The Best Ways to Bet $50 on March Madness

Written By Chris Feery on March 11, 2020Last Updated on January 13, 2023
march madness bets first round

When the words “bracket buster” and “Cinderella” start to creep into most of your conversations (or nightmares), it’s a sure sign March Madness is here. Or coming fast.

Betting on March Madness is big business – to the tune of $8-$10B bet in the US each year. Of that staggering sum of money, it’s about a near-equal split between sports betting – ie game winners, totals, futures and props – and bracket pools.

Everyone likely knows about the ubiquitous bracket pool. But is that the most efficient way to bet on March Madness?

We’ll walk you through your options here and show you how to stretch that $50 (or more) on your best March Madness bets. Jump down the page via the links below:

Where to Bet on March Madness Online

Legal online sports betting in the US grows every year. Some states are ahead of the curve and have given a complete green light to all forms of betting; others are still working towards getting both online and brick-and-mortar sportsbooks up and running.

States which currently offer online and/or retail sportsbooks:

There are retail sportsbooks open for business in 15 states while the states above offer legal and safe online sportsbook and sportsbook app options.

Set Up a New Account and Download a Sportsbook App

Setting up an account with an online sportsbook is very quick and easy. Click on our links to claim any current bonus offers. From there, you’ll be redirected to a new page.

You’ll enter basic information such as name and email address, answer some security questions, and check off some boxes. After you click continue, your new account will be created. From start to finish, the entire process takes just a couple of minutes.

Once your account is open you can transfer funds from a variety of secure methods, including credit card, bank transfer and eWallets. Give your transfer a few minutes to process and you’ll be ready to bet shortly. To find current March Madness odds, check the “College Basketball” or “NCAAB” tabs.

Best Way to Bet $50 on March Madness Video

If you’re not into reading right now, here’s a simple video explainer of the basic MM betting concepts below:

Best Way to Bet $50 on March Madness (Pre-Tourney)

While bracket picking and bracket contests are super fun (see more below), the best way to get in on March Madness is to place some single bets both before and during each round of the tournament. With single bets, you don’t have to foresee the entire tournament playing out before it happens or watch your bracket get busted within the first few hours of Thursday’s games.

Instead, you’ll have a number of individual games and betting options to consider throughout the tournament. And you can still place some bets on the tournament as a whole.

Known as “futures” bets, you can put down an advance bet on:

  • Outright winner of March Madness
  • Teams that will get a #1 seed (pre-Selection Sunday only)
  • Teams on the bubble making the tournament (pre-Selection Sunday only)
  • Over/under on seed a team will get (pre-Selection Sunday only)
  • Conference of tournament-winning team
  • Teams that will reach the Final Four (Regional winners)

Have a couple of teams in mind that you think can win the whole thing? Put a futures bet down on each of them and you’ll have a vested interest as long as they remain in the dance. Futures bets can keep your rooting interest going for the entire tournament and pay off well if you get them in early enough.

For an overall strategy, you can go conservative and lean towards favorites or mix it up a bit with some longshots. Here’s just one simple way you could spread out $50 on March Madness futures betting:

  • $10 each on two futures bets for teams you think will win the whole thing
  • $10 on a futures bet for the conference that will win the National Championship
  • 4 x $5 on futures bets for winners of each region (Final Four)

Here’s how that looks in the greatest of forms, the pie-chart form:


If you want to see what it looks like with some picks penciled in, here are some pre-tourney choices based on Bracketology forecasting: (*Note this is just an example pre-Selection Sunday. Teams have not been allocated seeds/regions yet.)


If you check the pre-tourney odds on DraftKings here’s how some of those bets would pay out:

  • $10 on Illinois (+900) to win = $100 return
  • $10 on Gonzaga (+275) to win = $37.50 return
  • $10 on WCC Conference (+275) to win = $37.50 return
  • $5 on Texas Final Four (+350) = $22.50 return
  • $5 on Oklahoma St. Final Four (+250) = $17.50 return
  • $5 on Illinois Final Four (+150) = $12.50 return
  • $5 on Gonzaga Final Four (-305) = not much

If you feel like it, the diminishing return on heavy favorites Gonzaga and Illinois to make the Final Four might be a good incentive to switch one of your bets towards a more profitable (but still reasonable) play like Iowa (+350) or Kansas (+400).

There are plenty of ways to bet on March Madness before it even begins and you can do it with any budget amount you feel comfortable with. Check the current futures odds at all legal US online sportsbooks on our March Madness page here:

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Best Way to Bet $50 on March Madness 1st and 2nd Rounds

Once the brackets are set on Selection Sunday you’ll still be able to make futures bets, but that also opens up single-game bets you can make on first-round matchups. The opening rounds of March Madness are the most fun with wall-to-wall hoops for four straight days. That makes for plenty of opportunities for single-game bets and props.

