Different March Madness Pool Ideas

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One of the big questions when March Madness (the National Collegiate Athletic Association's basketball tournament) comes around is whether or not a March Madness pool is legal. In some states, such as Vermont, laws have been passed to allow offices and individuals to hold legal March Madness gambling pools. The pool is only deemed legal if done in a winner-takes-all format. Before participating in a March Madness pool, make sure that it is legal in your state.

Button Pool

  • For a March Madness pool, have the pool organizers create buttons of the teams that the participants pick to win the tournament. These buttons can be special ordered or created by a crafty member of the office or group of friends. Each participant wears a button that shows which team he picks to win it all. This lets the members of the pool see which team people have picked to win the tourney. When a team is eliminated, any pool members who picked that team can remove their buttons. The winner of the pool can proudly wear his button as long as he wishes. This pool can also include the drawing of the buttons at random.

Rewarding Upsets

  • In most pools, the participant who guesses the most winners correctly in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament usually ends up winning the pool. In an upset-rewarding pool, the scale is balanced to favor those who picked the biggest upsets correctly. An upset is when a lower seed defeats a higher seed. One way to reward a correctly picked upset is to give the participant points equal to the difference between the two seeds. For example, if a #12 seed beats a #5 seed, the participant who picks that upset would get seven points (instead of just one point). This value could double each round; if a participant picks a #13 seed to get to the Final Four and he is correct, he will be rewarded heavily for his choice.

Auction Pool

  • The standard pool can be anticlimactic after the first two rounds when many teams are eliminated. In an auction pool, each of the eight participants bids for the ownership of eight teams (this would need to be changed slightly with the new advent of the 68-team format). Participants bid higher for the teams that are more likely to win and almost nothing for the teams with little to no chance. As an example, each participant has a total of $25 to bid in total. Once each participant has his eight teams, he wins points for each team that wins. The point values rise after each round. When a team a player has selected wins a game in the first round, he receives $2.50. The values goes up to $3 in the second round, $4 in the third round, $5 in the fourth round, $6 in the fifth round and $8 in the finals. A player who picks a team that wins the championship will receive $28.50 for winning in every round plus he will receive money for each of his other teams that won. The system is complicated but it does give multiple players a chance to come out on top of the initial $25 bet.


  • Before the brackets are decided, it is impossible to know which teams will be on which side. By holding a pool before the brackets are chosen, this makes the choices completely random. For example, in this type of pool a participant might choose Midwest seed #1 to beat Midwest seed #16 (without knowing who the seeds will be). Have all participants choose their winners at random. One participant might have the #3 seed from the Midwest as the winner while another chooses the #1 seed from the Southeast bracket. Participants won't find out who they've picked to win the tourney until the brackets are later announced.




  • Photo Credit basketball image by sonya etchison from Fotolia.com

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