Online sportsbooks have jumped into the March Madness bracket contests game in a big way over the last few years. Now, you can find a few free March Madness bracket contests at every sportsbook with massive promotional prize pools.
These can be open to everyone in the US as well, meaning Californians can play whether legal and regulated sports betting comes to the state next year or not. Here’s our list of the best free NCAA bracket contests available at legal online CA sportsbooks.
DraftKings $60,000 Bracket Battle, Survivor Pool & Pick ‘Em Challenge
DraftKings’ Bracket Challenge had become a staple of the free bracket contest scene before getting a new beer sponsor and a facelift in 2022.
It’s now the Yuengling Bracket Battle with a $60,000 prize pool paying the top 7,000-plus brackets, including a $2,500 first-place prize.
America’s oldest brewery also sponsors the Yuengling Pick ‘Em Challenge with DK. It’s a free-to-enter pick’em contest series with up to $40,000 in prizes.
Keep your eyes out for a $30,000 NCAA March Madness Survivor Pool, as well as a $20,000 second-chance contest starting at the Sweet Sixteen.
BetMGM $10 Million Perfect Bracket Challenge
BetMGM Sportsbook‘s free March Madness bracket competition is the biggest of the bunch. That said, don’t count on hitting that perfect bracket. It does offer up $10 million for a perfect bracket but also gives away $100,000 to the best bracket entered, perfect or not.
Bet365 $6 Million Perfect Bracket Challenge
For the most part, the Bet365 Bracket Challenge contest follows BetMGM into this space, offering $6 million for the perfect bracket. However, this free contest also gives away $125,000 to the best bracket, $30,000 for second place, $12,500 for third, $6,000 for fourth and $1,250 for fifth. There were also cash prizes for the rest of the top 250.
$100,000 Bally Bracket
Bally Bracket succeeded in crushing BetMGM, Bet365 and the rest of the competition to hold the biggest free bracket contest in 2022.
Bally’s Interactive’s free-to-play bracket contest was willing to award $100 million to all perfect NCAA tournament brackets. They actually did give away $50,000 to the best bracket, $25,000 to the runner-up and another $25,000 for the rest of the top five entries.
$25,000 FanDuel Bracket Pick’em presented by SeatGeek
Gone is the $250,000 FanDuel Bracket Madness contest, replaced by the part-free bracket contest and part-no-entry sweepstakes FanDuel Bracket Pick’em presented by SeatGeek.
This one lets you pick five teams and accumulate points for wins based on the round and seeding of those teams.
Earn at least 400 points to get a voucher into a FanDuel contest. Earn 2500 or more for a share of $20,000 in cash. The best-earning entry wins $5,000 in cash.
ESPN’s Men’s Tournament Challenge
Due to its prize distribution, the 2022 Men’s Tournament Challenge on ESPN was as non-traditional as a bracket contest can get.
Instead of the usual “best bracket wins,” this contest awarded grand prize draw tickets to the highest scoring entries from each tournament round. The $100,000 grand prize and 25-entry limit makes this contest a must for free March Madness bracket contest regs who like free money.
ESPN also offers a Women’s Tournament Challenge contest with the same prize structure.
Capital One NCAA March Madness Men’s Bracket Challenge
The Capital One NCAA March Madness Men’s Bracket Challenge is the official bracket contest run by the NCAA itself. It’s as traditional as bracket contests come. Yet it still distributes prizes based on a sweepstakes. The top 16 bracket entries are entered into a draw with one grand prize and 15 first prizes.
The grand prize is tickets to next year’s Final Four and championship game, plus airfare and hotel. The first prize haul is a $50 gift card.
Yahoo Tourney Pick’em $25K Best Bracket Contest
A traditional bracket contest that allows up to 10 bracket entries per person, the Yahoo Tourney Pick’em $25K Best Bracket Contest gives away $25K and an MGM Resort Vegas Getaway to the best bracket. It’s as simple as that.
What are the odds of a perfect NCAA bracket?
Correctly predict the winner of all 63 NCAA tournament games and you will have a perfect bracket. Had you entered that bracket in the BetMGM $10 Million Perfect Bracket Challenge and the Bet365 Bracket Challenge prior to the tournament, you’d walk away with a $16 million fortune. It’s that simple, but it’s hardly that easy.
The actual odds of picking the perfect bracket are an astronomical one in 9.2 quintillion. In other words, it’s almost impossible. That’s why sportsbooks like BetMGM and Bet365 are willing to put up so much money. It’s actually a relatively low-risk bet for these sportsbooks.
Fortunately, both bracket contests also offer six-figure prizes for the best bracket. So you don’t have to be perfect to get paid.
The key to winning a March Madness bracket contest
How do you win one of the NCAA Bracket Contests listed above? Just build a better bracket than everyone else in that particular contest.
That might sound simple to some, but the odds of doing so in any of these major free contests are almost as high as the odds of building a perfect bracket. The odds are so high because free contests like these draw so many entries. They are usually open to anyone in the US and allow multiple entries. This means you are literally competing against millions of brackets.
That said, multiple entries can work in your favor. While the odds of winning are clearly astronomical, somebody has to. There’s no reason it can’t be you.
Give yourself the best shot possible by following the one and only key to winning a March Madness Bracket contest: enter the maximum number of different brackets in each contest. This will allow you to not only cover several different bracketology bases but also improve your odds, giving you the best shot at winning.
Mistakes to avoid when building your NCAA bracket
Nobody can tell you how to pick the perfect bracket. If someone had a proven formula for March Madness bracket betting, they’d be using it to win millions themselves rather than sharing it with the world.
That said, stats don’t lie. Leaning on them can help you avoid some big March Madness mistakes. Here are our three top March Madness brackets tips for fans of college basketball betting:
- Not picking a top seed to win it: A No. 1 seed has won 22 of the past 35 tournaments since the field expanded to 64. It was a No. 2 or No. 3 in nine other years. The lowest seed ever to win the NCAA Tournament was a No. 8. In other words, it’s probably a mistake not to pick a top seed to win the tournament.
- Sleeping on the No. 10, 11 and 12 seeds: St. Peter’s making it to the Elite Eight in 2022 was an outlier. Seeds that high don’t normally survive the first round. That said, there are three higher seeds that have proven more capable of first-round upsets than others: the No. 10, 11 and 12 seeds. Coming into the 2022 tournament, No. 10 and 11 seeds were responsible for 50 first-round upsets. Plus, No. 12’s had 47. Do the math and you’ll see these seeds are winning one out of three first-round games. Getting early upsets right can set your bracket apart from the pack. Hence, it’s probably a mistake to sleep on the No. 10, 11 and 12 seeds.
- Leaning on seeding at the wrong time: Seeding is a major indicator in the first and second rounds. There are always some upsets, but the top seeds advance more often than not. The thing is, seeding is far less of a factor in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight where the hotter team wins, regardless of seed. Then, in the Final Four, seeding becomes a major factor again with the lower-seeded teams winning nearly 75 percent of the time. It’s all about timing, as leaning on seeding too much in the second weekend is a mistake, but not leaning on it enough in the Final Four could be an even bigger one.