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Odds to Win the 2021 NCAA Tournament: Is Your Sportsbook Giving You a Fair Price?

Odds to Win the 2021 NCAA Tournament: Is Your Sportsbook Giving You a Fair Price? article feature image

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

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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%.

Sportsbook Hold
PointsBet 38.79%
FanDuel 49.46%
William Hill 58.75%
DraftKings 62.88%
BetMGM 92.22%

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.

Sportsbook Hold
FanDuel 35.66%
DraftKings 46.04%
PointsBet 47.88%
BetMGM 51.02%

Full NCAA Tournament Odds

Odds via PointsBet:

Team Odds
Gonzaga +210
Baylor +625
Illinois +725
Michigan +825
Iowa +1800
Houston +2200
Alabama +2200
Ohio State +2200
Texas +4000
Oklahoma St +4000
Florida State +4000
Kansas +4500
W Virginia +5000
Virginia +5000
UConn +5500
Arkansas +5500
Tennessee +5500
USC +5500
Creighton +6000
Texas Tech +6600
Purdue +6600
San Diego State +7000
Loyola Chicago +7000
Rutgers +7000
Colorado +7500
Villanova +8000
N Carolina +8000
Wisconsin +10000
Oregon +10000
LSU +10000
Georgia Tech +10000
BYU +10000
Oklahoma +15000
Florida +15000
Maryland +15000
Michigan State +15000
Clemson +15000
Syracuse +15000
Virginia Tech +15000
UCLA +15000
Missouri +18000
Georgetown +18000
St Bonaventure +18000
Utah State +18000
VCU +18000
Oregon State +18000
Wichita State +25000
Winthrop +25000
Ohio +25000
UNC Greensboro +25000
North Texas +25000
Colgate +25000
Liberty +25000
Drake +30000
Cal Santa Barbara +30000
Oral Roberts +30000
Morehead State +50000
E Washington +75000
Grand Canyon +75000
Abilene Christian +100000
Cleveland State +200000
Iona +200000
Drexel +200000
App State +200000
Hartford +200000
Texas Southern +200000
Mt St Marys +200000
Norfolk State +200000

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