

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