How Bracket Betting Works

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Bracket Betting

Bracket betting on sports has become such a big part of sports betting that it required the invention of a new word in the English language:

Bracketology [brak-t-tol-uh-jee] noun – A system of diagrammatically predicting and tracking the process of elimination among sequentially paired opponents in a tournament.

The most famous bracket in the betting world is the NCAA Tournament, painstakingly put together by the NCAA selection committee. But while that may be the bracket that elicits the most wagers, it is far from the only bracket you can bet.

Different Sports Brackets

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

There is a women’s bracket at the end of the college basketball season that is just as competitive as the men’s tournament, but it doesn’t draw in hundreds of millions of viewers or wagers. That distinction belongs to the men’s tournament, famously dubbed March Madness for its Cinderella runs, buzzer-beater victories, and the Final Four that ends it all.

FIFA World Cup

It begins in group stages, so there is no bracket betting at the beginning of the biggest tournament in the world. But once the World Cup enters the knockout stage, the bracket is set for the final 16 teams, and the real fun begins. 3.5 billion people worldwide tune in to the World Cup, and more than a few put money down.

NBA Playoffs

Unlike the NHL and NFL, which reseed its playoffs after they have started, the NBA sticks with its 16-team bracket from start to finish. It’s almost two months of the most intense series of basketball you will ever see, with the eventual champion playing as many as 28 playoff games.

Tennis

Every men’s and women’s tennis tournament, including the four grand slam events, is played in a bracket format. The bracket at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open, and U.S. Open are uber brackets when compared to others, containing a total of 128 players. 104 of these players are put into the bracket by ranking, with 16 others getting in through qualifying and another eight through wild cards. Because of its size, it takes seven grueling match wins to claim a grand slam title.

Bracket Betting Format

While each tournament is different, and many of the betting will come with different rules, there is a basic principle to all bracket betting. Before any games/matches are played, you must fill out the entire tournament bracket. So before you know who is going to win Round 1, you’re already picking the winners of quarterfinals and beyond.

It’s simple in that you simply pick the outright winner of every matchup. But it’s complex in that you are looking three and four rounds into the future and hoping that your prognosticating skills don’t let you down.

Most brackets will award a point for every correct pick or will escalate the points for those correct picks as the tournament proceeds. For some fully seeded tournaments, like the NCAA Tournament or NBA Playoffs, you may get bonus points when a lower seed knocks off a higher seed.

The winning bettor is the person with the most points, and sometimes there may be extra prize money for finishing in second or third.

Bracket Betting Strategies

When you are dealing with a large number of teams and players with hundreds of possible scenarios, it’s nearly impossible to pick a perfect bracket. The only reason we use the word “nearly” is that when filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket, there is a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of it happening. Trust us, and you won’t be that 1. No one will.

So how does someone go about tackling a bracket when they know they are going to make some bad picks?

When you are dealing with a large number of teams and players with hundreds of possible scenarios, it’s nearly impossible to pick a perfect bracket. The only reason we use the word “nearly” is that when filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket, there is a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of it happening. Trust us, and you won’t be that 1. No one will.

So how does someone go about tackling a bracket when they know they are going to make some bad picks?

Start with the Champion

A good rule in attacking your bracket, be it March Madness, the World Cup, or one of the other sports, is to start at the championship and then work backward. Since you are counting on several wins from the champion, this is your most crucial pick.

You can’t win your bracket in the first round, but you can lose it. If your eventual champion fails to get even one win, you’re sunk.

Once you have your champion and the team they beat for the championship, work back another round. And then another. And maybe as you work backward, you might find favorable matchups that actually have you rethinking picks you’ve already made.

Know the History

Only once in NCAA Tournament history has a No. 16 seed won a first-round matchup. In the NBA, a No. 8 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed four times.

So it’s not that these types of big upsets never happen, but they happen so rarely that it does you no good to try and predict them. If you correctly predict a No. 16 seed to win, that’s great for one pick. But that is not a Cinderella that has staying power. Before you know it, they will be out.

If you pick the No. 16 seed and they lose, you are likely going to miss out on several wins as the top seed continues to advance. Every game matters, but getting teams deep into the tournament matters more than just getting the first round right. Make sure that the picks you make serve a long-term strategy.

Have Fun

Most bracket betting is done amongst a group of friends or co-workers, and it comes with minimal buy-in. And even if you are paying to be a part of a large nationwide bracket that comes with a huge payout, the chances are that your entry fee was somewhat modest.

Brackets rarely have high stakes, so enjoy yourself. One of the reasons we love betting brackets is because there is instant gratification in that one victory, but there are weeks of fun ahead as the entire tournament plays out.

Be it the month of March for the NCAA Tournament, the month-long World Cup, or the multiple months of the NBA Playoffs, and brackets are a way for you to make one bet that covers your fun for dozens of actual games.

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Sports Betting How To Guide

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