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Gearing Up For March – How to Make Money on March Madness Pools

Gearing Up For March – How to Make Money on March Madness Pools: First Round - UMBC Retrievers vs. Virginia Cavaliers

You may think it’s a little bit early to start thinking about March Madness, but with Selection Sunday under three weeks away, it’s going to sneak up very quickly.

If you haven’t already, soon you’ll start receiving emails from co-workers and friends asking you to join all different kinds of March Madness pools. There are traditional bracket pools, Pick-8 contests, Calcutta Pools, Survivor Pools – I could go on and on. Point is, there are a ton of options. And it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed and start dumping your money in a bunch of different directions. I’m here to hopefully provide some guidance and clarity on what to do with your hard-earned dollars come tournament time.

The Standard Bracket Pool

Often won by Alice in accounting, the standard bracket pool is something that even the non-college basketball fan can enjoy. But picking winners by their team colors or logos has proven to be far too strong of a method to consider dumping any real money into a pool like this. Think you have a leg up on the office or friend group because you live and breathe college hoops? Think again because it’s one of the most difficult March Madness pools to win.

Not only do you most likely have to pick the winner correctly, but you must get many more things right along the way. Unless you’re in a pool that rewards points for picking upsets, there isn’t a ton of edge to gain here. You’re always going to participate because it’s excellent water cooler talk. And if you do manage to win, you take home severe bragging rights. But I wouldn’t invest a ton of your money into larger standard bracket pools for March Madness. Invest enough to have fun but not enough to break your bank.

The Survivor Pool

One of the hardest pools to win in any sport, but especially college basketball. To win a large survivor pool, you essentially need to be able to predict the outcome of the tournament. The main difference between this pool and a bracket pool is that I do think being knowledgeable in the sport can take you reasonably far. Picking the UMBC Retrievers because their logo is cute won’t get you too far in a Survivor Pool.

If you’ve never done a Survivor Pool before, it works kind of the way it sounds. Typically (and there are a few different ways to do them – but for argument's sake let’s talk the standard way), you need to pick one team per day to win their game, and then you advance to the next day. If the team loses, you’re out. If they win, you advance but can never use that team again. This prevents you from riding a 1-seed all the way to the winner’s circle.

Essentially, to win a large Survivor Pool, you also need to pick the winner of the tournament to win it all. A difficult pool to win, but I typically invest more of my money there than in a standard bracket pool.

The Player Pool

This is a less common pool but one that my friends and I have done for years. If you haven’t done one before, you should absolutely get one started. Grab 6 or 7 of your buddies and set up a draft. This can be in person, on Zoom, or via email or group chat like my friends and I do. Randomly select a draft order and get started.

What you’re doing is picking individual players to form a team of guys. The roster size can be from as small as 8 to as high as 20+. It really depends on the knowledge and willingness of your group. The object of the pool is to have the most total points scored. This means actual points scored by the players over the course of the tournament. Whoever’s team has the most total points scored at the end of the tournament wins the pool.

There's a lot of strategy involved in this pool because, not only are you looking to pick the players that score a lot of points, but you're invested in how far they make it in the March Madness tournament. Do you use a high draft pick on a guy that averages 30 PPG from Belmont who is a 12-seed? It’s risky but if they win their first game, he could be the guy that wins it for you.

A pool like this gives you interest in a bunch of different games and familiarizes you with players that you may not have followed closely before. It’s also one that, unless you really mess up, should pique your interest deep into the tournament. If you are someone that knows a lot about college basketball and studies the game, this is a pool worth investing a decent chunk of cash into.

The Budget Pool

There are other names for this pool, but the one I participate in is called a Budget Pool. This is a pool where you are given a fake sum of money, and you can wager it throughout the tournament on games ATS and Over/Unders. There is typically a maximum that you can spend on each game. Whoever ends up with the most fake dollars at the end of the tournament wins the pool.

As you could have probably guessed, this is a pool I really enjoy a lot because I love betting on individual college basketball games. As someone who tracks line movements, does a heavy amount of research, and pays attention to trends, I like to think I have a solid advantage in pools like this. Of course, there is always going to be luck involved and anything can happen in March. But I like this pool because you aren’t hitching your wagon to one or two teams before the tournament even begins.

If you’re smart about how you wager your money, you can have a realistic chance at taking down a pool like this. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t done one already.

Individual Games

Simple, but important! People tend to become so caught up in the hoopla of pools and contests that they don’t even think to wager on individual games throughout the March Madness tournament. To me, this is one of the best parts of March Madness.

There are so many games on and so much happening in such a short span of time that it’s a college basketball bettor’s dream come true. Like the Budget Pool, this doesn’t force you to stay connected to just a handful of teams before the tournament even tips off. It allows you flexibility, and with the games always being so exciting, it provides plenty of entertainment value.

I always remember to budget some money towards my individual bets when tournament time comes around. It’s not as sexy as coming in the Top 5 of a bracket pool but will most likely net you a lot more cash.

And if you're planning to be individual games, you should definitely take advantage of our TomBox sports betting algorithm, which we're providing our loyal readers for free. So before you place your bets on a game, see what our algorithm thinks of the matchup.

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