March Madness pools
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March Madness pools are a form of sports betting based on the annual NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship each spring in the United States. The public's increasing interest in this event is fostered by March Madness pools, or brackets. A bracket is a form that can be completed on-line or printed out and completed by hand whereby the participant predicts the outcome of each game in the tournament. His or her predictions are compared against others in the pool, and whoever has the best prognostication skills wins the contest.
Sixty-eight (68) teams line up with a chance to win the national title. It's not just the best 68 teams from among the more than 300 teams that play Division I basketball, though. Teams are split into 32 conferences, and each of those conferences have an automatic bid. Every conference except the Ivy League plays a season-ending conference tournament, and gives the automatic bid to the winner. The Ivy League plays no tournament, so they give their bid to their regular season champion. The other 36 teams are chosen by a selection committee. They are called at-large bids, and they generally go to the 36 most deserving teams. Obviously it is a very difficult job to pick the 36 best teams, and the process is very subjective and can be very controversial.
The four lowest ranked automatic bid teams and the four lowest ranked at-large teams in the tournament play in special play-in games called the First Four before the tournament. The rest of the field is split into four regions of 16 teams, and those regions are seeded from one to 16. The top team in each region plays the 16th team, the second plays the 15th and so on. The winners of each game goes on to the next round and so on until only one team is standing. A team is knocked out of the tournament and has to go home as soon as they lose once, so the pressure is incredibly intense.
The tournament takes place over three weekends starting soon after the middle of March.
Perhaps the biggest key to the tremendous popularity of the tournament is the bracket. The March Madness bracket is the grid of all the teams in the tournament and the path they have to follow to the Final Four and the championship game. Filling out a bracket with the winners of each of the 67 games in the tournament is an incredibly difficult task, and nobody has successfully filled out a perfect bracket. Every year there are more and more places for you to fill out a bracket online to compete against everyone else out there. It's a great competition because the person who knows the most doesn't necessarily have an edge on winning the tournament because upsets are so common and the results are so unpredictable. Virtually every office, school or other workplace has some sort of pool where people fill out a bracket and throw in a few bucks at a chance to win the big pot.
Some March Madness contests are free to enter, others require an entry fee. Many businesses utilize pool hosting services to run their pools, allowing them the flexibility to customize the pool rules and display. 
March Madness has become one of the most popular sporting events in the United States. Because of the length of the tournament and the amount of teams involved it is one of the most popular sporting events in terms of television ratings. One event associated with March Madness is filling out the brackets. It has become extremely common in popular culture even among non-sports fans. It is estimated that millions of Americans participate in the contest every year. Mainstream media outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports host tournaments online where contestants can enter for free. Employers have also noticed a change in the behavior of employees during this time. They have seen an increase in the number of sick days used, extended lunch breaks and even the rescheduling of conference calls to allow for more tournament watching. There are also many handicappers and pundits which offer advice for winning your bracket.
- Explanation of March Madness
- "Bracketology with Joe Lunardi". ESPN.com. January 12, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- Customized Pool Contest Hosting
- Geiling, Natasha (March 20, 2014). "When Did Filling Out A March Madness Bracket Become Popular?". Smithsonian. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- Deford, Frank (March 9, 2011). "What makes March Madness so popular? Its knockout nature". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- Petrecca, Laura (March 15, 2012). "March Madness in the Office: Work Come in Second". USA Today. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
- Trotter, Ryan (March 18, 2013). "Geeks Can Win March Madness Pools". Retrieved March 10, 2014.
- Boudway, Ira (March 18, 2013). "How to Win Your March Madness Pool". Business Week. Retrieved July 21, 2013.