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March Madness:

Time to break out those brackets

March 5, 2010

A week from Sunday, millions of men and probably quite a few women will be glued to their television sets.

Pen and paper will be in hand and the sets will be tuned to either CBS or ESPN.

That's because next Sunday is no ordinary end of the week. It's Selection Sunday, and there is money to be made.

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FRIENDS?AND?COWORKERS?will gather in front of television in living rooms and sports bars across the country to catch all the NCAA?Tournament action. The question is, will they be more concerned about the actual game, or who’s leading the way in the bracket betting pool?

Elsewhere across the country, men and women working in offices will also be watching the tube, or at least following along on the internet.

Someone will be tasked with opening a MS Office document and creating the almighty bracket that will serve as the lightening rod for countless arguments, opinions and a multitude of bets during the next two weeks.

Yes, there is a reason it's called March Madness and it's not just because the fervor that each of the 65 college basketball teams' fans exhibit for their favorite schools.

March Madness is big business in Las Vegas, where the nation's only legal sports betting establishments are located. You know, the sports books.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that roughly $2.5 billion annually is wagered on the NCAA Tourney.

Then consider of that total, only $80-90 million is bet legally through the sports books.

That leaves quite a considerable chunk of change being wagered illegally with bookies, friends, family and in office pools.

Plenty of employees across the country not only take time from work to fill out their brackets on the job, but they also using company printers, paper and ink to print out said brackets. A select few are in denial, but most just let it slide as a rite of passage for their workers every March.

Naturally, there are some employers that try to police this activity, but it's so widespread to completely eliminate it from the business and professional world and its employees is downright impossible.

On top of that is the continual explosion of online betting, which while legal in foreign countries, isn't in the United States. But that hasn't stopped plenty of Americans ponying up cash online to bet on their favorite teams and who they think will make the Final Four.

One sports betting analyst believes when adding online betting to the FBI's March Madness figures, the total amount wagered teeters on the $7 billion level.

And yes, that's a whole lot of money.

For the uneducated, the NCAA Tournament takes all the conference tournament champions in Division I and fills out the remaining slots in the 65-team bracket with at-large teams to comprise to most anticipated sports tournament in North America.

First round games, including the play-in game pitting teams No. 64 and 65, stat on March 18.

The Final Four will get under way April 3 with the National Championship game being played April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

On the base level of March Madness betting, people get together, fill out their tourney brackets and place their money down.

Every potential sports guru picks who he or she feels will win each game, the overall champion and the score of the title game to serve as a potential tiebreaker.

Generally, those betting receive points for each game they guess correctly, with the points awarded increasing per round. Whomever has the most points when the tournament is over wins the cash.

Some betting pools are winner-take-all, some offer consolation cash for those finishing second.

But the fact is, you've likely competed in one of these bracket tournaments at least once or twice. If not, you almost certainly know someone who has.



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