It's March and the madness is upon us with the 2024 NCAA Tournament set to tip off this week -- this means there is no better time than now to introduce you to the Calcutta pool.

Some call the opening weekend the best four days in sports and it's hard to argue with them -- the action is packed every day from noon ET on, the tension is built with upsets that shatter brackets and we typically get a buzzer beater or two.

By now, almost everyone is familiar with the Bracket style pools for the NCAA tourney. There are different scoring systems, and different size pools, but the general idea remains the same: you fill out the entire bracket in full before the tournament and hope that yours is the most accurate.

Now let's talk about a new way to wager on the NCAA Tournament -- the Calcutta pool.

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What is a Calcutta pool?

Calcutta at its core is a huge auction for all 64 teams in the tournament field. Every team is in play and every team can be bid on by any manager (or group of managers acting as one team). Unlike your typical Fantasy Football salary cap drafts, there is no cap in Calcutta. You read that right.

There are variations to every Calcutta pool I've played in. Some give slightly higher percentages for winning the later games while others go the opposite way. Some Calcutta pools group together the 14-16 seeds, while others allow you to bid on them separately. Some pools also have a "soft salary cap" but the no-cap pools tend to be the most fun.

Calcutta pool rules

The following Calcutta pool rules come from the first one I was introduced to and the one I have been playing the longest -- also my favorite set of rules:

The Calcutta auction works as follows: the first two bids are "blind bids." This means the first team up for auction is not a specific team, but the right to select any team the highest bidder wants. This then happens again for the second pick. Then, the bidding goes from 16 to 1 by region, in random, pre-selected order (of course, the two already-selected teams from the blind bids are skipped).

Calcutta pool payouts

Payouts are based on how far each team goes in the tournament. Of the main pot, you get: 1% for winning one game (16 teams); 2% for winning two games (8 teams); 4% for three games (4 teams); 8% for four games (2 teams); 13% for five games (runner up); and 23% for winning all six games (i.e. the national champion). All teams get the same percentage of the pot regardless of what seed they are.

The main pot is 80% of the total auction's final bids. The other 20% is a side pot for the "worst losses." The team that gets blown out by the most points gets 30% of the side pot, the second worst is 25%, 20%, 15%, and 10%. So five worst loss payouts total. The point is to get people to pay up on 15 and 16 seeds. It makes the auction a lot more fun as well with managers bidding on the seeds that typically would be dead bids.

After the auction has been completed, each participating manager will have won a different number of teams. There is no minimum and there is no maximum as far as how many teams each manager can roster. 

If you want to try out a Calcutta pool for yourself, see if you can round up a group of friends interested in trying it out and let me know how your auction goes -- on X @DanSchneierNFL -- every Calcutta auction goes differently and that's the beauty of it. Good luck!