NCAA Basketball Tournament Pools

The 2008 Midwest Bracket. In bracket pools, players are asked to select the winners of all the games in all four regions. © Allen Moody

While filling out an NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket is the most common form of betting on the tournament, there are many other different types of office pools centered around March Madness. We'll explain what some of the most common types of pools are and what you can do to increase your odds of winning. More tips on winning March Madness pools can be found here.

The most popular type of pool will always be the traditional filling out of the bracket, but other forms of pools that can be used to add to the excitement of the NCAA tournament are the box (or square) pool and the bidding pool.

One reason box pools and bidding pools are popular is that there are always several people who have seen several of their Final Four bracket teams knocked out of the tournament and they have little chance of winning their pool, so they are eager for another chance to get involved with the tournament.

The NCAA Tournament Bracket Pool

The bracket pool will always be king of the college basketball office pool world, as it gives people rooting interest all tournament for one price, which range anywhere from $1 all the up into the thousands, depending on which pools you enter. The most common price range is probably in the neighborhood of $5 to $10 per entry.

The concept behind the bracket pool is fairly simple, pick the winners of all the games and whoever has the most games correct at the end of the tournament is the winner.

A common variation is to award more points for each correct pick as the tournament goes along.

For example, a correct selection in the first round is worth one point, a correct selection in the second round is worth two points, etc., all the way to the championship game, which would be worth six points in this type of pool. Each individual pool has its own rules, so be sure to read the bracket carefully.

In a pool that awards more points in the later rounds a player can afford to select a few more upsets in the first two rounds, but should stick with the favorites in the last few rounds.

On average, two No. 1 seeds will advance to the Final Four, but many people will choose three or four, even though four No. 1 seeds have never advanced to the Final Four, but there is a first time for everything.

Bidding Pools

One type of pool that is starting to catch on with people is simply known as the bidding pool. In this type of pool, every team is up for auction and goes to the highest bidder. All of the money collected in the auction goes into the pot and the owner of the winning team collects the cash.

Because nobody would bid on the No. 15 or No. 16 seeds, many times they are packaged with the No. 1 seed of the bracket, as an afterthought. For example, in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, Kansas is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region and the Jayhawks will play No. 16 seed Portland State in the first round. A person bidding on Kansas would also receive Portland State for the same bid, while a person bidding on No. 2 Georgetown would also receive No. 15 UMBC for the same bid.

The one thing many people like about this type of pool is that it's possible to find a good value, especially if the team you like comes up for bid later on in the auction.

If the first two No. 1 seeds are sold for $40 each and you happen to like UCLA and can get the Bruins for $25, you probably have made a good purchase.

The bidding pool should start to become more popular in time, as the actual auction is usually an enjoyable time, filled with plenty of fun and trash talking.

Lottery Pools

Lottery pools are usually reserved for the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight, but could also been done for the Final Four if there were just four people involved. The concept behind lottery pools is simple enough in that players draw numbers between one and eight or 16, depending on how many teams are remaining in the tournament and the person holding No. 1 in the lottery has the first choice of the remaining teams, the person holding No. 2 has second choice of the remaining teams, and so on, until all the teams have been selected.

The Box Pool

The staple of all sports pools is the box pool and it works better in basketball than in any other sport, even though it's probably used more in baseball and football. The reason that the box pool works so well in basketball is that there really are no bad numbers. In a football box pool if you have the numbers 9 and 2 you're in deep trouble, while if you have 8 and 8 in a World Series box pool, you've essentially donated your money to the winner, but in a basketball box pool, one set of numbers is just as likely to win as any other.

For more about box pools, read How to Create an NCAA Basketball Tournament Box Pool.

Another factor that adds to the excitement of basketball box pools is that a great deal of scoring can occur in the final minute and a number of people will have the opportunity to win. A missed free throw here or a made 3-pointer can quickly turn a loser into a winner.

Have some fun during the NCAA Basketball Tournament and with a little luck, you'll have a few more dollars when March Madness comes to an end than you did when it started.