How To Handicap PointsBet’s March Madness-Style Curling Event

March Madness is one of the most popular events of the year for sports bettors. But this year, Canadians are introduced to March Madness on hold.

Unlike a typical bon game, the PointsBet Invitational is a single knockout tournament featuring 32 Canadian teams – 16 women and 16 men – played Wednesday through Sunday in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The first major competition of the curling season will also be the first-ever single-elimination curling championship.

Not only can you bet on every aspect of this March Madness style curling event, but fans are also invited by PointsBet to take part in a free Sweep 16 Bracket Challenge. A grand prize of $1 million (CAD) will be awarded to the entry that correctly guesses the outcome of all 30 games in the event. The Contest is open to residents of Canada excluding Quebec and entrants must be at least 19 years of age at the time of entry.

“If you just go with a coin toss, the odds of picking a perfect 16-team group are 1-32,768. The probability of getting both brackets perfectly is 1 in 1,073,741,824,” said a PointsBet trader sports grip. “But I would estimate the probability of a perfect bracket for a curling expert to be about one in 800, which means that if both brackets are perfect it would be about one in 640,000.”

To increase your chances of winning the Bracket Challenge, we spoke to a few curling fans about how they’re disrupting this one-of-a-kind event.

Brackets courtesy of TSN

Pro Picks

Mary Chilvers, one half of 2 girls and a game Curling Podcast along with co-host Lori Eddy, knows a thing or two about curling. Chilvers, Eddy and their teammates were recently crowned Ontario women’s champions and will compete for the senior men’s national championship in December.

“When I heard about the format, I raised an eyebrow, especially given the fact that it was a single knockout,” Chilvers said of the PointsBet tournament. “I don’t think it’s very desirable for any sport, for any team, to compete. After a two-hour game, they could go home.”

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Competitors won’t go home empty-handed, however, as all 32 teams will receive $5,000 to cover travel and accommodation expenses, and teams will earn more money for each subsequent win in the tournament – $3,000 for a win in the first round, $6,000 for a quarterfinal win, $12,000 for a semifinal win, and $24,000 for the winning women’s and men’s teams. The two winning teams will each receive a total of $50,000.

“The Tier One teams, the elite players, it was a no-brainer for them to say yes. They all have a good chance of winning it. There are a lot of teams that I would consider Tier 2 teams,” Chilvers noted, citing the event’s inclusion of reigning Canadian junior champions, Canadian club champions, teams selected by the hosting committee and two fan-voted entries. “It’s going to be limited to the top players unless there’s a surprise, but I don’t see that.”

When asked who she likes in each group, Chilvers said: “I see an Einarson, Jones, Fleury and Lawes in the top four [on the women’s side]. But I think I have to go with Einarson. It is the only team from the Top 4 where the same four members still play together. Jones is with a new team, Fleury/Homan is kind of a new team and Kaitlyn Lawes is a new team.

“For the men, I think it will be Team Bottcher. He just won a competition. I originally wanted to pick Brad Gushue, but he wasn’t on the ice yet. He’s been practicing but hasn’t played an event yet.”

While Chilvers doesn’t think an underdog will prevail in this tournament, she did point to a team that could surprise everyone on the women’s side as No. 12s against a No. 5.

“It would be Andrea Kelly from New Brunswick,” Chilvers said. “She did really well at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts last year. She kind of made a name for herself. They have a new team member this year but I don’t think that will bother them too much. I’m not saying she will win, but that would be my pick for a dark horse.”

In a recent article on Curling Canada’s website, two-time men’s curling Olympic champion John Morris also shared his selection for the women’s group. He sides with Team Einarson to win it all, but also pointed out Team Kelly as a dark horse.

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“With Andrea, I think you can set her up as one of the top women’s shot makers in Canada,” Morris said.

Kelly’s first round matchup with 2014 Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Jones is currently a pick ’em (-115) at PointsBet, an indication that the odds makers also see potential for the 12th place team to win.

