Best March Madness Bracket Contests

There are few bigger spectacles in sports than March Madness, and while it won’t be hosted in arenas across the country this year (it’ll all be held in Indiana), March Madness betting handle should still be through the roof.

If you’re like most casual fans, a March Madness bracket pool is likely the way you’ve been introduced to March Madness betting. With legal online sportsbooks now prospering around the country, it’s not the only way to bet on March Madness anymore. But it’s still one of the most fun.

What are the best free and paid-entry March Madness bracket contests you can jump into in New York? How can you make sure your picks have a better chance? Here’s a quick guide to the best March Madness bracket contests and how you can take advantage.

Best March Madness bracket contests in NY

Best free March Madness bracket contests

March Madness bracket contests are plentiful this time of year from major media outlets and national brands that offer up splashy sounding prize pools with no entry fee.

There’s a big downside to those nationally advertised contests, though: they attract hundreds of thousands of entrants, all of whom have the same dreams as you of nailing the top prize.

Millions of dollars have been offered up in these massive bracket contests through the years, but the chances of actually winning are somewhere in the neighborhood of remote and incredibly doubtful.

In recent times, legal online sportsbooks (and daily fantasy sports, or DFS, providers) have stepped up to the plate with some rather intriguing free March Madness bracket contests. On top of the full range of traditional sports bets on offer for March Madness, they’ve also thrown out some fun and high-value March Madness bracket contests.

DraftKings free bracket challengeDraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook have been the biggest noisemakers on this front. Just a few of the bracket contests we’ve seen over the past few years:

  • DraftKings $250,000 Survivor: Pick a team to win each day of the tournament and survive till the end for a piece of the top prize of $250,000.
  • DraftKings $64,000 Tourney Mania: Completely free to play, just fill out a bracket.
  • DraftKings $16,000 Second-Chance Bracket: New contest which begins with the Sweet 16.
  • FanDuel $250,000 Bracket Madness: Free to play, just fill out a bracket and compete for the $250,000 prize.

With entry to these being free, they are open to all players in any US state whether you have access to legal online sports betting or not. That, of course, means, all New York residents are eligible to play and win.

Best paid entry March Madness bracket contests

At legal online sportsbooks, there are plenty of ways to get involved with March Madness. From the opening games to the title tilt, there are 67 contests. You can bet on each and every one of them with bet types including moneyline, point spread, totals, props, and even live betting.

Sportsbooks have also offered contests that are specific to March Madness bracket betting. DraftKings, for example, has offered a bracket contest which featured a $100,000 prize pool and cost $20 to enter. We fully expect to see more of the same when the tournament rolls around, and more from other legal online sportsbooks getting into the mix.

DraftKings also has a dedicated section for pools on its site. It’s a great area to keep an eye out for user-created and additional contests which aren’t being advertised heavily.

Also, be on the lookout for special promotions around March Madness at all NJ sportsbooks. Items of note to keep an eye out for are odds boosts, bet insurance, and special props.

Second-chance bracket contests

The early rounds of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament are filled with excitement. Some of the most memorable moments of all time have to do with upsets that few — if any — saw coming. While it’s thrilling when it happens, the end result is that lots of brackets are busted early, leaving those participants with not much to root for on the bracket front the rest of the way.

Enter the second-chance bracket contest. These contests can begin with the Sweet 16 and roll through the end. They work the same as the initial contests — pick the winner of each game — but naturally with a much smaller playing field. In years past, major outlets such as CBS, ESPN, and Fox Sports have jumped on the second-chance train.

On the sportsbook front for the coming year, the best advice is to keep your eyes peeled for special promotions from the top shops. Many participants have their initial brackets busted quickly year after year, so there’s big demand for a second shot at glory. A good place to check regularly for options is the pools section over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

How are bracket contests scored?

Scoring for March Madness bracket contests can range from the super simple to being slightly more advanced. On the easier side, participants are awarded a point for each correct pick. The person with the most points wins, and there’s usually a tiebreaker or two involved, such as total points scored in the national title game.

NCAA Tournament bracket showOn the more advanced side, there are contests that award points on a sliding scale. As the rounds of the tournament advance, so do the possible points earned for a correct selection. Here’s one example of how that might work:

  • First Four and Round 1: 1 point
  • Round 2: 2 points
  • Sweet 16: 4 points
  • Elite Eight: 8 points
  • Final Four: 16 points
  • National Championship: 32 points

While the early-round matchups aren’t worth as much, it’s imperative to nail as many as possible in order to enhance the chances of garnering additional points later on as brackets are tallied up along the way. Some pools may also offer bonus points for things like nailing an upset pick or having a perfect round.

March Madness bracket contest odds

In years past, there have been massive contests which dangled the reward of an astronomical sum of money for nailing the perfect bracket. Doing so is next to impossible. There are 9.2 quintillion different possible combinations — no joke, that’s the real number — for a March Madness bracket, so actually landing on all of the correct calls isn’t something that’s going to happen anytime soon.

DraftKings free bracket survival contestFor your average contest, the chances of winning will depend on the amount of entrants. If it’s a massive free online contest with tons of users participating, you should seriously temper your expectations. The chances of catching lightning in a bottle to outpace everyone are incredibly slim. For smaller pools, your chances of actually making some noise increase.

Naturally, it will depend on the skill of the other participants and how well you do, but it’s certainly easier to win a pool with 50 or less entrants than it is to win one with 1 million or more. For a best-of-both-worlds approach, you can spread out the risk and your chances of winning by entering several pools.

