March Madness Pools: Five Alternative Betting Contests vs. Brackets

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The 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is here. With the “First Four” play-in games tipping off Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, we’re here to give you new ways to play the Madness.

You’ve most likely filled out a bracket or two, but let’s explore other types of March Madness pools that can enhance your enjoyment of watching the NCAA Tournament.

Here are alternative March Madness pools you can enjoy with family, friends, and even enemies. It’s more fun taking their money, right?

NCAA Basketball Pools for March Madness

The typical bracket contest allows you to make picks for each game in the NCAA Tournament. Points are awarded at progressively higher levels in each round of the tournament. If you’re fortunate enough to be alive when the Final Four rolls around, congratulations.

Massive March Madness upsets often throw a wrench into these predictions, and your brackets can be busted early. We’ve all been there before.

Why not shake things up a bit? Here are other March Madness betting pools to consider this year.

Also read: Current March Madness odds

March Madness Survivor Pool

Survivor Pools are ubiquitous during the NFL season. For March Madness, you’ll pick one team per day to win outright with the caveat that you can’t use that squad again during the tournament.

On the surface, this seems like a much more manageable format to win. But watch out for those early round upsets we referenced above.

If you picked Kentucky to beat Saint Peters in the opening round last year — and who wouldn’t have with no spread involved? — you were eliminated before the tournament had barely begun.

NCAA Tourney Primers: How to Bet on March Madness | Pursuing the Perfect Bracket

March Madness Squares Pool

This is another one that can be adapted from the NFL Super Bowl model to March Madness. You’re guaranteed to have a rooting interest in every game during the NCAA Tournament.

Players will select squares on a 10×10 grid that have a number from 0-9 assigned to each row and column. Let’s say you get the combination of 4-0 for the winning and losing teams, respectively. Kentucky then beats Providence, 74-70, in the opening round on Friday. Boom! You just cashed a winning square.

Winners can be paid by square or for having the most wins over the course of the NCAA Tournament. Squares can also be weighted per round with the most points awarded for the NCAA Championship game.

Lazy Man’s March Madness Pool

This is an ideal format for casual fans. Throw the names of all 68 teams in a hat and have players randomly select them at $10 a pop. That gives you a pot of $680.

There’s no thinking involved here, so just go ahead and draw the 2023 national champion. To the victor go all the spoils!

Head-to-Head March Madness Pool

Players in this pool format will be randomly assigned a team starting with the opening round. You’ll face off against the player who drew your opponent.

What if he drew the No. 1 seed Kansas and you got No. 16 Howard? No sweat. These outcomes are based on the spread. You’ve still got a fighting chance with Howard +20.5.

Just cover the number to advance to the next round, while savoring the fact that your opponent is eliminated. The last man or woman standing at the end of the NCAA Tournament is the big winner.

All the matchups: NCAA Tourney point spreads, moneylines, totals

March Madness Auction Pool

This one is commonly referred to as the Calcutta. It’s a little more involved, and you’ll need family and friends that are true college basketball enthusiasts (or suckers who don’t mind burning cash).

How much would you bid on Gonzaga in a March Madness auction pool? (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Start by bidding on NCAA Tournament teams in an auction format using real cash. All of that money goes into the pot.

When one of your teams wins, you take back a percentage of the pot. Payouts typically increase from round to round. You need to find a balance here between buying low on lower-seeded teams that can make a run (George Mason or VCU, anyone?) and not overpaying for higher-seeded favorites that crash and burn early (Kentucky and Virginia, for example, in recent years).

The best March Madness betting pools are the ones enjoyed with family and friends. Good luck regardless of the format you choose!

Frequently Asked Questions: March Madness Pools

How does a March Madness pool work?

This depends on the type of March Madness pool you’re involved in. There are alternative March Madness betting contests available in addition to traditional bracket contests including Squares and Survivor Pools.

Are March Madness office pools legal?

March Madness office pools can be done legally in states where sports betting is legal. Sportsbooks including DraftKings offer March Madness pools.

Has a 16 seed beat a 1 seed?

Yes. It has only happened once. No. 16 UMBC defeated No. 1 Virginia in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Who is most likely to win March Madness 2023?

Houston is most likely to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament, per BetMGM futures odds. At odds of +550, the Cougars have an implied probability of 5.26% to win it all.

Who is the biggest underdog in March Madness?

At odds of +1000000 at DraftKings, five teams share the title of biggest underdog in March Madness: Northern Kentucky, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Howard, Texas Southern, and Southeast Missouri State.

Are office pools legal in Texas?

No. Texas has not legalized sports betting yet. The Lone Star State could join the list of legal states in the future.

What is the lowest seed in March Madness to win it all?

No. 8 seed Villanova is the lowest March Madness seed to win it all. The Wildcats defeated No. 1 seed Georgetown, 66-64, to win the 1985 National Championship.

Bet365 Bracket Challenge

Win up to $10 million in prizes

Our friends at Bet365 our dangling $10 million in prize money in their March Madness pool. Enter to play the contest right here.

About the Author
Kris Johnson

Kris Johnson

Senior Writer
Kris Johnson is a senior writer at Gaming Today with more than 15 years of experience as a sports journalist. Johnson's work has appeared in Sports Business Daily, Sports Business Journal, NASCAR Illustrated, and other publications. He also authored a sports betting novel titled The Endgame.

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