Best Free March Madness Bracket Contests

Canadian players have flooded across the southern border to be impact players at high-level, D1 NCAA basketball programs. That’s just one of many reasons why college basketball fans in Canada circle the dates of the NCAA Tournament each year.

Not only do Canadian sports bettors make bets before the big dance arrives, they also love to play March Madness bracket contests. With Canadian online sportsbooks expanding exponentially, entering online March Madness bracket contests will explode alongside.

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Best free March Madness bracket contests

Online sportsbooks in Canada will have multiple March Madness bracket contests for the NCAA Tournament. While some come with an entry fee, each book should have a free-to-play bracket contest that you can take part in without spending any of your own money.

Entry may not cost you anything, but there are still some lucrative prizes to be had. Let’s check out a couple of the contests that are offered by some of the biggest brands out there:

DraftKings $50,000 bracket contest

One wildly popular free March Madness bracket pool is offered by DraftKings Online Sportsbook and pays out a total of $50,000. Each correct pick is worth points and every round offers more points per win, all the way up until the national title game.

The top 7,755 players are paid out, starting with prizes of $1 and increasing to $5,000 for the bracket with the most points after the Final Four!

BetMGM $10 Million perfect bracket contest

Billionaire Warren Buffett isn’t the only one offering money for a perfect bracket. BetMGM Online Sportsbook is one of the most well-known brands in the industry and part of that stems from their epic promotions, such as this one.

The contest couldn’t be more simple. Complete an NCAA Tournament bracket and if you don’t miss a single pick, BetMGM will pay you a $10 million grand prize. If no one is perfect, the entry with the most points receives $100,000.

Second-chance bracket contests

The NCAA Tournament tends to be unpredictable. This is especially true in the early rounds when there are inevitably a string of upsets that most of the public didn’t see coming. When this happens, many people have their brackets eliminated from contention pretty quickly.

That’s the bad news, but there’s also good news. Most sportsbooks will open up a second-chance bracket contest that players can enter for a second attempt at earning profits from the tournament.

In most cases, second-chance bracket contests begin with the Sweet 16. Other than there being fewer games to pick, these contests are the same as the conventional ones. Each correct pick earns a certain number of points (which increase as the rounds progress) and the bracket(s) with the most points, in the end, are eligible for the prizes offered.

These contests usually don’t come with the same payouts as the ones you enter before the tournament tips off, but they can still be lucrative and provide a rooting interest for the rest of the big dance.

How to enter a bracket contest

To successfully enter a bracket contest via Canadian sportsbooks apps, participants must first have an active account. When the time comes to get signed up, take the following steps:

  • After reaching the registration page, fill out all required fields (this includes name, address, ID verification, etc.)
  • Once all fields are filled out, agree to all terms and conditions before hitting submit. If you have a promo code handy, enter it to ensure you receive your welcome bonus.
  • Following registration, a notification email will be sent to confirm your new account.
  • Find the ‘Deposit’ button and follow the instructions to invest funds into your new sportsbook account. The balance will reflect the transaction, and another email will be sent for your records.
  • Check the Promotions section for any March Madness bracket contests. Some will be free to play while others will require an entry fee.
  • After joining the contest, fill out your bracket in its entirety with picks for every single game of the NCAA Tournament.
  • Wait for the games to tip-off!

How to beat your friends in March Madness bracket contests

Winning money from a March Madness bracket contest is a great feeling. Do you know what else feels good? Having bragging rights over your friends after you take them down with a better bracket than theirs. If you need some guidance when it comes to how to build a successful bracket, check out the following March Madness bracket betting tips:

  • No. 1, 2, or 3 Seed To Win: Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, well over 60 percent of national titles have been won by a top seed. Nearly 90 percent of winners have been a No. 1, 2, or 3 seed, meaning it’s highly unlikely the champion comes from seed any lower than that.
  • Two Or More No. 1 Seeds In The Final Four: When deciding on your Final Four teams, have at least two of the four No. 1 seeds as your regional winners. Upsets are aplenty in March but that’s usually early on. When it gets near the end, most of the remaining programs are elite. Since the 1985 expansion to 64 teams, over 50 percent of Final Fours have contained at least a pair of top seeds.
  • The Early Rounds Matter: Most people don’t think much of the early-round games and instead focus on the Final Four and the teams they are considering to win it all. While it’s true that first and second-round matchups are only worth a couple of points, they can be the difference between winning and losing the bracket pool.

When it gets close to the end, other members of the bracket contest likely have the same champion or finalists as you do. That means you won’t be able to gain any points on those people and to win you’ll need to have racked up more points than them early on in the tournament. If you pick a champion that is off the beaten path, then you don’t have to worry about this as much.

3 worst March Madness bracket mistakes

Just as there are tips to keep in mind for the best chance at a successful bracket, there are also decisions that can alter the likelihood of winning negatively. Remember these common mistakes that are made when filling out the bracket.

  • High seeds winning: See the above section, then remind yourself to stick with No. 1, 2, or 3 seeds in basically all of your brackets. While it can sometimes work in your favour to pick a champion that the public isn’t all over, there are still ways to do it while selecting a team that has a realistic chance. History tells us that the paths for teams outside the top three seed lines are difficult and unlikely to result in a national title.
  • Too many upsets: Yes, it’s possible to pick too many upsets in your NCAA March Madness bracket. You know they’re going to happen so you need to pick some once you see the bracket, but don’t think every 5 vs. 12, or 6 vs. 11, or 7 vs. 10 games is going to wind up in an upset. Select a few, but stick to the ones you’re most comfortable with because picking too many can submarine your bracket.
  • Familiarity bias: March Madness is one of those points in the year when everyone gets involved, from the biggest NCAA hoops fan you know to the novice just looking to have a good time. For those who aren’t as familiar with the ins-and-outs of every team and conference, picking winners has to come from another source.

