Odds to Win the 2021 NCAA Tournament: Is Your Sportsbook Giving You a Fair Price?
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It’s hard to accurately price a 68-team, single-elimination tournament. So sportsbooks protect themselves by baking lots of hold into the NCAA Tournament futures market.
Think of it this way — an NFL point spread is essentially a coin flip and the prices are pretty efficient, so the sportsbook takes a cut of about 4.8% percent. For a futures market like this, it could be north of 50%.
So are you getting fair prices? Or should you look elsewhere when betting futures? I compared the odds and hold at a few different sportsbooks to find out, and show you how to do it yourself.
I’ll always add this caveat — bet the best price in the market, regardless of how good or bad one book’s collective odds are. This is simply an exercise to determine whether or not your book is giving you fair prices, because it’s not always obvious in a market with this many teams.
How Does Hold Work?
Any real-world event, like a coin flip, will have probabilities that add up to 100%. There’s a 50% chance it’s heads, 50% it’s tails.
Sports betting is different, because the books charge you a tax for taking your action. Once you convert odds to probabilities of every possible outcome and add them together, you’ll get a number over 100%.
Hold is really just the probability of all the outcomes of an event added together, minus 100.
The higher the hold, the more money the sportsbook will make over time. But they risk turning off customers if the hold is too high and the prices are worse than their competitors.
There’s a different formula for calculating hold from American odds if they’re positive or negative, so use this formula in Excel to calculate it at your own book.
NCAA Tournament Futures Hold
I compared the hold at seven U.S. sportsbooks offered in at least four states using the Action Labs March Madness Insiders tool.
Circa Sports is the undisputed futures king with almost always the lowest holds, but it’s only available in Colorado and Nevada.
PointsBet had the best hold among these books, at 38.79%.
Final Four Hold
Sportsbooks offer odds to make the Final Four, as well. They’re not a direct derivation from championship odds, because FanDuel has the best prices, while PointsBet is more middle of the pack.
FanDuel actually has the worst price in the market on Gonzaga at -260, but the best prices on many teams in the 10-1 to 20-1 range. BetMGM is the opposite — best price on Gonzaga at -175, but worse prices on many other teams.
Full NCAA Tournament Odds
Odds via PointsBet:
|San Diego State||+7000|
|Cal Santa Barbara||+30000|
|Mt St Marys||+200000|