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Rico Bosco's Guide To Running NCAA Tournament Pools

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Finally, the best time of year is upon us. NCAA Tournament which means Pools. Lots of Pools. Some are easy, some are complicated, but I can guarantee you all are great. That’s the beauty of this time of year, no matter what pool you are in, it’s fantastic. Almost every game is down to the wire, which leads to swings of emotion (and your wallet) that are un-matched. I enjoy learning about different pools so I reached out on Twitter and got a few new ones from The Rico Riders, as well as ones I’ve been in over the years. Best of luck to you all in these pools, and as always reach out to @Rico_Bosco if you have questions.

Without further ado …the pools :

Bracket Pool

Everyone should be familiar with this style.

Rules:

Fill out your bracket, points multiply each round, winner takes all.

Variations :

-Have heard of rewarding more points for upsets (2 points compared to 1 for each correct pick) which is a decent twist, but also opens the door for people to just blindly pick upsets.

-Have also heard of given the difference in seed (ie 14 over a 3 is +11) for each upset.

Rico’s Take :

I know it’s going to sound like communism especially from me, but regular bracket pools have sort of boring in regards to the other options when it comes to pools. Maybe it was years of cube life and guys going “I don’t know why but I took this team to make the Final Four”  or ” I went with this team as an upset” when it’s a 7-10 game. Like come on man. Regular old Bracket pools have been reduced to an “office bonding exercise”. Everyone throws in $5 because they know everyone can afford it and then everyone can laugh when Bernie from Operations wins because she picked the teams based off her cats names, the cities of the factories of her favorite snack foods, and the seeds on how many accounting errors she makes a day.  There’s just too much action elsewhere for me to get all worked up about the outdated bracket style pool. I will always fill one out, but I truthfully don’t care about it much.

 

Confidence Pool via @NickyTheFrench (A Rico Rider)

Fairly simple.

Rules:

-Each team gets assigned a point total of your choice 1-68 or 64 (if you want to split the play in spots as one entity each).

-Teams are ranked in ascending order 1-68 (64) with 68 or 64 being the most confident team and 1 the least confident.

-Accumulate points as teams advance through each round.

-Highest point total wins

Rico Variation :

-Rank teams 1-32 but cannot have two teams ranked playing each other in the first round (ex: the 6 and 11 seeds in the Midwest Region)

-The rationale here is that you are basically filling out a bracket. Eliminates the luck aspect of a team you didn’t really like or rate high advancing but you benefiting by gaining points. Also helps prevent people hedging bets by ranking toss up games etc 7-10 at about the same totals (ex 21,22) knowing one of them must advance.

Last Thought :

I’ve always wondered what would happen if the NCAA Selection Committee seeded teams 1-68 and then let them pick in that order which seed/spot on the bracket they wanted. So last year for example, #1 Kentucky picks wherever they want, #2 Duke and #3 Wisconsin avoid Kentucky by going to the other side of the bracket. Now #4 Villanova is where it gets fun. Would they pick the #1 on Kentucky’s side knowing they would be a potential Final Four matchup or roll the dice as a #2 seed elsewhere. Let’s say they pick the 4th #1 spot. Have to figure #5, #6 and #7 in the draft order avoid Kentucky’s bracket. Now #8. The best position is obviously the #2 seed in Kentucky’s bracket but it’s also tough to knowingly put yourself in that bracket. My question is essentially this, how many teams would have passed on that #2 spot KNOWINGLY taking a tougher spot just to avoid Kentucky ? 5, 10, 20 ? Purely hypothetical but worth the idea.

Takeover/ATS Pool 

Pure Luck.

Rules:

Teams are picked out of a hat 1-64 or 1-68 if you want to do the play in games.

-Spreads are used the morning of the games.

– The bracket is played out but W/L results are essentially irrelevant . ATS is the factor.

-If Joe has Team X  -14.5 vs Nick’s Team Y ,and team X wins by 10. Joe is now out, and Nick owns Team Y for however long they advance in the tournament.

-Prizes can be given for Sweet 16, Final 4, etc or just winner take all.

Notes :

– Important  that spreads should ALL be rounded up to .5 (etc 6.5, 18.5 etc) so their are no ties. Company I last worked for left them as whole numbers and had entrants advance but splitting that team. That (among MANY other reasons) is why I left that company. Ties are for suckers.

-It’s common in these pools to limit the entrants to 16 or 32 and give each entrant a team in each region, or 1 team on either side of the bracket. Avoids you having both teams in a 1st round match up.

Rico Story :

-One of my fondest childhood memories was running out late on a Sunday night with my Dad to get a newspaper to double check the spread because after he was holding Gonzaga in the Elite 8. He opened it up, saw he covered and now held Michigan State. Good times.

NYC Final Four Pool 

The main pool I do every year. Hit a million dollars at it’s biggest pot. When it’s described to outsiders they go “wait you just have to get the Final Four?” and I always respond, “trust me it’s not that easy.”

Rules :

-Each line is $10.

-Each line must contain 4 Final Four Teams, a National Champion, and the TOTAL COMBINED points in the Championship game.

