Guide to Calcutta Betting 


A Calcutta is a type of competition where people have a draw to pick who will participate in a special event. If you win in the draw, you can sell or keep the participants by bidding the highest. If you sell, you get half the money. Also, prizes go to those who have successful participants. 

In this article, we’ll explore the world of Calcutta gambling auctions, examining their rules, workings, and various types and variations. We will also shed light on Calcutta betting auctions, explaining why they are a favorite among bettors and how you can strategize to win big. To top it off, we will reveal some insider tips from betting experts in high-stakes auctions.

About Calcutta Auction 

A Calcutta auction is like an open auction with golf tournaments or horse races. It’s also common during backgammon games and college basketball pools in March. In this auction, people take turns bidding on each participant. The one who bids the most gets that participant. Also, depending on how well the participant does in the event, the owner of the participant receives a part of the prize pool. 

But really, Calcutta betting auctions are simple. It’s like a fantasy draft that lasts a whole tournament or season. How well your thing compares to the payout plan decides how much prize you get.

You can imagine a Calcutta auction like an innovative March Madness bracket. It’s not just about picking winners; it’s also about understanding the market’s ups and downs.

Tenets of Calcutta Auction

A Calcutta auction is held with a single-elimination contest, like a big sports tournament, in which teams are eliminated if they lose. It’s often seen during March Madness, but you can use it for any tournament, such as horse races, golf, cricket or tennis. It’s like a fun way to bet on who will win.

Calcutta Betting 

Advantages of Calcutta Betting 

The best thing about joining a Calcutta is that there’s no fee. If it’s just for fun with friends, usually no money is taken from the prize.  

Further, you bid based on what you think things are worth. So, when you win a bid, you make a good choice. And when you stop bidding because you think something’s too expensive, you let someone else take the risk. By the end, you probably feel proud of yourself for outsmarting the others.

Calcutta betting auctions are exciting. For instance, when people disagree on how much something’s worth, it opens up big betting opportunities. This only happens slightly in regular sports betting, where bookies are careful about taking risks. However, Calcuttas let bettors take chances they couldn’t usually take.

Another great thing about Calcutta betting auctions is they reward people who can predict unusual outcomes better than others.

Disadvantages of Calcutta Betting 

The same things that make Calcutta betting auctions good can also be risky. It all depends on how accurate your predictions are. If your predictions are wrong, you might lose a lot.

Also, luck and unexpected outcomes are a big part of Calcutta auctions. If there’s a surprise early on, you could quickly lose all your investment. In the BTP NFL Calcutta, for example, only 14 teams were up for auction. The bidding was spread out evenly, but some people bought more teams than others.

Furthermore, in bigger auctions, like the Masters golf tournament, many more things are up for auction. Thus, it is important to consider how much of the field you might own.

Basic Rules of Calcutta Betting 

Before we dive into how a Calcutta auction works, let’s understand the main rules:

  • People in a Calcutta auction can either bid alone or team up.
  • They bid against each other to buy the teams competing in the tournament.
  • The highest bidder gets to own that team during the tournament.
  • Each team must be owned entirely by one person or group; you can’t split ownership.
  • Sometimes, people sell the teams they own to others.
  • All the money raised in the auction goes into a pot, and payouts depend on how big the pot is.
  • After the tournament, people get payouts based on how well their teams did.
  • The payout system can be different for each auction.
  • The details might change depending on the pot’s size, the number of people involved, and any other rules, but these basic rules stay the same.

How Calcutta Auctions Works

In a Calcutta auction, raffle tickets are sold for 20 dollars each, with the proceeds contributing to the Calcutta Pool. There’s no limit to how many tickets one person can buy. The sale happens before the event and during the initial part of the event itself.

Once ticket sales close, a draw is conducted for each horse in the selected race. The ticket drawn for a particular horse makes the holder the owner of that horse for the auction. But the horse’s performance in the race doesn’t affect the raffle winner’s outcome.

During the auction, each horse is bid on, with half of the auction price going into the Calcutta Pool and the other half going to the raffle ticket holder of that horse. For instance, if a horse sells for $1000, $500 goes to the pool, and $500 goes to the ticket holder.

The raffle ticket holder also has the option to buy the horse at auction, paying only half of the final auction price to purchase it. However, they forfeit their share of the raffle winnings by doing so.

Once all horses are auctioned, the total Calcutta Pool is determined. This total pool amount is then distributed among the race winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd place) and a portion is allocated to charity. All purchases made during the auction must be settled immediately, or the horse will be re-auctioned.

