A Beginner’s Guide: How to Bet on March Madness


Posted: March 16, 2014

Updated: October 4, 2017

We’ll tell you about the different ways in which to place bets this March, as well as share a few strategies to maximize your chances of winning

Part of the appeal of March Madness is that betting works differently than in most other sports. The majority of bettors fill out an entire bracket the day before the tournament begins, picking all 67 games at once. Many love the suspense of filling out a bracket because you live and die by your initial predictions. You may lose everything on the first day, but so may your opponents. Aside from that, many bookmakers also offer single-event betting, live betting and prop betting.

We’ll fill you in on how each style of betting works and where you can do it. In addition, we’ll discuss some strategies for maximizing your winning potential this March.

Filling out a bracket

Knowing how to bet on March Madness firstly means knowing how to fill out a complete bracket. This March 16th, also known as “Selection Sunday” the 68 contestants and their respective seeds will be announced. If you live in Nevada, Canada or any country with legal sportsbetting you can fill out your bracket with any sportsbook. You will select winners for all 67 games. The beauty of it is that you will be choosing winners for games in which the contestants have not yet been determined.

• There are three main ways to bet: filling out a complete bracket, betting on single-events, and making prop bets or live bets

• Single-event, prop and living betting are not offered by Canadian bookmakers, however Canadians can place these bets with international bookies

• Most money is wagered by submitting completed brackets

If you are an American residing outside of Nevada and unable to get there to visit a betting shop, there are no legal options available to you. However, chances are a friend or colleague is hosting an office pool. You can submit a bracket along with a small cash wager. At the end of the tournament he who chose the most games correctly (the games become increasingly valuable the deeper we get into the tournament) will take home the stack of cash and bragging rights until next year.

While Vegas bookies don’t benefit directly from office pools, the industry generally supports the activity as a way to build interest in legitimate betting. Said Bob Scucci, sportsbook manager at the Stardust:
“It indoctrinates them into the whole tournament so that they understand what the tournament is about, they know how many teams start out and they know how it works and… I wonder what it’s like in Las Vegas?”

Single-event betting

For most people, filling out a complete bracket is the preferred way to wager on March Madness. However, if you enjoy betting but would rather not bet on 67 events at once, other options are available. Sportsbooks in Vegas and elsewhere accept single-event bets. Many visitors to Vegas who have never before bet on March Madness develop an interest by betting on a single game.

Canadian gambling laws prohibit sportsbooks from accepting single-event bets. Bettors must at least parlay (betting on three events at once). Luckily March Madness is perfect for this kind of betting. If Canadians really want to bet on single games they can log onto any non-Canadian online sportsbook and see the full list of daily college basketball lines. The first games will be played on March 18th, but check odds regularly to keep up on the hottest teams.

Live betting and prop betting

Live betting, which allows one to make a wager on an event after it has started, is offered by Nevada-based and international sportsbooks. Again, Canadian betting regulations prohibit them. This kind of wagering has become extremely popular in recent years, and for good reason. Odds adjust continually to prevent you from gaining an upper-hand over the bookmaker, but they do give you a better chance at predicting the outcome of your bet.

Prop betting has been sweeping the gambling world in recent years, allowing bettors to place wagers on specific events not directly related to the outcome of a game. Placing props on basketball are not as popular as in the English Premier League or the Super Bowl, for example, but more are popping up each year. Some popular props on March Madness last year included:

• Will a #1 seed win the NCAA tournament?
• How many #1 seeds will make the Final Four?
• Will a specific team make the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, or win the national championship?
• How many buzzer-beaters will occur this year?
• Who will win the Tournament’s most outstanding player?

Strategies for how to bet on March Madness

Selecting a perfect March Madness bracket is unlikely, but there are some strategies to consider when making your picks. The first is that the higher-seeded teams usually win. Six of the past seven national champions have been #1 seeds. While it’s fun to pick a few upset games, usually stick with the favorites.

If filling out a complete bracket, don’t bog yourself down with extensive research and analysis. You are selecting 67 games, and the outcomes cannot be predicted. Keep with the basic principle of choosing highly-ranked teams, and hope that the basketball gods smile upon you. No mathematical or logic-based systems can help you here.

If placing single-event bets, doing your homework will help. The oddsmakers generally do a pretty good job of selecting winners, but you should know how certain coaches and players have historically responded in specific situations. For example, if you know that Wisconsin usually loses in the Sweet 16 and this year’s team is no more talented than previous teams, you may want to pick their opponent.

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