How to Host the Best March Madness Pool

March Madness Pool

It’s March Madness time again, and you know what that means: someone in the office needs to set up the tournament pool and get everybody to fill out their brackets! After all, it’s an annual tradition. So why shouldn’t that person be you this year?

In the old days, running the office pool could be a bit of a pain. You had to collect all of the money, tally all of the results, and personally make sure the payouts were correct. These days, with the internet, it’s considerably easier. There are numerous websites out there on which to host your office pool to ensure maximum efficiency, transparency, and ease of participation.

But there’s more to running a successful office pool than merely setting it up and collecting the money. You have to determine the type of pool you want to run. You also have to find people to participate, since the more people that join, the more fun and the better the payout will be. You also need to pick the right rules to maximize the experience for everyone involved. March Madness only comes around once a year; you don’t want to ruin it for the whole office!

That’s why we’re going to help you get started. We’ve been following March Madness and participating in office pools for years. Here are some of the lessons learned from years of playing this game.

What Is a March Madness Pool?

March Madness pools are a form of betting based on the results of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Typically, everyone that wants to participate pays a flat, predetermined fee that goes into the pot. Then, everyone fills out a tournament bracket with their predictions of how the competition will play out. At the end of the championship, the points are all tallied, and the person with the most points wins the entire pot.

Those are the basics, but there are many different types of pools and ways to score them. You can incentivize choosing upsets, bet on single games rather than the entire bracket, or really any iteration of the rules and scoring that you can imagine. All that matters is that everyone agrees on the rules and understands the scoring system that they’re getting themselves into.

Making a Great Pool

If you’re in charge of running the office pool, you’ve got to make it a great experience. Your office reputation depends on it! You don’t want to be the person that ruined March Madness for everyone; you want to be the person they ask to run it again next year. Here are some tips to help make that happen.

Reward Upsets

The best thing about March Madness is the hugely unexpected upsets and the Cinderella stories. It’s why we all tune in year after year. There’s nothing special about the top-seeded teams marching through to the Final Four every year.

Similarly, it’s not much fun when everyone in your pool just picks the favorites in an attempt to win the pot. That’s why it’s a good idea to incentivize picking upsets. The standard scoring system most pools use looks something like this:

  • First Round Wins = 1 Point
  • Second Round Wins = 2 Points
  • Third Round Wins = 3 Points
  • Fourth Round Wins =4 Points
  • Fifth Round Wins = 6 Points
  • Sixth Round Wins =10 Points

Instead, you may want to consider awarding more points in the earlier rounds for big upsets. Rather than scoring them as only a single point, score them by the degree of upset. For instance, if a thirteen seed beats a four seed, that win should be worth nine points rather than just one. You just subtract the favored team’s seed from the underdog seed.

This is guaranteed to make your office pool much more fun. People will be riskier with their picks trying to grab those big point totals in the early rounds. The more people’s brackets vary and the less often people just go with chalk picks, the more exciting the pool will be.

Maximum Participation

If you’re running this year’s office pool, you’ve got to put some effort into signing people up! The more participation, the better. Not only does having a larger pool of people playing make the contest more fun, but it also increases the pot. And we don’t need to explain to you why having more money to win potentially makes things more interesting.

You may have to annoy people a bit to get maximum participation. We suggest starting with a group email. Then follow up with coworkers individually until you’ve received their buy-in and bracket. You may even need to hold some people’s hands to help them fill one out.

Coworkers that don’t typically watch sports may feel intimidated or embarrassed by their lack of knowledge at first. Just explain that when it comes to March Madness, it’s really a crapshoot. Even if they make their choices by team color or mascot, they’re still liable to do about as well as the staunchest college basketball fan.

Limit the Number of Entries Per Person

When you see those massive national pools offered by CBS or ESPN, they are usually won by betting syndicates. The reason is, after their analysis of all the games, they tend to buy numerous brackets on which they try a high volume of combinations to maximize their chance of winning. The payout is high enough to justify paying for tons of relatively low buy-ins.

At your office pool, you don’t want this happening. It ruins all the fun for the casual participants. So before taking any bets, set a limit for how many brackets each person is allowed to submit. Usually, two or three would be the max. But it’s also not a bad idea to limit everyone to a single submission.

Set the Price and Payout

Depending on where you work, set a buy-in price that is affordable to most employees. Your average pool typically costs between $5 and $25. Depending on how many co-workers you can get to sign up, this will add up quickly into a rather nice winning pot.

Before sending out the initial email, you may want to ask around and gauge how much people are willing to spend to take part in March Madness. The lower amounts are more likely to entice casual fans or people that don’t watch sports, so you’ll have a higher turnout. But if you’re not going to get a high volume of people involved, you may want to set the price higher so that the payout is worth playing for.