Further, understanding Calcutta auctions can be tricky if you are used to regular sports betting. Instead of fixed odds like in sportsbooks, Calcutta auctions are more like art. Let’s look at an example of a March Madness auction with some made-up rules:

  • There are 64 teams up for auction.
  • The worst four teams in each region (seeds 13 to 16) are bundled. So, if you buy this option, you get all 4 of those teams.
  • The starting bid for each team or group is $10.
  • Bids must go up by $10 each time.
  • People can team up and share ownership. Everyone in a group owns a part of the team.

Here’s how the prize money is split:

  • March Madness Champion: 30%
  • Runner Up: 15%
  • Final Four: 8%
  • Elite 8: 1.5%
  • Sweet 16: 1.5%
  • Round of 32: 0.5%
  • Biggest Blowout: 3%

The percentages don’t add up to 100 because it depends on how far each team goes. For example, the losers of the final four each get 8%, but the winner gets 30%, and the runner-up gets 15%.

In the Elite 8, the four teams that lose will each get 4% of the prize money. This pattern continues for other stages of the tournament. However, Calcutta auctions have a twist: Some money goes to unusual outcomes. For instance, 3% might go to the team that suffers the biggest loss, the lowest-ranked team that makes it to the Elite 8, or the team with the most surprising win against the spread.

These different payouts make Calcutta auctions enjoyable for people who like to bet. For example, they could have made much money if someone had owned Marquette during their 2003 tournament run. Marquette made it to the final four as a number 3 seed, but then they lost big to Kansas.

Of course, the organisers don’t usually charge an extra fee in Calcutta auctions organized among friends or at work. Instead, they might buy drinks for everyone. But if you attend a more formal Calcutta auction, expect the organizers to take a cut, usually between 5% and 30% of the total prize money.

Calcutta Betting 

How to Figure Out a Team’s Worth in a Calcutta Auction

Navigating a Calcutta auction can be challenging. However, you can start by sizing each team’s chances in March Madness. Go to your sportsbook’s NCAA Basketball section and turn the odds into a likely probability. Make sure to remove any extra costs for the most accurate results.

Once you have figured out the odds for each team in the auction, use the payout rates set by your auction to find the expected value plus (EV+) for each team. The plus part stands for the total pot value.

The total pot value (represented by X) usually stays a mystery until the auction wraps up. So, while you can calculate the EV+ pretty well, getting it spot-on for the total EV+(X) is challenging. That’s where it gets tricky, accounting for the final pot size in a Calcutta auction.

However, judging each team’s value is easier than judging others. As teams get auctioned off, you’ll gauge what the remaining teams might go for (add up the auctioned teams with the ones still up for auction).

Strategies for Calcutta Betting Auctions

If you’ve seen the BTP Calcutta auctions before, you might think it’s just a bunch of big-time bettors throwing money around. But behind the scenes, each of them probably has their game plan. While not everyone shares their secret strategies, some basic strategies can help you if bidding in a Calcutta betting auction during March Madness.

The First Bid Matters

The first bid in an auction is super important. It sets the tone for the rest of the auction. The winning bid for that first item determines how much other items are worth. It could end up being a steal or a pricey splurge. Also, whoever wins that first bid has a big say in how things play out.

Let’s look at an example from the BTP NFL Calcutta. The first team up for grabs was the Las Vegas Raiders. Preston Johnson bid 29,000rc and won it for the host, Jeff Ma. If someone thought the Raiders were worth 2% of the total prize pool, then the projected pool size would be 1.45 million rc. But if they thought the Raiders were worth 4%, the projected pool size would be 725,000 rc.

But there’s more to the strategy than just that. Since only one out of fourteen winning bids is known, predicting the final pool size takes a lot of work. Preston’s strategy is to ensure he doesn’t overpay for the Raiders. He might even bid up other teams to make his rivals pay more. Any extra payment by them means more potential winnings for him.

At this point, the first bid winner has a lot of control. They can set the pace of the auction and make it challenging for others to compete. They could even buy up everything and end the auction early if they have unlimited money. Sometimes, going overboard is worth stopping a bully from winning that first bid.

Strategies for the Middle of the Auction

As the auction continues, you will better understand how much you might win. Everyone updates spreadsheets to see how valuable each item is as it’s auctioned off. Keeping track of what’s still up for auction is also essential. The relative value of each item depends on what else is available. If there are still things to bid on, it’s okay to bid a bit too much.

If you bid too much, you can fix it by making other items more expensive. For example, in an NFL team auction, if you drive up the price of a team that might play against yours, it makes your team more valuable.

