The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness, is upon us once again. The annual event also heralds the fact that bracket contests are running all over the place. We’ve combed through them, and found the five best FREE March Madness bracket contests.
FanDuel Sportsbook – Bracket Madness
FanDuel Bracket Madness will award $250,000 to players who score the highest in the site’s bracket competition. The top bracket will win a smooth $100,000.
Best of all, this contest is both completely free to enter and open to residents in all 50 states. In order to play, one must simply register for a free FanDuel account. Then, make sure to fill out a bracket before tip-off on March 21.
DraftKings Sportsbook – Brackets
DraftKings Sportsbook is one of the top online sportsbooks in the US right now. So, it’s fitting that the site has opened its app to the entire country for March Madness.
Brackets is a free-to-enter March Madness contest that promises big bucks for a group of players. Anyone in the US can join the contest and compete for their share of $64,000.
Additionally, players in DraftKings’ home state of New Jersey will have an additional opportunity to win big money. For a $20 bet, Garden Staters have the opportunity to play for a separate $100,000 prize pool.
Register at DraftKings to get into the action. There’s literally no reason not to try it.
Yahoo! – Best Bracket Millionaire
Yahoo! Sports is offering one of the simplest and most direct bracket contests available. Like other “mainstream” sites, however, there is less divvying of the prize pool.
As its name implies, Yahoo’s Best Bracket Millionaire contest will award the top bracket a cool million dollars. To that end, there are no catches – the rules even mention a lump-sum check for $1 million.
However, that’s the only prize that Yahoo! is offering to its players. So, to paraphrase Maverick, there’s going to be an awful lot of broken hearts at the end of the contest.
Nevertheless, it’s a free shot at a million bucks, so why not take it? After all, somebody has to win.
Fox Sports – Cousin Sal Bets the House Bracket Challenge
Fox Sports is offering the most gimmicky of free bracket challenges available. The grand prize for this contest is a $4.5 million house in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Purportedly, the house belongs to Fox Sports personality Cousin Sal. He is “giving away his house” to any player who manages to guess the tournament 100 percent accurately.
A winning player can also choose to receive a $1 million lump sum check. We suppose that option is for players who desire more liquidity in their free March Madness bracket contests.
Considering that a perfect bracket has literally never happened, Sal is probably safe in his house. Instead, the top scoring bracket will receive a comparably paltry $10,000 for their troubles.
$10,000 is still a pretty good deal for guessing the outcome of basketball games. It isn’t a mansion, though.
ESPN – Tournament Challenge
ESPN, the top sports media outlet, unsurprisingly has its own tournament challenge. In fact, the “worldwide leader” will award a respectable $22,950 in prizes to players in the contest.
However, ESPN is also the most corporate of sports organizations. So, fittingly, its corporate relationships preclude it from the largesse of some of the other contests.
In fact, according to the contest rules, ESPN must award prizes that are both somewhat randomly distributed and are not actually cash. So, the combination of a Hawaii trip and site subscriptions are the basis of the company’s prize pool.
First prize for ESPN’s Tournament Challenge will be a five-night trip for two to the Maui Jim Invitational basketball tournament next year. The prize also includes $10,000 in Amazon gift cards.
The prize winner will come from a random drawing of the top bracketmakers in the contest. ESPN will select from the top 1 percent of returns to generate a winner.
Additionally, 60 randomly-drawn players in the top 3 groups will win ESPN+ subscriptions. The company will grant them a year of access, valued at $60.
Honorable Mention – Caesars March Pick’em Challenge
Nevertheless, those who are in or near the Garden State can compete for more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. In fact, everyone who fills out a bracket on the Caesars will win a free $20 sports bet.
As with other bracket contests, players will accrue points based upon their correct selections in their brackets. Caesars will award prizes using a simple leaderboard.
The first place finisher will win an outstanding prize – a $250 sports bet every week for an entire year! Second place will receive a similar deal, only for $100 per week. The third-place finisher gets a Las Vegas vacation.
Other prizes include smaller, single free bets and stays at Caesars Atlantic City. Overall, this contest is one of the most generous and appealing of them all.
It’s just a shame that it’s only for folks in New Jersey.
The bottom line is that there is a ton of free money floating around this week. Make sure to take a shot at grabbing some of it.
Last Updated: April 5, 2019
It’s as much a rite of spring as melting snow, blooming flowers and daylight savings time: Money changing hands — sometimes in considerably large quantities — on March Madness games.
For decades, that’s happened most commonly via office/friends and family bracket pools. Perhaps less mainstream — but still alive and kicking — is the underground betting market consisting of the friendly neighborhood bookie or the offshore, unregulated sportsbook.
