March Madness Pool Ideas

march madness pool ideas In the days leading up to March Madness we’ll be releasing some March Madness Office Pool Ideas. EOP Guest Contributor, Paul, starts us off with one of his favorites.

Format #1 – Front End Excitement

by Paul Wynveen

Normal Bracket Scoring Is Busted.  Everybody fills out at least one bracket.  Everybody loves to fill out their bracket and then talk about how busted their bracket is.

It’s rite of March.

I love the traditional bracket format but don’t like the traditional scoring format.  Scoring exponentially by round (1,2,4,8,16,32) puts far too much emphasis on picking the champion correctly. 32 available points per round is a fine format for national brackets on or Yahoo where there are literally millions of entries.  In those pools, you should need to pick the champion correctly to weed everyone else out and even come close to standing a chance to win.

However, in the typical office pool, there are usually maybe a couple dozen people in the pool and you know everybody.  In these pools I’ve always found the opening weekend to be by far the most exciting.  76% of the games are played in the first 4 days.  Everyone is trash-talking about their brackets and people are hitting on their random upset picks.  The opening weekend is March Madness and the scoring in a pool of friends should reflect that.

I like to skew the weight of each round by about 30% with a scoring by round sequence of 1, 1.5, 2.25, 3.5, 5, and 7.  Thus the total points available in each respective round are 32, 24, 18, 14, 10, and 7.   This system still gives a nice reward if you correctly pick the champion or hit 7 of the elite 8.  But it also gives a better chance to the guy who hits correctly on all thee 12 seed upset picks and is perfect in the first round for 2 of the 4 regions.

There are other scoring systems like upset multipliers and things of that sort and those systems achieve the same idea of embracing the parts that get everyone excited, but they are very difficult to explain to the casual sports fan who doesn’t really follow college hoops.  My experience is that keeping the format as simple as possible and maximizing the fun when the most fun is occurring leads to fun and exciting pools.

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Format #2 – The Knockout Format

by Bill Simmons

I won’t regurgitate everything that Bill writes in his article, which is excellent. Here are some of the high level bullets:

  • You pick teams on each day of the tournament
  • If your team wins, you move on but cannot pick that same team again
  • If your team loses, you can buy back in but only a couple times
  • Last person standing wins … many don’t make it past the first weekend

This one takes a bit more involvement by everyone throughout the tournament, but can be extremely fun for those who really enjoy college hoops.

Read the finer details of this format in Bill’s article linked above.

march madness excel templates

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Format #3 – Standard Bracket

Head over to Yahoo to fill out a bracket and have them manage all result track for you, free of charge.

  • Setup your bracket online
  • Invite friends/coworkers to fill out their bracket
  • Points are awarded for each correctly filled team on the bracket
  • Points are weighted heavier for the later rounds
  • Person with the most points after the NCAA Final wins

Format #4 – March Madness Box Pool

Just like football squares, a 10 by 10 box pool for March Madness is a great option to make the games more exciting. Here’s the scoop:

  • Everyone puts their name in a square on the 10 x 10 board. There are 100 squares total.
  • Winning squares are determined by the final score of each game. Specifically, the last digit of the winning team’s score and the last digit of the losing team’s score.
  • Choose to award winners for only a single game, all games on a single day, all games throughout the tournament, or the score at the end of each quarter if you are watching the game on TV with a friend. You could even say every time the game cuts to commercial on TV someone gets awarded. To keep it simple though, my group of friends is going to award winners for the final score of every game on the first Friday of the tournament. That means there will be 16 winners.
  • For example, if Duke beats Kentuck 74-70, the winning square is 4 on the winning team axis (the horizontal,gray background numbers below) and 0 on the losing team axis (the vertical, black background numbers below).
  • In the example below (here is the live link), Matt would win for this game because his name is in the 4/0 square.

box pool app view

  • You can setup your own box pool board using our free app. Simply enter “Winner” and “Loser” and then enter up to 100 names and the app distributes the names randomly across the board. Here is a screenshot of the entry screen:

box pool entry

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Tell Us Yours

What’s your favorite format? We want to hear about what we missed in the comments section below.

