What Are The Best NCAA Tournament Pools?

Alright, it’s a question I get asked quite a bit during the year, especially now. What are the best NCAA Tournament pools. Shout out Rico who actually wrote a blog about the guide to running pools a few years back.

Decided to run this back and throw out my favorite NCAA Tournament pools. Let’s face it, brackets are old. Times have adjusted since then. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not pulling a Rovell here. You fill out a bracket because you’re alive in America. That’s what you do during this time of the year. I’ll be posting mine tomorrow on here by the way.

So with that in mind, here are the best pools that aren’t brackets.


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Pretty simple here. You get assigned a square similar to Super Bowl squares. Can put together any sort of dollar amount for entry into square, they sell like hotcakes. Some people will reset the squares and re-assign after every round, if you’re running it though it’s a pain in the ass and I suggest sticking to just one assignment. Payouts go up as the rounds go on. Simple, you’re invested for every game and even blowouts matter.



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A staple for any sport – Survivor picks. Finding the pick you love, debating what teams to hold on to late in the event. You have to figure out when to fade the public pick and end up deciding when to pick the heavy favorite. I love survivor pools and there are different setups you can run for this one. I tend to go with a certain old websites rule for the pool I’m in:

Basically the idea is that you pick 2 straight up winners Thursday, 2 straight up winners Friday, 1 straight up winner Saturday, 1 straight up winner Sunday, and then 1 straight up winner every day after that. You cannot use the same team twice throughout the tournament.

If you lose on Thursday, you CAN rebuy on Friday but you have to pick 4 straight up winners. If you lose on Friday, you can buy back Saturday but you have to pick 5 straight up winners. If you lose on Saturday, you can buy back Sunday but you have to pick 6 straight up winners. No buy backs after that. You lose or choose not to rebuy and you are eliminated. Obviously you still cannot pick a team more than once throughout the tournament.

Draft Teams

This is pretty basic but if you’re a fan of doing drafts (I am) and killing time (yes) this is an easy one. Get a group of like 8 guys and draft teams of 8. Set up a point system for how many points a win per round equal. Make sure you set up as a snake draft and see who reaches first.

Seed Pool

This one is basic. You pick 1 team from every seed line. Each win you get a point. Whoever has the most points, wins. Pretty simple, but there is a thought process in here. Do you fade Duke and trust another 1 seed? What 3 seed do you like? Can you pick the right upsets.

ATS Bracket Pool

This one is up there as possibly my favorite. You get 16 people together. Set it up as a bracket, so assign each person a number and fill them out accordingly on a bracket. Then you go head to head against the spread. For round 1 you pick 13 games, round 2 you pick 7. Winners advance after round 1 and then again round 2. So now you have a Final Four starting during the Sweet 16. Sweet 16 and Elite 8 make up round 3 you pick 5 games ATS in the Sweet 16 and 3 in the Elite 8. Winners then advance and Final Four you pick both and title game you pick it.

Player Draft

A handful of different ways to set this up. You can just have open picks and not a draft. For that one I suggest you set up rules like you take 8 players, can’t take more than 2 from a seed line, only 1 from each team and 2 from each region. Something like that to keep it out there. You can do a true snake draft. There a lot of variations here but it’s a good way to keep people invested the entire tournament.

Surrender/Take over Pool

Another fairly basic one. You draft or get assigned teams. You go head to head against someone else in an ATS. So if you’re assigned Liberty and your buddy is assigned Mississippi State and Liberty covers but Miss St. advances your buddy now gets Miss St for however long they advance. Shit talking highly encouraged in this one.


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A true favorite pool out there. You put every team out there and bid on them like an auction. Payouts determined on how many games they win. I’d lump in the 15 and 16 seeds all together just to make things go quicker and someone can bid on all 16s instead of one by one. You can do payouts different ways but this is how I’ve typically done it:

1 win (16 teams) .5% of the pot
2 wins (8 teams) – 1.5% of the pot
3 wins (4 teams)  – 4% of the pot
4 wins (2 teams) – 12% of the pot
Final Four win (1 team) – 15% of the pot
Champion (1 team) – 25% the pot