The annual tournament’s do-or-die format and springtime setting make it a sports betting version of Mardi Gras. There are multiple days of thrills, risks, close calls, adult beverages and an overall cascade of highs and lows.
In fact, the only missing piece might be the beads. Well that, and their uniquely creative solicitation methods.
FanDuel Sportsbook offering free-to-play bracket contest
Nik Bonaddio, chief product officer for FanDuel, had confirmed in a February interview on TheLines Podcast that the operator would run a free March Madness bracket contest, similar to what it did for last year on its daily fantasy sports (DFS) site.
Following Selection Sunday, that $250,000 single-entry Bracket Madness Contest is now available on the mobile version of the sportsbook. The good news — besides the fact there’s no cost to enter — is that participants don’t need a perfect bracket in order to cash in. Plus, anyone in the US with a FanDuel account can play for no cost!
Rather, simple participation gives each contestant a chance. Participants earn points for every March Madness game they peg correctly. The top scorer at the end of the tournament wins a $100,000 grand prize. In all, the top 1,000 scores finish in the money. Those qualifying for 2nd-5th place takes home five-figure sums between $10,000 and $25,000.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to expose the sportsbook to people who may be reticent to dive right in,” said Bonaddio. “I think March Madness is a good entry point.”
More than just brackets in FanDuel’s March Madness offerings
Notably, Bracket Madness is far from the only way FanDuel Sportsbook is commemorating the craziness that’s about to ensue on the hardwood for the remainder of the month.
To begin with, FanDuel is offering two rewarding promotions for its Garden State customers:
- Bandwagon Bonus: Place any NCAA championship future, get a $5 bonus for every game your team wins along the way.
- Conference Tournaments: Bet at least $10 on each of 5 or more conference tournament games and we will give you $10 in FanDuel Sportsbook site credit.
The operator is also rolling out a free daily contest — Props Pick ‘Em. Participants will compete for a $10,000 daily jackpot. FanDuel will roll out specific props each day beginning with the kickoff of the First Four on Tuesday, March 19, and contestants will make their selections accordingly. Moreover, the jackpot will roll over to the following day on nights when no one is able to claim it.
Back in February, Bonaddio had hinted that FanDuel would be “leaning in pretty hard” with respect to the variety of kinds of props offered, evoking the operator’s Super Bowl offerings as a good reference point.
The comparison to sports betting’s unofficial one-day national holiday is fitting. After all, an estimated $10 billion was already being bet on March Madness annually before legalized sportsbooks outside of Nevada were nothing more than a pipe dream.
Therefore, FanDuel is ready to capitalize on the most fertile of wagering markets for the first time.
Unprecedented March Madness betting landscape in PASPA-less environment
What’s often been a true statement over the last few months on the sports calendar applies to March Madness as well: The betting environment surrounding this year’s 68-team, single-elimination extravaganza that ultimately decides the NCAA’s Division 1 men’s basketball national champion is going to be different.
Thanks to last May’s Supreme Court decision eradicating the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), all manner of legalized March Madness wagering is available for the first time this year to those in the following states (in addition to Nevada):
As has been the case for major events that have transpired since non-Nevada legalized wagering began unfolding this past summer, the availability of legalized betting should increase overall interest exponentially.
Unless you went to Duke, you likely hate Duke.
But even if you hate Duke, which you likely do, you like betting Duke. Especially this year.
Duke heaviest bet this season
According to David Purdum at ESPN, more money was bet on Duke at US sportsbooks to win the NCAA national title than any other team this year. As the clear front-runner (+220 odds at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ), Duke is the heaviest NCAA March Madness favorite since the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats team (near even money). That team, which featured future #1 draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns, lost in the semifinals to Frank Kaminsky’s Wisconsin team. Wisconsin lost to Duke in the finals.
This year’s Duke team is led by mortal lock #1 NBA draft pick Zion Williamson. Combine Duke’s national brand with their ACC tournament win and public interest in legit superstar Williamson, it’d actually be a shock if the Blue Devils were not the most heavily bet team in this year’s field.
More March Madness data from FanDuel Sportsbook
So far, the most popular futures wagers at the FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey are (by bet):
- Duke (23% of the futures wagers)
- Virginia (17% of future wagers)
- Gonzaga (13% of futures wagers)
Given Virginia’s epic meltdown as a #1 seed last year to #16 UMBC (and what it cost and/or won bettors), seeing them receiving the second most in wagers is a surprise.
If you’re looking for some intel in filling out your brackets, consider the following from FanDuel:
- 59% of customers have Duke winning it all in their free bracket contest
- North Carolina is second at 14% of entries
- 22% of entries have all the #1 seeds in the Final Four
2019 March Madness title odds