## Final Four Math — 2011

This year’s March Madness has brought us a Final Four with no #1 or #2 seeds, unique in NCAA tournament history. But the absence of high-seed teams has not dulled enthusiasm for the last three games. In fact, some sports pundits are trumpeting the “Cinderella” factor: can a #11 seed, Virginia Commonwealth University, pull off the all-time, unexpected upset?

But no matter who matter who wins the game, the bookies win their money. The bookie’s odds always include a built-in percentage for the house. In 2009 I calculated the Las Vegas Final Four edge at 9.8%; in 2010, the edge was larger (14.3%). This year the edge, if you can actually get these published odds, is unbelievably small…only 2.2%!

## Betting the Final Four–2010

If you bet on the Final Four (or on almost anything), the bookie’s odds always include a built-in percentage for the house. Last year I calculated the Las Vegas Final Four edge at 9.8%.

This year the edge is so big (20.8%) that something must be wrong!

## How to Bet on the NCAA Final Four

You pays your money and you takes your chances, but the House always has an edge.

Did you ever wonder how big that edge is?

Among the simplest edges to compute is Las Vegas roulette.  If your chips are on one of the numbers from 1 to 36, and you win, you get paid 35-1. That means that if you put \$1 on each of those 36 numbers, when the ball drops onto one of those numbers, you’ll get your winning bet back plus \$35; you’ll break even. Those are fair odds.  But the House, as I said, always has an edge. Las Vegas wheels include two other numbers that also pay 35-1: 0 and 00. So to be sure you’ll win, you’d have to place 38 one-dollar bets, thus giving the House a \$2 profit on every \$38 you bet (a 5.26% margin).

Coming up this week are the NCAA basketball Final Four games, Continue reading “How to Bet on the NCAA Final Four”