In many cases, people just go to schools they are most familiar with. People tend to default to blue-blood schools (Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, etc.), or the teams with the history in the tournament. Some people pick teams that made them money in the past in some way, or programs they would rather see win. Without basing selections on information that is relevant to that year’s particular event, it can lead to a messy bracket.

How do March Madness brackets work?

The most universally recognizable thing about the NCAA tournament is its format, which is why the bracket has become synonymous with March Madness.

The NCAA Tournament is a single-elimination tournament featuring 68 teams (eventually trimmed to 64) that determines the national champion for the college basketball season. March Madness takes place on both the men’s and women’s sides, although bracket pools and betting is most common with the men’s tournament.

The field is broken down into a bracket featuring four regions with 16 teams to a region, all seeded No. 1 through No. 16. The tournament’s bracket-style format makes it an easy basis for contests and pools, which are wildly popular this time of year.

How they work is pretty simple: you earn points for each correct pick throughout the tournament on an escalating scale. The bracket that earns the most points is the winner. In many cases, the contest will pay out several places behind the winner as well.

From the die-hard fan to the novice, nearly everyone fills out a bracket and most do it to join one of these bracket pools. When March Madness comes around, many online sportsbooks offer bracket contests of their own, both free-to-play and ones with an entry fee.

Compared to single-game betting on each day of the tournament, there are several benefits to competing in a bracket contest. These pools are usually inexpensive to enter and can result in a massive payday at the end of the Final Four if you can wind up with the most points. If not, the loss is minimal.

While more money can be made by wagering on individual games during each round of the tournament, brackets are a great option for someone who doesn’t want to get too deep into betting on college basketball but wants a rooting interest when taking in the action.

How do March Madness brackets pay out?

If you take part in a bracket contest with friends, family, or co-workers and you wind up winning, receiving your money is a multi-step process. All participants of the pool must pay the organizer, and they need to send over your winnings. But if you join a contest through a mobile sportsbook that you belong to, that isn’t the case.

Winning money in a sportsbook-run bracket contest is just like winning a regular sports bet. After the contest, winnings will be added to your balance and can be withdrawn from the account the same way betting profits are.

How are March Madness brackets set?

Have you ever watched Selection Sunday as the full bracket is released and wondered about how exactly it was put together? Well, you aren’t the only one. As it turns out, most of what you see in the finished product is a result of the work being done by a 10-person college basketball selection committee.

Out of the 68 teams that take part in the men’s tournament every year, 32 of them are winners of their conference tournament and earn an automatic bid. The rest of the field is filled out by the committee, which offers at-large bids to the rest of the programs based on their season results. The committee is also responsible for breaking the field down into regions and labelling each team with a seed number.

Where do March Madness games take place?

If you’ve ever wondered about the anatomy of the NCAA Tournament from a schedule perspective, you’re in the correct place. NCAA Tournament games are known for being played at neutral-site locations. This means that no team gets the benefit of playing a home game, but also doesn’t have to play a true road game either.

The First Four narrows the field from 68 to 64 and is played in Dayton, Ohio, every year. Generally, the NCAA chooses eight locations around the country to serve as venues for the opening two rounds. Then, four other locations will be chosen to host Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. Finally, the last location hosts the two Final Four matchups and the national title game.

March Madness single game betting

Now that Canada has amended its sports betting laws to allow for single-game wagering, there is a huge range of options when it comes to March Madness odds. In addition to being able to enter any number of bracket pools, Canadians also have the option of placing conventional sports bets on every single NCAA Tournament game.

Moneylines, spreads & totals plus prop bets and futures bets can all be wagered on individually, rather than multiple sides having to be grouped into parlays as the old law required. Parlays are fun wagers and are fine to place now and then, but exclusively betting parlays is no way to earn a profit.

Betting on individual contests, however, provides a much better chance of winning money and being rewarded for your correct picks. Single-event betting in Canada is an absolute game-changer for the betting public and it’s sure to result in a much better product and customer experience.

March Madness brackets FAQ

When do March Madness brackets come out?

March Madness brackets are released after the last conference tournament on what is known as Selection Sunday. The initial release of the bracket comes several days before the start of the opening round, which is slated for the following Thursday or Friday.

How many brackets can I enter?

This depends on the contest and the sportsbook. On many sites, contests with a fee to join do allow participants to fill out more than one entry, but it could be capped at 20 entries. Most free-to-play pools only allow for one entry.

What are the odds on a perfect bracket?

The gambling odds of a perfect March Madness bracket are approximately 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1. Think you’ve got a chance? In the past, BetMGM has offered $2 million for a perfect bracket while billionaire Warren Buffett has volunteered to pay $1 billion to anyone that could post a perfect score.

What’s the best March Madness bracket ever?

In 2019, Gregg Nigl went 49-for-49 to begin his March Madness, going perfect for each of the first two rounds. This is the longest a bracket has stayed perfect in recorded history.

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