-If you are the only entry line with the Final Four you win. Also applies if you are the only one with 3/4, 2/4 or 1/4 should that occur (spoiler- it won’t)

-If multiple entries have the same Final Four, it goes to tiebreaker #1 (National Champion).

-If there are still multiple entries after Tiebreaker #1, it goes to Tiebreaker #2 (Total Combined points in Championship game).

– The closest amount on the entry’s line to the actual amount of points scored wins. There is no rules about going over or under. Ex- If Entry A has 154 listed, and Entry B has 133 listed. And the final score amount is 146, Entry A wins. If Entry A has 128 and Entry B has 122 and the total is 124. Entry B wins.

-If there is a tie on closet total scored, the entries split. There can be anything from a 50/50 split to as many as necessary. The most I ever heard was in 2008 when 8 entries split the pot equally.

Rico’s take : 

You are probably reading this saying there’s no way this is that hard. Trust me it is a cut throat pool. The tiebreakers always make it interesting because it almost always comes down to points. But the real thing is that groups of guys go in together.  To clarify a little bit more, groups of 10-20 guys will all pool in $100, $250, $500, or even $1000 each guy which amounts to a couple of hundred lines that they all own. If they want, each of those lines can be a different final four, or have all four champions, or the same champion with a bunch of different point totals etc. The point is that group or that “syndicate” has a better chance working together than the average Joe just filling out his 5-10 lines.

Either way it’s one of my favorite pools , and fairly simple for guys to run themselves and grow over the years.

Rico Story : 

The pool has been run for 40 years in NYC and the early rumors were a nun who was trusted to help safe guard the money skimmed off the top, to the guy who won with George Mason mistakenly put them instead of George Washington, to everything in between.

There’s a million stories to choose from but the one I laughed at the most was a few years back when I dropped off the entry sheets to my friend’s house. When I walked in I caught up with his parents , both of his parents played ball in HS and college and coached in their adult life so they knew their stuff.  Then we started talking about who we liked etc. I asked if they had ever been close. His father looked at me with disgust,turns back to his wife, and goes “Anthony Epps , hun remember ?” She goes “Oh that bastard how could I forget? ”

For you unfamiliar, my friends dad was holding Arizona… 150 points. Epps hit a three to tie it at 74 and send it into overtime, where someone else had a higher total. Below is the perfect spot to watch it play out.

 

Player Points Pool

For the real diehards out there like me who love value as well as watching great scorers. This pool focuses on players rather than teams.

Rules :

– Pick 6 or sometimes 8 (your choice amount) players to accumulate points scored for each game they play in.

-CANNOT pick two players from the same team

-MUST pick one player on a team seeded 5-8,  MUST pick one player on a team seeded 9-12, and MUST pick a player on a team seeded 13-16.

-Total points scored wins the pool.

Rico Variation:

– Make it snake draft style.  This way not everyone has Buddy Hield. Actually love this version even better.

Rico’s Take :

I love this because it’s essentially a survivor pool as well. Buddy Hield may score you 40 but if he only makes it two rounds you are screwed. The 10-12 point a game guy on a team like Michigan State is a safe bet, but on a scoring by committee style team, he may only get you 4-5 one game which hurts also. There’s a lot that goes into the thought process, as well as looking for value on teams seeded low, which you know I love.

Rico Story :

Going to catch a TON of shit for this, but I had Stephen Curry in 07 when they lost to Maryland (30 points) because I had friends down there who turned me onto him early in the year and watched a few of his games. Also had CJ McCollum in 2010 vs Kansas (26 points) because I read about him. 100% can see how you read that and say “sure you did” but If you know me, you know some of my favorite teams and players are the ones under the radar.

Box Pool 

Basically a Super Bowl box pool.

Rules:

-The Final digit of the score of the winning team and losing team pays the matching square. Example- 71-63 pays the box matching Winning team 1, Losing team 3.

-Prizes are given for every game and usually multiply through rounds. There is also commonly a payout for halftime of the Final 4 or Final depending on your pool.

Rico Variation:

– This should almost be the standard as it spices things up, but numbers change each weekend (ie Weekend 1 is 64/32 round, Weekend 2 is 16/8 round), Weekend 3 is 4/2 round) See below for an example.

grid

For those of you fancy guys who like Excel style sheets  instead of pouring blood sweat and tears into your bracket… Here’s a good site to get it.

Rico Story :

In 2014 I had 1-1 as my box for the entire tournament. It never hit. However, in one of the all time “shit luck” situations of all time. TWENTY games were within 1 score or 1 score from both teams from landing on 1-1. The real kicker was a Final Four game and The Championship game (both for very big payouts) were part of the 20. 63-53 and 60-54 were the scores.

Calcutta Auction Pool 

I have attended BIG auction pools but was never in one. I was approached this year by a Rico Rider to be in one and am thrilled. For those of you unfamiliar, a Calcutta Auction pool gives anyone a chance to walk away with ANY team in the field, as well as AS MANY teams as they want…the catch is are you willing to spend on them ?

Rules :

– An auction starts with the 16 seeds and works it’s way up.

