Duke Won (So Did I)…And An Act Of Kindness

I take the annual NCAA ‘March Madness’ College” Basketball Office Pool very seriously. I love the sport, played at the Division 1 level and enjoy competing, so this time of year is a joy for me.

I’ve participated in one in New York City for 13 years. On average, there are 80 bracket sheets that people fill out each March in our pool, with points assigned to each round. The person who gathers the most total points wins a substantial cash prize.  I’ve come in 1st place 6 times in those 13 years, including a 3-peat from 2003-05.

Despite my success, I made a big mistake with Duke in 2010, which I vowed would never happen again. I didn’t have them winning the championship on any of my sheets that year and it cost me, as they won the title. Typically, I have at least one sheet with Duke University as the winner.

I learned a valuable lesson as one can never doubt a team with a leader like Duke's Coach K – one of the most accomplished coaches in any sport. If I had only 1 sheet with Duke winning in 2010, it is likely that I would have won the top prize that year. That loss still bothers me.

In 2015, I didn’t feel Duke would win the NCAA title, but 2010 was swirling in my mind. They had talented freshmen this season and a great big man, although like many, I thought this was Kentucky’s year to go 40-0. On other sheets, I had Kentucky and/or Wisconsin winning, but I made sure to fill out one bracket sheet with Duke as the champion.

That sheet (at the bottom) won the top prize easily, with 76% of games chosen correctly. Even if Wisconsin had won, I would have taken 2nd and 3rd place, which combined was a substantial prize, yet lower than the 1st prize.

Almost immediately, I decided to provide a kindness.

My competitor needed Wisconsin to win in order to claim the top prize. If Duke was victorious, he wouldn’t have won anything. Since I’ve been fortunate over the years (having never lost when final game decided top prize outcome), I offered him a deal.

If Duke won, I told him I would give him 20% of my winnings, and if Wisconsin won, he would give me the same percentage of his winnings. That way, he was guaranteed to win a decent amount of money.  I was going to win a large amount either way, so I didn’t want him to have a feast (top cash prize) or famine (Zero) scenario going into the Final Game. I’ve seen others lose that way and it isn’t fun. He gladly accepted

I’ve also written two posts (below) on how one can improve their chances for winning in their own NCAA office pool. It doesn’t give away my strategy (I have a formula), but it does present common sense tips for filling out a successful bracket sheet.

The mistake most people make in office pools (including mine this year) is picking the favorite as champion, especially if it is an overwhelming one like Kentucky was this year. It’s best to be unique and enter an unlikely but possible scenario, especially if one is only entering one sheet.

Even if Kentucky went 40-0, the chance of one being victorious in my pool was slim as there was too much competition. 50 sheets had Kentucky as champs. I had Kentucky winning on several sheets, but would have won 6th place; a small cash prize which would have only covered the entrance fee.

Only 5 players picked Duke as Champion.  I knew my odds of winning were good when I saw that.

I can’t wait until next year to defend my title.

Happy Gswede Sunday (a few excited days early)!

My 2015 NCAA Bracket Sheet - 76% correct

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