March Madness knockout pool official rules

CBS Sports

Everyone fills out a bracket for March Madness. Everyone in your office, your mom, your siblings, your significant other, that weird guy you know who doesn’t watch sports but always picks the right upsets and frustrates you to death.

The way it usually works is that the people who watch the least amount of college hoops end up faring better than the diehard basketball fans. It happens every year. I watch college basketball religiously and never win, yet my little sister — who doesn’t know that Coach K is short for anything — beats me pretty much every single year.

I’m filling out a bracket again this year, but most of my focus will be on the March Madness knockout pool.

What’s that, you ask? Well, long before Bill Simmons was the author of the worst take on dogs in the history of the Internet, he created perhaps the greatest office pool known to man.

When Simmons introduced this office pool on Grantland (R.I.P.) back in 2012, it changed my life. Kidding. Kind of. The rules are pretty simple, and there’s a bit more strategy involved than just picking winners in the bracket.

Sports gambling isn’t technically legal, but I’m pretty sure everyone is OK with bracket pools. If you’re reading this, FBI, keep focusing on college basketball coaches bribing players and not on me.

  • The entry fee is $10.
  • On the first official day of the tournament (Thursday), you send me two winners for the day before the games tip. That’s it. You pick two teams to win straight up. Let’s say I pick Villanova and Duke. If they both win, I move on to the next day. On Friday, I pick two more winners and the same rules apply.
  • However, if one (or both) loses on Thursday, I’m eliminated. I can buy back for $10, but instead of picking two winners, I have to pick four and all four teams have to win. If I lose on Friday, I can buy back in for $10, but I have to pick FIVE winners on Saturday.
  • If I make correct picks on Thursday and Friday, I move on to Saturday, where I only have to pick one winner. If I win that, I pick one winner on Sunday and for the remainder of the tournament.
  • If I lose on Saturday, I can buy back for Sunday for $10, but I have to pick six winners on Sunday instead of one. No buy backs after Sunday.
  • Here’s the catch: you can only use a team once. If I use Duke on the first day, I can’t use them again for the remainder of the tournament. No picking the same team twice.
  • If you make it past the first weekend and you’re still alive, you pick one winner for the remainder of the tournament until you lose or you’re out of teams.
  • If you run out of teams to use, you advance to the next day but you automatically lose. But someone else has to make a correct pick for you to be eliminated from contention.
  • Again… YOU CAN’T PICK THE SAME TEAM TWICE. Very important to remember for strategic purposes.
  • Last person standing wins everything. No second place prizes. Winner take all.

Quick recap:

If all goes to plan for you, you pick two winners on Thursday, two on Friday, one on Saturday, one on Sunday and one for the remainder of the tournament until you’re out of teams. No picking the same team twice. If you lose during the first weekend, you can buy back up to three times. If you lose Thursday, you pick four winners on Friday and one the rest of the way. If you lose on Friday and you buy back, you pick five winners on Saturday and one the rest of the way. If you lose on Saturday, you can buy back one last time, but you have to pick six winners on Sunday.

Got it? Good.

If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll email you more details. I’ll send you a spreadsheet with everyone’s picks. Picks must be sent to me by 9 a.m. on the day of the games.