-Each team starts at $1 and the bidding doesn’t stop until that team is sold

-The process stops when every team is sold.

-The payouts are different in every pool depending on who runs it, but here’s 3 common examples :

Example 1 :

– National Champion = 30% of total pool pot
– Runner up = 15% of total pool pot
– Final Four losers = 8% of total pool pot
– Elite 8 losers = 4% of total pool pot
– Sweet 16 losers = 1.5% of total pool pot
– Round of 32 losers = 0.5% of total pool pot
– Double-digit seed that advances the furthest = 3% of total pool pot

Example 2 :

-Round of 32 Losers – 0.25% , Sweet 16 losers  – 2%, Elite 8 losers  – 4%, Final 4 losers – 8%, Runner Up– 16%, Champ – 32%.

Example 3 :

-Round of 32 losers = 0.50 %

-Round of 16 losers = 2 %

-Round of 8 losers = 3 %

-Final 4 losers = 4 %

-Runner up = 15%

-National Champ = 41%

 

The top two reward smaller teams a bit more, and the last structure pays out the winner much bigger. Either way it’s an awesome format and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Notes :

-It’s common practice to group all 4 16 seeds as 1 entity, all 15 seeds as 1 entity , and all 14 seeds as 1 entity. Makes things a little easier, as well as actually gives the guy who bid $1 or$2 etc some value having 4 teams instead of 1.

Variations : 

-Have heard of limits on the amount of guys allowed in the pool , 10 , 20 etc

-Have also seen these pools relegated to pre determined budgets of $200, $500, or $1000 and you can only spend that much whether it’s on 1 team or 20 teams etc.

Rico Story :

7 kids straight out of college split Uconn for $2,100 in 2014. The payout was 6 figures.

Ron and Mike’s Survival Pool via @DaMarksman7490

Am told this is a big pool in NY. Asked my man Mark for a breakdown he said here’s what they got :

Rules :

– $100 buy in

– Can never pick the same team twice

-Pick one team a day every day there are games (starting in round of 64)

-Last man standing takes it all home

Notes :

This is a must attend for Rico.Gotta find out which bar runs this pool and see the madness that ensues each day as guys enter in their picks as well as watching them lose their shit over upsets and bad losses. Can only imagine a Saturday of the Elite 8 with half the bar on one team, half the bar on the other for 2 straight games. Gotta be an absolute war zone.

In a pool like this , especially neighborhood and been run for years. I gotta imagine the take is around 6 figures. That’s similar to my NYC Final Four Pool. Love pools with an identity behind them, almost like a pastime. Grandfathers, fathers and sons can spend 60 combined years and never hit the thing ! If that isn’t gambling in March in a nut shell I don’t know what is.

My cousin’s husband mentioned he was in one similar but with way less guys. Again, very simple to run and can take on a HUGE following over the years.

Grantland Survivor Pool

Bill Simmons is not well liked by my boss Dave, however I gotta give him his due. I ran this pool a few years back and it was done by the second weekend. Also, a BOATLOAD  of guys buy back out of sheer embarrassment losing on Day 1. It really is a lot of fun.

It’s a long read here. But it’s essentially this:

Rules: 

-Can never pick the same team twice

-Day 1 (Thursday)- Pick 2 Winners Straight Up no spread

-If you lose Thursday you can buy back Friday but have to pick 4 winners.

-Day 2 (Friday)- Pick 2 winners / (If you bought back after Thursday’s losses you must hit all 4) Straight Up no spread

-If you lose Friday you can buy back Saturday but have to pick 5 winners.

-Day 3 (Saturday) Pick 1 winner . / (If you bought back after Friday’s losses you must hit all 5)

-If you lose Saturday you can buy back Sunday but have to pick 6 winners.

Day 4 (Sunday) Pick 1 winner / (If you bought back you after Saturday’s losses must hit all 6)

-That’s the last buy back option.

Day 5 (Thursday of Sweet 16 – National Championship)- Pick 1 winner per day Straight Up no spread

Notes : 

When I ran this, I made a rule about being out of teams. Real quick :

Let’s say only 2 guys make it to the 2nd weekend. It’s Thursday night and Joe and Bob are left. Joe cruised in without having to buy back, but Bob lost Friday and bought back in and hit all 5 Saturday, then hit one pick Sunday to advance. Joe can pick anyone he wants essentially, but Bob has no teams to chose. My rule was Joe only wins the pool if he picks correctly on Thursday night.  If he doesn’t they split. My rationale was that up until that point they had advanced to the same spot, and the premise of the pool is to pick a winner. Bob having no teams left should be treated like a loss, but unless Joe picks correctly he shouldn’t win the pool just because Bob ran out of teams.

That’s just my rationale- your call either way.

Rico Story : 

When I ran this, some sick bastard lost Thursday, bought back Friday, lost again. Bought back Saturday … HIT ALL 5 , and then lost Sunday when he only needed to pick 1 winner. Thems the breaks man.

 

Epilogue 

If I missed anything let me know, would love to include more pools in next year’s version. Again, any questions hit me up on Twitter I’ll be happy to help. Best of luck.