One of the most popular and fun betting styles when it comes to basketball,
specifically college basketball, is bracket betting. Every year the college or
NCCA basketball champion is determined by a 64 team tournament run in March.
This tournament is commonly referred to as March Madness, The Big Dance, and a
whole slew of other names that barely do it any justice. For college sports fans
or any sports fan for that matter, it is one of the greatest times of the year.
Billions of dollars are bet every year on the event, and one of the most popular
ways is the bracket bet. To fully understand this type of bet and how to get
involved, we need to make sure you understand the details of the tournament
The March Madness Tournament
Division I college basketball decides their champion in March and early April
of every year. 64 teams are invited to play in a single elimination style
tournament played over the course of a few weeks. There is a rigid selection
process for teams to get into the tournament as just making the tournament field
is an accomplishment of its own. The first 32 teams selected receive automatic
bids (entry) for winning their conference tournaments which are played right
before the big tournament. 30 of the remaining 32 slots are awarded by a
selections committee that votes based on a wide variety of criteria to give the
slots to the best teams that deserve it. The remaining two slots are given to
the winners of two play-in games. The four teams deserving of the last two slots
will play, and the winning two teams will secure the last two slots in the
Teams are placed into four different regions based on seeding. The four best
teams are given number one seedings and are each placed in one of the four
brackets. The same goes all the way through 16 with each region having 16 teams
ranked 1-16. The teams are matched up to play based on a lot of criteria, but
the main gist is the better your seed, the easier your route to the
championship. For example, the one seed gets to play the 16 seed in the first
round. This should be a much easier game for them than having to play any of the
other teams in their bracket. This is done to reward regular season play.
Once teams are placed into the bracket, that is their fixed spot for the
tournament. There is never any reseeding at any point in the tournament. Each
region will play down to a winner who will then face the winner of one of the
other regions. The two winners of those games will face off in the championship.
The tournament is single elimination. Lose one game, and you are out.
The stages of the tournament are referred to as different rounds. The first
four games to get the last two slots in the 64 are referred to as the First Four
Games and are NOT considered the first round. They tried to refer to this as the
first round for a couple of years, and it was too confusing. Each team will play
twice in a weekend if they win their games. Here are the different rounds and
how many teams are playing in each.
Round of 64
This is the opening round with all 64 teams competing.
Round of 32
This is the second round of the tournament with all winners of
their first game competing.
This is all the winners of the Round of 32 competing.
This is the fourth round of the tournament with the Sweet 16
This is the fifth round of the tournament and a remarkable
achievement for a team to reach. The winners of these two games will play for
This is the final game. The winner of this single game is the
Basketball Bracket Bets – How They Work
Basketball bracket bets are simple and complex all at the same time. Most of
all they’re a lot of fun. After the teams have been selected and put into their
slots on the bracket, you will pick the winner of every game all the way through
the championship. This all takes place before the first game is even played. You
may be wondering how you will know who will play in the next round games?
Because there is no reseeding, you are able to “piggyback” off of your
earlier round picks to make your next round picks and so on. Basically, the more
correct picks you make in each round, the more opportunities you have to get
correct picks in the following rounds. You will have a projected champion
selected before the first game even starts. Certain point denominations are
awarded in each round for each correct pick. We will talk more in a minute about
Let’s look at a simplified example to make this clearer. Each of the four
regions is going to have 16 teams in it. We are going to look at one sample
region. Keep in mind that you will basically be doing this for all four regions
and then also picking the winners of the games that are played between each
region in the final four. Each team is placed into their prospective slot
based on their seeding. As you can see, the number one seed gets an easy game
playing the 16 seed and so on and so forth. We have “named” each team after
their seed to make things easier in this example. (The number one seed is also
named “Team 1” for this example).
When the bracket comes out, you can easily see the first round games that you
are supposed to pick. We are going to focus on the top two games in particular,
but the same things we will see apply to the entire region, all future rounds,
and all other regions throughout the entire bracket. We decide that we think
Team 1 will beat Team 16 and we also decide that Team 8 will beat Team 9. So we
will select them and write them in on the next two lines like this
Remember all of this is taking place before the first game is played. We now
need to pick a winner of the second round game between Team 1 and Team 8. Let’s
say we think Team 1 will win. We will put them on the next line and continue
this for every game in the entire bracket all the way to the championship.
Let’s look at a few outcomes that will make this even clearer. Let’s say Team
1 absolutely blows it and Team 16 beats them in the first round. We would get no
points for a correct pick there. Let’s also say that Team 9 beat Team 8,
so we get no points for that first round pick either. We’re now unable to get
ANY points in the second round game between Team 16 and Team 9 because we have
Team 1 winning that game.
None of our picks can be changed once they are set before the tournament, so
you are just out of luck here. This does happen a lot so prepare yourself for
it. If we then selected Team 1 to win the next game on the bracket, we would not
be able to get any points there either. All of your future picks are dependent
on your earlier picks which are what makes bracket bets so interesting.
Let’s say that Team 1 DID win the first game, but Team 8 lost. This is what
the bracket would like going into the second round.
In this scenario, we can still get our second round points if Team 1 beats
Team 9 in the second round game. The only points we would miss out on if they do
were the first round points between Team 8 and Team 9.
As we said earlier, you are awarded points for making correct picks. The
player with the most points at the end of the entire tournament is the winner.
Depending on which bracket league you are playing in, the points will be
somewhat different. The typical way they are laid out is more points are awarded
for later round picks. For example, you may get one point for every correct pick
in the first round, and then you might get three points for a correct second
round pick and so on. Some leagues will also award additional points for picking
upsets (IE: One seed losing to a 16 seed).