Enjoy the Madness!!


  1. Regan Brown says:

    I am looking for ideas to have multiple winners, for example: Overall Points Winner, 1st busted bracket, lowest points, most upsets won, etc.

    Do y’all have any more ideas?

  2. We are running a pick each seed pool? Everyone picks one of all the seeds in the tournament. So everyone picks a 1 seed, 2 seed, and on to 16. You win when you team wins. First round is worth 1 point, second 2, and so on till the final is worth 5. Now, each lower seed you pick that wins is double, so if a 9 beats a 8 in the first round it is worth 2. 15 beats a 2 it is worth 2…So if you lower seeds advance in the bracket you get double the points. I am not good with spreadsheets, but would be nice if someone could build one for this?

    • Fun format thanks for sharing

    • Daniel Conway says:

      Mitch, anyone help you with the spreadsheet question you had?

    • Charles Brunau says:

      I started a Capture Pool about 20 years ago…everybody loves it.. get 64 players…everyone draws a team. Winning is based on the spread (America’s Line in newspaper the day of the games). If you have Duke giving 15 points to Wilmington State and Duke wins by 14 and you have Wilmington State, you capture Duke and move on…the guy who had Duke is a loser!!! A few years ago, one of our guys got mad because he drew LIU-Brooklyn…after Duke won NCAA he was very happy because LIU-Brooklyn lost but covered and he captured Duke and rode it out!!!!!!!

  3. Take a look at this super simple format that is applied the Men’s Tourney, Women’s, NIT, Sweet 16 and each Region has it’s own game too. Not only can you create and play games free, they offer free cash prizes!!

  4. 16 people play, They randomly pull 4 teams, one from each pile (1-4 rank, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16). Pay out on Winner, 2nd & lowest seed in the sweet sixteen.

  5. you have to try the takeover pool… get 32 people in the pool…each player is randomly drawn one team on each side of the bracket…..whoever own the team that wins the tourney wins….heres the twist: the point spread must be covered to hold on to your team….example if you have Kansas and I have iona : iona wins I keep iona and move on, Kansas wins and covers the spread you keep Kansas n move on, but if Kansas wins but does not cover I takeover Kansas and move on and you re eliminated. so there is no bad team to get really and every game (even the blowouts) remain very exciting.

    • I love this Danny! Thank for sharing. I think I’ll try and round up a group to do this one this year. It could be tough to get exactly 32 people is my only concern. I might try and modify this for 4 people and everyone gets 16 teams from different portions of the bracket instead of two. Or 8 people each with 8 teams … etc.

      • Mike Warren says:

        I’ve ran a similar point spread pool each year but with just 8 people. It’s random and 100% luck but an absolute blast. Each person starts with 2 teams from each region, one team from the upper and one from the lower of the region so you cannot face your own team until the sweet 16. It’s a point spread pool so if your team covers you keep them. If you have an underdog that loses but covers you steal the team that won. Payouts are for those that have a team in the final 4

    • You find a site that supports this type of thing?

  6. It would be awesome if you guys could post a wins pool format on your site. I do it with a spreadsheet and it isn’t terribly difficult. We have everyone pick 9 teams. Seeds: (1,2,3,4,5-6,7-8,9-10,11-12,13-16). Total the tournament wins for your 9 teams and most wins… wins. It has been fun the past few years.

    We also did a losers pool one year, where the goal was to pick the same 9 seeded teams but be the first to have all of your teams knocked out. That was also really fun.

    • I love this format! Thanks for sharing, Ben. I think I’ll try out the losers pool idea with my friends this year. I don’t have enough time to build a program to help manage this format for this year, but will definitely keep it on the list for next year.

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