As an example, you could take part in the local pool you’ve been doing for years, and then find an appealing paid entry contest which pays out multiple spots. Since you’ve already taken the time to do the work, take a shot with a big free contest and hope for the best. If you can cash in one or two of the three, then you’ve had yourself a solid run.

How do I get paid in March Madness brackets contests?

All right, so the stars have aligned and you’ve won a March Madness contest at a sportsbook. How do you get your hands on the cash? You’ll need to process a cash-out from your account. Exact options will vary by operator, but you should be able to find one that works best for your situation. Available withdrawal methods may include:

  • PayPal
  • Wire transfer
  • ACH eCheck
  • Online banking
  • Check
  • Cash at casino cage
  • Prepaid cards
  • eWallet providers like Neteller and Skrill

To make the withdrawal, locate the cashier function and follow the prompts. After you’ve selected a method, enter the amount you want to take out and click submit. Processing times may vary depending on the method chosen. For example, checks could take as long as 7-10 business days to be released.

On the other methods, you can expect things to go more quickly, such as 24-48 hours or less during the week, and usually by the next business day over the weekend. The top operators are quite efficient and will keep you posted every step of the way with email notifications. If there’s ever a question about a transaction, just reach out to sportsbook support for clarification.

How to sign up and enter an NCAA bracket contest in NY

To enter a free March Madness bracket contest that’s run on theDFS app, you don’t need to go to NJ to play. You can do everything right from NY.

A paid contest via the online sportsbook can be entered by downloading the sportsbook app in New York and then paying your entry fee in neighboring NJ. You’ll need to get a NJ sportsbook account set up to do so, but it’s a simple and painless process and you can do it right from New York.

DraftKings app NJClick through on our exclusive links to gain access to the best possible sign-up offers. From there, you’ll have to:

  • Enter basic info such as name, email, and date of birth.
  • Finish the registration process and download the mobile app directly from the sportsbook website.
  • Log in on mobile for the first time and make your first deposit.

To be eligible to play at a legal online sportsbook, you must be 21 or older, and not a member of any self-exclusion lists for gambling. Also, affiliated league personnel are prohibited from wagering on their own sports. There’s no residency requirement to play, but you must be within NJ state lines to place bets.

The apps will verify your location with the help of geolocation tracking software. You’re only tracked for the purposes of placing bets, which won’t go through if you aren’t in NJ. All other account management functions can be handled right here at home without issue.

March Madness bracket contest do’s and don’ts

If you’re looking for long-term success with sports betting in NY, then getting together an actionable plan can work wonders. It’s the same thing with bracket contests. While you may make a few hits by picking blindly, that’s not a winning strategy. Instead, you’ll want to attack the bracket with clear goals and objectives. Here are a few tips to lean on — these are our “do’s”:

  1. Study recent form and strength of schedule: When the bracket gets set, teams with the best records will generally be seeded higher than teams that just made the cut. However, it’s important to dig deeper than that. A team that built out a stellar record while beating up on cupcakes may be a paper tiger, while a club that got hot to get to the dance could continue cruising.
  2. Respect the higher seeds: Teams that are seeded 1-4 have a great overall winning percentage in the early rounds. Sure, upsets can happen, but chances are they’re going to be moving on to play deep into March Madness. To pick against the higher seeds, you really have to have a good reason to do so. Don’t force it.
  3. Take a calculated approach for upsets: On the upset front, your job is to figure out where they may realistically happen. You can do so by analyzing the matchups in depth and looking for clues. Recent form is a big one, as is potential matchup problems due to size, depth of rotation, and playing styles. When you find a trouble spot for the favored team, be sure to dig deeper.

If you work those three steps into your overall routine, the overall bracket picture will come into focus much quicker. To enhance your chances even further, know that there are some completely avoidable potholes to navigate around. Here’s a trio of our “don’ts”:

  1. Picking solely based on seeds or records: This goes back to our refrain of digging deeper into the matchups. Great records and high seeds are impressive, but they’re no guarantee of March Madness success either. Simply choosing the higher-seeded team in each game is going to lead to lots of holes in your bracket, so be sure to look at the complete picture when making selections.
  2.  Avoid making ridiculous upset calls that can’t be justified: To have your bracket stand apart from the crowd, you’re going to have to nail some upsets that few folks saw coming. Identifying the potential ones from top to bottom can help you spot which ones could legitimately happen — just be careful that you’re not mistaking something you want to occur with reality.
  3. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket: If you enter a single pool, a run for the ages could happen. However, you could also come up just short. That can be painful when it happens, but you can limit the risk of that by spreading out your chances. March Madness only comes once a year, so shoot for taking multiple shots at bracket competitions with a well-defined plan.

March Madness bracket contests fun facts

Back in 2014, legendary investor and Berkshire Hathaway head Warren Buffett shook up the March Madness landscape forever. Headlines were made when he offered up an astonishing $1 billion prize for a perfect bracket. Naturally, tons of folks tried, but no one managed to turn the trick due to the exorbitant odds of doing so.

In recent years, Buffett has done a special pool for employees in the Berkshire family of companies with the reward of $1 million per year for life for a correct bracket. Unsurprisingly, that prize has yet to be claimed either. As mentioned earlier, the betting odds of nailing a perfect bracket sit around 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

The longest verifiable streak of perfection in March Madness actually happened not too long ago. In 2019, a neuropsychologist from Columbus, Ohio, nailed 49 selections in a row before tasting defeat in game 50 of the tourney. That impressive run in the Capital One NCAA March Madness Challenge shattered the previous mark, which was set at 39 games in 2017

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