Naturally, you don’t have to bet on all of them. You can spread the action out by just focusing on a couple of games each day in the opening round. As for what kind of bets to place, these are your basic single-game options:

Moneyline Bets

These are the most straightforward bets you’ll find. You simply choose which team you like to win between the favorite (listed with “negative” odds) and the underdog (listed with “positive” odds).

Point Spread

Point spread bets are very popular for basketball. Oddsmakers place a number on each game, and bettors have to factor that margin into the equation. The favorite needs to win by greater than that amount to cover, while the underdog can cover by keeping it closer than that.

Totals (Over/Unders)

Oddsmakers place a benchmark total on each game which represents an estimate of total points scored by both teams. Bettors then decide if they like the actual total to go Over or Under that number.

Prop Bets

Prop bets are side bets on something that may happen during the course of a game. They can be player or team-based, such as total points scored in the first half, total amount of 3-pointers or whether a player will go over/under a certain amount of points.

Compared to the number of prop bets on the Super Bowl, for example, prop bets on March Madness are more limited but still offer a fun and wide-ranging way to spread your betting budget around.

Parlay Bets

A parlay is a bet in which you add multiple bets to a single ticket in hopes of a bigger return. The more games added to the ticket, the bigger your payout if they all hit. That’s the catch, though – they all have to hit for your parlay to pay.

How to Spread $50 on March Madness

Here’s a look at one possible allocation for $50 in bets for the first two rounds.

  • $20 on Thursday games
  • $20 on Friday games
  • $5 on a prop bet for a game you’re looking forward to
  • $5 for a parlay when you’ll be zeroed in on the tournament, such as four Friday night games etc.

Repeat the process for the weekend round of 32:

  • $20 on Saturday games
  • $20 on Sunday games
  • $5 on a prop bet for a game you’re really looking forward to
  • $5 for a parlay when you’ll be zeroed in on the tournament, such as four Friday night games etc.

Here’s an example of how that could look like: (*Note this is just an example pre-Selection Sunday. Teams have not been allocated seeds/regions yet.)

For the early round bets, you can make it an even split between favorites and upset picks. If you do well on Thursday and Friday, you can up the stakes for the weekend. If you have a couple of different broadcast windows that you plan to be watching, feel free to split up your parlay budget.

Here’s another take at a balanced March Madness betting portfolio mixed between futures and single-game bets and props:


  • $5 bet on team to get #1 seed (pre-tournament)
  • $5 on winning conference
  • $5 on team to make Final Four
  • $5 on tournament champ

Game Lines and Props

  • $5 bet each on TWO teams seeded 1-3 (always heavy favorites to advance)
  • $5 bet on TWO 10-12 seeds with good moneylines (traditionally win a higher percentage of games than expected)
  • $5 bet on First-Half Under in any game NOT involving 1, 2 and 3 seeds (nerves are real and shooting percentages in unfamiliar arenas drop)
  • $5 on a player prop that looks like good value (eg. total points for star player vs. soft matchup)

Here’s how it might look with actual teams in it: (*Note this is just an example pre-Selection Sunday. Teams have not been allocated seeds/regions yet).

How to Play March Madness Brackets

While not the most efficient way to bet on March Madness, picking a full bracket and entering a free or paid March Madness Bracket Contest is still super fun. And March Madness betting should always be fun.

If you’re most comfortable picking a March Madness bracket over diving into the betting pool, these are your main bracket options:

  • Free online bracket contests (single entry)
  • Single bracket in a friend/office pool or paid contest online
  • Multiple brackets in pools and/or paid contests online
  • Second-chance bracket contests

As you likely know, there are lots of free-to-play March Madness bracket contests to be found online. But with hundreds of thousands of entrants in most of them – and literally thousands of identical brackets – you really have to thread the March Madness needle to get a taste of the free cash.

A pool among friends or a paid online contest is generally affordable ($5-25) and plenty of people who don’t know much about college basketball always give you a slight edge if you’re a CBB fan. But as anyone who’s done it before knows, picking 63 games well is a Herculean task – even if you try it 10 different ways.

Second-chance bracket contests are a great way to stay engaged and try to win a bit back if your initial brackets go bust. These are contests that begin with the second round or later and allow you to pick a bracket again from scratch.

The biggest paid bracket contest for 2021 is likely the $2m DraftKings Millionaire Bracket. With a $100 buy-in it’s a bit steep for many but with 1,500 places paid and $1 million alone to the winner, it might be worth a flyer. You can also enter up to 20 times if you want to improve your chances.

This year’s contest is open to players in CO, NH, NJ, WV and TN so far but more states could be eligible shortly.

For more on Bracket selection and bracket contests, check our March Madness bracket tips pages below:

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Written by

Chris Feery

Christopher is a full-time evergreen writer located in New Jersey. His work has appeared all over the web and has covered numerous industries. In recent years, he has dedicated his focus to sports from an analysis, betting, fantasy, and general news perspective. Chris covers sports betting content and app reviews for Playin USA and the Play site network. You can follow and reach him on Twitter @cmfeery

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