What is the March Madness block pool, you ask? It is similar to the Super Bowl squares, but with a lot more payouts and a lot more fun. I have been running this pool since 2011, with my friend, Erik, and watching Madness has become, well, madness. Once your bracket busts halfway through the 2nd round you are usually left unfulfilled throughout the rest of the tournament. This keeps you in it until the clock hits 0:00 in the Championship game.
How It Works
The block is set up like a traditional Super Bowl block pool, but with the “Winner” and “Loser” across the top and side, respectively. Each game has a winner and a loser, so you guessed it; there are 64 payouts from Round 1 (The real Round 1, not the First 4 play-in games.) through to the Championship of all 63 games. A Championship halftime payout is thrown in for the big game. Your block could hit as many times as your Winner/Loser combination comes out throughout the Tournament. For example, if Virginia beats Virginia Tech- 71-62, the winning block would be Winner 1-Loser 2.
You can set up your price per block as you see fit. This is our 8th year running the pool and we have increased the price 400% since the start due to the demand. There is still a waiting list every year. You can also set your payouts by round as you see fit. We found that allocating half of the pot from the Elite 8 through to the Championship really raises the stakes as the tournament hits the regional finals.
The beauty with a basketball block pool, unlike with football, is that there is not a “bad” combination of numbers. I ran the numbers. Since 2011, when we started our pool, 98% of the blocks have hit at least one time. If you are unlucky enough to draw Winner 2-Loser 4 or Winner 7-Loser 2, those combinations have not hit once over the period. I guess 7-2 sucks in poker and March Madness block pools.
Sure, some blocks have hit more than others have, but on average, each block combination has hit 4 times in the last 7 years. Also during that time, each year, on average, 47 of the 100 blocks are a winner. You may not get your full investment returned if you hit in the earlier rounds, but you are at least getting a 50% chance of your blocking hitting throughout the Tournament with a chance to win 15x your investment in the Championship.
Here is our payout schedule for 2018; our buy-in is $200/block:
There is always a lot of interest in the pool. The most common question we get about the block pool is, “Is there a most frequent and most hit block in the past 7 years?” Well, it is actually one block: Winner 1-Loser 6. It has hit 10 times and in six of the 7 years. One other block has also hit 10 times in that period: Winner 7-Loser 5, but has only hit in five of the 7 years. There are also a few other blocks that have hit in six of the 7 years as well as 9 times in that period. They are Winner 1-Loser 4, Winner 2-Loser 8 and Winner 3-Loser 1. Not one block has hit every year. Side note: Winner 0-Loser 0 did not hit for 6 years, but hit three different times in the 2017 Madness tournament for a return on investment of 162%.
Before I reviewed the data, I thought it made sense that Winner 1-Loser 6 hit the most and most frequently as it is a 5-point spread. A team usually can “ice” a game with a 5-point lead down the stretch. I thought this must be the lucky 5-point spread combination that hits the most in the Tournament. However, that is not true. Based on the ending numbers in the block pool, as you could have double-digit wins, the 2-point spread, followed by the 3-point spread, are the most common spread frequency over the last 7 years.
So the Winner 1-Loser 6 block can be seen as an outlier. Then again, about 95% of the blocks are considered close to the average over the last 7 years. This reiterates the fact that there are not “bad” numbers to have in a basketball block pool. Of the 448 winning blocks, the number of hits per block is spread evenly and close to the four hits, on average, from 2011-2017.
Without a doubt, when we distribute the picked numbers each year, which we randomly draw, someone will complain about drawing a “double number.” Since there are no ties (besides for halftime of the Championship), this means a team would have to win by 10, 20, 30, etc. points. Do these hit? Of course they do. In fact, the Winner 1-Loser 1 block is the most frequently hit block in the past 7 years from the Elite 8 through to the Championship, which are the larger money rounds. It has hit three times while six other combinations have hit twice. The other multiple hit combinations, are Winner 5-Loser 1, Winner 7-Loser 0, Winner 0-Loser 4, Winner 2-Loser 8, Winner 5-Loser 3 and Winner 4-Loser 3.
Speaking of larger money block hits, there were 56 of them in the past 7 years, only 15 of the block combinations have occurred at least twice. There truly is a random chance each year that any combinations of numbers can hit it big. Moreover, 17 different spread combinations that have hit in the Elite 8 through the Finals from 2011-2017 and the hits on these spreads are somewhat evenly plotted, not to mention more than half of the games have been double-digit wins. However, our most hit and most frequently hit number combination, Winner 1-Loser 6, has only hit once in the Elite 8 through the Championship.
The last few minutes of each Madness game is filled with so much excitement. You find yourself going through the math exercise to hit your block. “I need team A to hit a three and Team B to get fouled and miss a free throw.” The madness goes down to the buzzer in each game. I hope you create or join a Madness block pool to experience the Madness for yourself.