And so it begins. Within a matter of weeks, March Madness will be here – the biggest betting series of the sports year. It is easy to get lost in the hype and become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of betting opportunities that the NCAA’s premier basketball tournament offers – but, like most things in life, there are ways to triumph over the masses if you know where to look.
Rule #1 – Set Some Goals
March Madness betting is all about setting and achieving set goals. If you go blindly into a betting enterprise of this magnitude, you will likely end up bankroll-broke on the other side. Set some goals that are difficult, but possible for you to achieve. This could be a set dollar amount, but the most effective way to do this would be to set a goal for units won. Setting a dollar amount as your goal is dangerous if that amount has no real relation to your average unit. Individuals who set a dollar goal, and yes I have done the same, often find themselves betting more than they normally would in a last ditch effort to get to that goal. Don’t go down this path. As in all successful sports betting strategy, you need to exercise some money management. Define both your unit and the number of units you want to win by the end of the tournament. Most importantly, STICK TO THAT UNIT. That is why we set the goal this way, because if you measure your performance in units won (your true record as a handicapper), you are less likely to chase and bet crazy amounts in the tournament’s final stages.
Rule #2 – Love Your Dogs
I got news for you – underdogs are not just for sports-ignorant coworkers trying to win their office pools. You can make some serious money on dogs during this tournament, both straight-up and with their often too-big spreads. Look for upsets throughout. Of course, we need to give respect where it’s due, but do not count out a dog ranked #12 or even #15 because they are facing a juggernaut you have followed all season. Upsets are the nature of this tournament, that’s why so many people watch the tournament, even though they might not be caught dead watching a regular season college basketball game. Be willing to take big dogs, and don’t be afraid to plop money on a dog moneyline, if you think the game is a 50/50 coin toss. That is how you make the big bucks in March Madness. I’m not saying you need to take every underdog in the first round, but keep your eyes open and be willing to see opportunity where others do not.
Rule #3 – Not All Schedules are Created Equal
Teams in a specific contest may not get the same amount of days off between games. The NCAA “does its best” in this area, but it does not always succeed. You will want to take into account how many days rest a team has had, as well as the nature of their last victory. Did they go into overtime? If not, did they have an absolute grinder of a game that required starters to play some extra minutes? Don’t overlook this. While traditional stats, matchups, etc. are useful in March Madness as in all sports betting, the tournament is a different animal where teams have advantages in their schedule. Take a look at that. You may also opt to take a look at a team’s schedule from before the tournament began. Did they have a difficult final few games of the season – facing ranked teams or long road trips? Be aware of fatigue going into the tournament. Remember that it is not necessarily the best team that wins the tournament, it is the team that manages the demands of the tournament better than all the others.
Rule #4 – Make It to the End
Some of you reading this article will have a wildly successful tournament, others may struggle. If you lose games early on in the tournament, do not chase and do not destroy your bankroll before you make it to the end of the tournament. If you end the first round down a few units, do not panic and overbet the next round. Remember that there are 6 rounds to the tournament (7 if you count the First Four), so there will be ample opportunity down the line. And trust me, you want to still have money left in your bankroll to take advantage of those opportunities. Keep a sound mind and be willing to pass on games, don’t force anything.
Rule #5 – Enjoy it.
It only happens once a year, and although we all want to make money on it, remember to keep it lighthearted. Enjoy the mania and chaos of it all, have a few beers with friends, and be one of the few who can both bet the tournament AND have fun doing it. Good luck and bring home the bacon.