This is not going to be the most popular post I’ve ever worked up, but I hope that at least a
little bit soaks into your psyche. I am not going to be filing out a bracket this year and neither should you. There…I said it. I know everrryone in the world completes a bracket (sans the Trumpster), but that doesn’t mean it’s right! The rationale for my approach to “March Madness” is as follows; brackets lead to too much action, anchoring bias and poor bet sizing.
The first of these reasons is simple to understand and to acknowledge. The first two full days of the tourney are a gamblers paradise. Non-stop action from noon to midnight with highlights galore is too much for even the faintest of sports fans to ignore. While this has unbelievable entertainment value, it also is the perfect recipe for betting on far too many games. On Thursday and Friday we have 16 games and everyone is currently dreaming about going 32-0. We convince ourselves we like games because in completing a bracket we are forced to select a winner for each game. Maybe some people can pick winners without falling in love, but most will over convince themselves and bet 20 out of 32 games in a 36 hour period. In most cases, that does NOT end well.
Anchoring bias is something that impacts everyone, regardless of how smart you think you are. If you have Villanova to win your bracket, you are going to subconsciously root for them throughout the course of the tournament. Evaluating the value on a daily basis is very important if you plan on ending the tourney in the black. When it’s the Sweet 16 the data set and situation can be vastly different from what the situation was when completing the bracket. That sounds obvious, but the problem is getting away from your initial assessment is very difficult. Anchoring bias is a bitch…and a completed bracket hanging on your fridge makes it 100x worse.
Keeping a clear mind is critically important if you’re trying to place wagers to profit vs. betting for entertainment purposes only. The NCAA tournament has a climactic aspect as the field narrows each round. Ideally, bet sizes remain reflective of your confidence in that particular play. You don’t bet more just because it’s the Final Four instead of the opening round. Bet based on your expected value…period. Filing out a bracket changes your state of mind from a “1 day at a time/bet value” framework to a “holy shit it’s March Madness” elevated and clouded perspective. It’s very easy to lose money the first couple weeks of football season due to the heightened excitement and the same is true for March Madness.
I know probably everybody reading this piece completed a bracket…it’s part of March. As part of our March Madness package we will be putting out, as a firm, our suggested bracket. I let the rest of the gang handle that because I have ZERO interest in adding noise to my analysis. This is my almost Grinch-like spiel every March, but for me personally, it’s a lot more fun to make money betting on individual games than it is to daydream about my bracket for a couple days before getting my ass handed to me during the first two rounds! Do whatever works for you to gain the most enjoyment and utility out of this great tournament, but keep in mind and be aware of the impact that bracket is having in the back of your mind as the rounds progress.