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Bracket Madness

The Final Four is set in the never uninteresting NCAA's.

How's your bracket? If you are like the ESPN players, not good. It seems that only 2 out of 5.9 million people who filled them out are alive. When we think about it, that's not too bad actually.

The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are insane. If you are an amazingly good handicapper - and that means out of the universe good, the odds of filling one out that's perfect are 423 billion to one. If you are just really good, it's more like 25 trillion to one.

There are many contests out there asking you to fill out a perfect bracket for a chance to win $20 million or even more. With those odds, insurance companies would be happy to back them, and it would not be very expensive. Why are these contests so popular if no one even has a remote chance to win? A few reasons I guess.

If you are in a bracket, you have a chance to win if you are the best (you don't have to hit them all), you are probably playing in a side pool game by game, there is the ego gratification of beating your friends, and lastly it allows you to be part of the water-cooler chat at work ("How's your bracket?"). That's pretty compelling.

How is that different from your average every day horseplayer? It's quite a bit different. I, and many of you, would never even consider filling out a "perfect" bracket for a contest. It's a waste of three minutes or more and if I have to give my email address, it's many more minutes of spam.  It's like a trillion to one; and you and I have better things to do, like 'cap the third at the Meadowlands.

I think that's why super-duper quadrefecta's and Sliders do not resonate with average horseplayers. Horseplaying involves having a realistic chance to win and when we take that away, we're not interested.

I am a proponent, like many of you, of lottery bets, however. If we had a pick all for $X million, with a chance at a side pot by picking a race the following weekend for $X million of course I would play. For the pot to get up that high though, we need people playing it from the start - and the people who would be jacking the pools up are the bracket folks. Currently we have no way of getting to them.

Dave Bryans is a head of a convenience store organization. A few years ago at a wagering conference he brought up the often-trotted-out idea of being in corner stores via a lotto system. They do it in Sweden, for example, for the V75. The way he explained the concept it seemed somewhat achievable. Since the average NCAA bracket player is not visiting a racetrack, having the infrastructure right is paramount for it to succeed.

Until that happens, in my opinion, we're best trying our darndest to increase the average wager of the current customer or lost poker player and sports bettor (through rebates, lower takeout etc). Brackets are for the masses.

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