Winner Takes All


If you’re going to have a March Madness pool, the best way to handle the payouts is to make it winner-takes-all. In fact, depending on where you live, that may be the only legal way to participate in a betting pool. But beyond the legalities, it also raises the stakes and ensures that everyone plays to win.

It’s not as fun if people play it safe and pick all the favorites in some effort to at least win their money back or win a small amount of money. Winner-takes-all makes everybody swing for the fences, which makes the whole tournament more exciting and worth playing.

Collect the Money Ahead of Time

Some of the online sites will cover this task for you, but if you are using paper brackets, make sure to collect the money before the first round starts.

Take Their Money!It’s a nightmare collecting people’s buy-ins once they know their chances of winning are slim-to-none.

A good policy to have is for people to turn in their payment with their brackets. Also, let people know that if the first round ends before they make their payment, their bracket is disqualified. How you handle this can be tricky, though, as you don’t want people to be turned off and not care. You know your own co-workers more than we do, so how you handle this is up to you.

Types of March Madness Pools

There are several different options you have when creating an office March Madness pool. Some are based on your accuracy at predicting the overall bracket, while others focus on individual matchups. Here are a few of the types of NCAA tournament pools you may choose from.

Confidence Pools

A confidence pool is a fun twist on your traditional March Madness betting. Each entrant selects sixteen teams from the entire field. They then rank them in order of confidence. The team you predict to win the championship will be given the number sixteen. Each time one of your schools wins, you get the number of points that you assigned to them. At the end of the tournament, the person with the most points wins the pot.

Auction Pools

In an auction pool, every team is bid on in an auction format. So, no two entrants will have the same team in their stable. It adds a level of strategy because you have to decide how to use your bankroll. Some participants will blow their money on the top-seeded teams, while others may try to get lucky with a large stable of Cinderella teams and mid-seed teams. Starting your auction pool will take a bit more effort since everyone must go through the auction process, but they’re also incredibly entertaining.

Survivor Pools

There are a couple of different approaches to playing in a survival pool. You basically pick a single team for each day of the tournament. If your team wins, you advance to the next day. If your pick loses, you’re eliminated from the competition altogether.

More advanced survival pools have you pick three teams in the first round. If one of your picks loses, you may buy back in up to three times. However, every time you buy back in, you have to get an additional game right. What’s good about this system is that the winning pot continues to grow as people repurchase their way in. The downside is that it’s very easy to be eliminated on the first couple days of the tournament.

Tournament Squares

The square method is most commonly found in Super Bowl pools, but they may apply to March Madness as well. You create a 10 X 10 board, meaning one hundred squares are available for purchase. Participants can buy as few squares as they want, up to some predetermined maximum number of purchases you set.

Once the squares have all been purchased, each column and row are randomly assigned a value between zero and nine. For each game, one team is assigned the y-axis, and the other is given the x-axis. If the last digit of the winning or losing team’s score matches the number of your box, you win that game. So in this situation, you’re betting on scores rather than winning teams.

Classic Bracket

Most people will choose this option: the traditional bracket. This tried and true system has been entertaining offices for decades. Before the tournament begins, everyone receives a blank bracket. They then fill it out from the Round of 64 all the way down to the Championship. Scores are then assigned for wins in each round, with points typically increasing in each round. Whoever has the most points at the end of the tournament wins the whole thing!

In Conclusion

While March Madness is an incredible sporting event from an audience perspective, betting pools have played a significant role in growing its immense popularity. Each year, offices all over the country make their picks and pool their money together in a big pot, with one lucky winner taking home the whole thing. If you’re the organizer at your office, it’s essential to do a good job and make sure everybody pays, gets a fair chance, and has fun.

There are several different approaches to making sure your office pool goes well. First, you want to set the price appropriately to ensure maximum participation through the office. Next, you need a rule set that everyone understands and is enthusiastic to attempt. If you’re playing with mostly casual sports fans, an auction pool may be too involved, whereas buying squares or filling out brackets will be more inclusive.

Then, make sure you’ve collected the money before the competition gets started. Once the games start and people get a better idea of how well their bracket is doing, some may try to back out of the pool. It’s best to avoid that possibility by only accepting brackets upon payment.

As the person organizing the pool, it will be up to you to tally up the points and pay out the winner. Depending on the amount of participation, this may be a considerable undertaking. Luckily, there are websites that provide this service for you for a small price. However you decide to organize your March Madness pool, clear communication of the rules and scoring and lots of involvement are the most vital qualities. If you have that, you’ll surely be the “March Madness guy/girl” every year! There are certainly worse titles to have at work!

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.