More betting insights

So the pros are clearly siding with the favourites, but what about some advice from a pure betting perspective?

Kris Abbott is an experienced iGaming manager who also contributes to the Hammer Betting Network. The former Coolbet Head of North America has been following curling for over 30 years and enjoys talking about betting on the sport.

“I think the odds makers are giving you the same odds as they would any other event,” he said. “But it’s not another event, is it? I would definitely look for underdog plays in the first round. There aren’t many early underdogs that I like on the men’s side, but I would definitely be interested in Kerry Galusha (+115) and Suzanne Birt (+150) on the women’s side for their built-in familiarity within their respective teams and their combined history to piss off the big teams.

So what advice would Abbott give to someone filling out a curling bracket for the first time?

“I wouldn’t think twice,” he replied. “It’s strange that the season is so early and the teams are still getting to know each other. I know there has been a lot of player movement [prior to the curling season], but I think I’d look for teams that already have the built-in familiarity. And yes, a bracket is a bracket I guess. Take it game by game and consider any matchups in your party that you think favor one team over another based on style or tactics.

Aside from possible upsets in the early rounds, Abbott also appreciates the prospects for elite teams on both the men’s and women’s sides.

“I think the top half of the women’s draw is tough, so I’m going to play Fleury/Homan in the bottom half of the draw,” he said. “I think they have an easier route to the final and if this team fulfills their potential then maybe they will win a lot in the next four years.

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“You can’t compete against Brad Gushue in men. You just can’t. He would probably be an underdog for the Böttcher Super Team in the finals, which I would love. One caveat here is that I don’t know how much Gushue Rink was together this early in the year as I know they had some downtime after a 2021-22 hurricane.”

Make curling “cool”.

Part of PointsBet’s mission to become “authentically Canadian” when entering the Ontario market included making “curling cool” in Canada.

Forming a strategic partnership with Curling Canada and many of its teams was an important part of PointsBet’s initiative which culminated in the creation of this unique curling event.

“From the beginning of our partnership with Curling Canada, we have been committed to growing the game of curling,” said Nic Sulsky, PointsBet Canada’s chief commercial officer, in a press release. “To bring the next generation onto the rink, we need to look for innovative ways to connect fans to the game. We know how much excitement the March Madness bracket challenges generate and we hope to generate the same level of interest for the PointsBet Invitational.”

A key part of this week’s celebrations in New Brunswick will be Friday night’s Pro-Am event, which will feature performances by famed Jamaican-Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey and several former NHL players.

“Curling used to be considered pretty old-fashioned,” Chilvers said. “I think there is quite a hype surrounding this upcoming PointsBet Invitational. I think it’s great for the fans and the curlers.”

overall odds

Men’s Outright Odds

  • Brad Gushue +200
  • Brendan Boettcher +275
  • Kevin Koe +300
  • Matt Dunstone +400
  • Reid Carruthers+900
  • Glenn Howard +900
  • Colton Flash +1100
  • Johannes Epping +1200
  • Mike McEwen +2000
  • Karsten Sturmay +3000
  • Felix Asselin +3000
  • Braden Calvert +5000
  • Jack Melter +5000
  • Greg Smith +6600
  • Landan Rooney +6600
  • Nick Deagle +15000

Women’s Outright Odds

  • Kerri Einarson +150
  • Tracy Fleury +300
  • Andrea Kelly +600
  • Casey Scheidegger +700
  • Kaitlyn Lawes +800
  • Chelsea Carey +1000
  • Jennifer Jones +1500
  • Hollie Duncan +1500
  • Kelsey Roque +1500
  • Penny Barker +1500
  • Kerry Galusha +1500
  • Emily Deschene’s +1500
  • Christina Black +2000
  • Susanne Birt +2500
  • Selena Sturmay +3000
  • Tracy Larocque +10000

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