These point systems will vary with every league there is, but they usually
will follow this same line. What is most important is to look at the rules and
the scoring before making your picks. Certain scoring systems will push you to
take more chances while others will push you to be more conservative. We will
cover that more in depth in the strategy and tips section below.
Basketball Bracket Bets – How the Betting Works
Bracket bets are done in a few different ways. The one thing that is
consistent with all bracket bets is that you are competing against other
players, not the house. Players pay an entry fee and then compete to get the
most points out of the group. The two methods of betting are either in a private
group with friends, family, and coworkers or in a big pool on an internet gaming
site. Both of these are run exactly the same, there are just a few differences.
A private group amongst friends is usually a lot smaller with smaller payouts
for the winner. You might have 15-20 people paying $10 or $20 to play, with
first place getting a couple hundred dollars and maybe second place getting a
few bucks back. Online bracket pools typically are much larger with all
different buy-in sizes. You might have a bracket pool online with the same $20
buy-in, but it might have 1000 people in it. That means the total prize pool is
$20,000 and first place is probably getting somewhere around $5,000 with the top
10% of finishers getting something.
Which format should you play? Honestly, it is completely up to you.
Personally, we play both as we like the fun and camaraderie of the small private
groups, but we also like the rush and potential gains of the big tournaments.
You can also find higher buy-in bracket pools online if you’re really confident
in your picks.
The important things to remember about either format are the following:
Don’t be late. All of your picks must be in and finalized BEFORE the start
of the first game. In most formats, this will be before the first game of the
round of 64, but in a few rare instances, they include the play-in games which
are a day or two earlier.
You will not be paid out until the entire tournament is over. Even if
you’re a lock to win, you won’t be paid until the entire event is over. It’s
only a few weeks and usually, comes down to the wire between a few players.
Benefits of Basketball Bracket Bets
Every Game Matters
The biggest benefit of bracket bets is they suddenly make every single game
important to you. Unless you went to school at one of the schools, the game
between Northwest Southern Third Left Middle School College vs. Upper Third
North Texas the Fourth University might not be important to you. With bracket
bets, though, this game is just as important as the rest during the first round.
If you’re someone who is looking for action and enjoyment, this covers every
single game of the tournament with one bet.
Bracket bets can be extremely profitable mainly because they attract so many
amateurs or recreational gamblers. These recreational gamblers will do no
homework on most of the games and are much more likely just to pick their
favorite teams. Because of this, most of the brackets entered are going to be
extremely easy for you to beat with just a little bit of homework on the games.
If you are an expert on college basketball, you can stand to make a lot of money
by dominating bracket bet pools online.
Weeks of Fun
Not only does every game become important for only one bet, you get to enjoy
games that matter to you for the entire month of March. If your bracket does
well, the excitement goes up as the month moves into the later rounds. Even if
you’re a serious bettor looking to make a profit, you can’t deny that these bets
are some of the most fun ones you will make all year.
Tips and Strategy Advice
Use Your Time Wisely
If you have all of the time in the world, then spend all of the time in the
world on each game to make the best prediction possible. If you don’t have all
the time in the world, you need to be strategic about where you spend your time.
Focus on the first round games with teams that you think are going to go deeper
in the tournament. As each pick piggybacks off the earlier round, it’s important
to get as many teams that will be going deep in the tournament through. Some of
these will be fairly easy to pick like the 1 seed vs. 16 seed games, but some
like the 8 vs. 9 games will be a bit more challenging and require a bit more
time. The point here is to not spend a million hours on games that might not
have as much of an impact later in the tournament.
A popular strategy for bracket bets is to work backward by selecting your
champion first and then selecting your final four teams and then working
outwards from that. This ensures that the teams that you want to be in the
higher point rounds will be there. Almost all scoring structures give more
points, sometimes a lot more, to correct picks in the later rounds. A lot of
popular point structures give one point for a first round pick and 32 points for
a correct champion pick.
Use Vegas Lines
A lot of people that don’t have a lot of time to make their picks will do so
based on the seeding. The problem with this is that there are some specific
rules that will move the seeds around a bit having better teams a little lower
than they should be. The seeding is also done by a group that are not experts in
games and aren’t as equipped to predict who is better than who. Vegas and online
sportsbooks, on the other hand, will set lines based on who they think are going
to win the game and by how many points. This can help you to spot “upsets” that
aren’t really upsets. You can find teams with worse seeds that are actually
favorites against the teams they’re playing. While this isn’t an actual upset,
it will be one on the bracket sheet, and a lot of amateur players are going to
It can also show you good spots to pick potential upsets. If you see a game
with an extremely close line where a team is supposed to only win by a point or
two, you may be looking at a potential upset candidate. Remember, Vegas is
smart, but they aren’t always perfect. Take their suggestions and mix them with
your own thoughts and predictions and you’ll be all set.
There are two things you need to know about upsets.
They are going to happen
They are less likely than a lot of new bettors think
Number one is something a lot of people forget to notice. They think that the
best team or higher seeded team is always going to win. We see time and time
again that this is just not the case with college basketball. This is probably
what makes it so dang exciting. Remember to include some upsets in your picks,
or we can almost guarantee you will be wrong a lot. The 5 vs. 12 seed games are
great as well as the closer seeded games.
Number two is the check and balance on number one. It’s always fun to root
and hope for the underdog to pull off the upset, but you don’t want to get too
crazy with the upsets. Remember, teams are usually seeded higher for a reason.
It’s because they are supposed to win. That being said, we have seen some crazy
years, and some crazy things happen, so nothing is out of the question. The best
advice is to look at each game individually and pick the team that you really
think is going to win. If that ends up being tons of upsets, great. If that ends
up being only a couple upsets, also great.
There is a reason no one has EVER had
a perfect bracket before.
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