It’s also intelligent to spread out your bets. In the BTP NFL Calcutta, most people picked two teams from different leagues to ensure they didn’t affect their chances.

Strategies for the Late-Auction

As the Calcutta betting auction nears its end, the value of items becomes more apparent, and we get a better idea of how much we might win. This is also when bidders can take advantage of auction fatigue and FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.

In a smaller auction, like BTP’s NFL Calcutta, one bidder, Johnny from Betstamp, hadn’t won anything by the time the last item was up for auction. This could make him feel like he’s missing out and willing to pay too much to have something in the tournament. That’s a chance for others to make him pay more and boost their chances.

But in a bigger auction where most items have been sold, and everyone already has something, people might get tired of bidding. They might already have enough and not want more. This can lower prices and create opportunities for those still interested in bidding.

The most critical times in a Calcutta betting auction are at the beginning and the end. That’s when we can make money or mistakes. And even after the auction ends, there’s often more betting behind the scenes, with equity swaps to balance out positions.

Calcutta Betting

Simple Tips in a Calcutta Auction

Understanding the Payouts

The first step is to figure out how the payouts work, especially for the Round of 32 and Sweet 16. Payouts of 1% or more for the first round can boost underdog teams. But if the focus is on second-round wins, higher-seeded teams with more accessible paths to the Sweet 16 might be more valuable.

Considering the First Four

Even though teams in the First Four aren’t rewarded for their first win, they often earn a share of the pot. In fact, in 11 out of the last 12 years, at least one team from the First Four has made it to the second round. For example, in 2011, VCU made it to the Final Four, and UCLA did the same in 2021.

Excel Skills

Get ready to use your Excel skills, from VLOOKUP to SUMIF. To participate effectively in this auction, you need to know how much money is up for grabs to calculate payouts accurately. Once a team is bought, record the amount spent and use a formula to estimate prices for other seeds. For instance, an 8-9 seed should have nearly equal chances of making it to the round of 32. Bids for these seeds should be at most 0.5% of the total pot with this payout structure. Similarly, a 2-seed is expected to reach the Elite Eight, so a bid of around 5% of the total pot is reasonable.

Keeping the payout structure in mind is essential. Even a 16-seed can have value if it’s going for a percentage of the total pot higher than the moneyline in the betting market. And if someone overbids, you can always hedge your bet or try to get a share of their team based on the current odds.

Team Owner Responsibilities in Calcutta Auction 

  • The team owner ensures that all the money is paid to the Calcutta Auctioneer promptly when the auction concludes.
  • The team owner also tracks how much of the team each partner owns. Some club members team up to increase their chances of getting the teams they think will win. They make a group called a “syndicate.” In a syndicate, one person, the “Owner,” bids for the group.
  • If a player doesn’t own their team, they can buy back 10% ownership from their Owner. They must pay the Owner 10% of the final auction price. If the player wins the Directors Cup later, they get 10% of the Calcutta pool from the Owner.
  • Players can only buy back themselves within 30 minutes after the auction ends.
  • Players must pay the Owner immediately with cash for buybacks.
  • If the Owner wins the Calcutta Pool, they must share the money with each syndicate member (if there is one) and pay off any buybacks.

Understanding Market Dynamics

Successfully navigating a Calcutta auction involves understanding market trends and behaviours. Spotting and leveraging market inefficiencies is vital to finding value. For instance, recognizing how public perception can inflate or deflate a team’s worth and being able to adjust bids accordingly is crucial. Emotions often sway decisions, leading to overvalued or undervalued teams.

Consider geographical biases, too; West Coast auctions may overvalue PAC-12 teams. Thus, correctly interpreting market signals also means acknowledging psychological biases in other participants. Because despite data-driven insights, biases persist, which affects decision-making.

Remember, everyone, including yourself, has blind spots that cloud judgment, impacting auction outcomes.

Setting Up a Calcutta Auction the Right Way

The best way to run a Calcutta auction is to keep spending unlimited and auctioning off teams randomly. This way, everyone has to face the full force of the open market, with no limits or rules holding them back.

Some variations of Calcutta Auctions have popped up lately, where teams are auctioned off in reverse order of their seeds instead of randomly. This organized bidding order will lower the risk for big-money bettors who want to buy heavily favored teams. Bidding on these teams towards the end reduces the risk of losing big with larger bets.

But this diminishes much of a Calcutta auction’s excitement (and skill) or waters down its essence.

With no limits and random order, participants can drive up the price of a highly valued team without any restrictions, which means they take on a lot of risk if an underdog pulls off an upset. And if someone pays too much for a big favorite and wins, they’ll get their money back when payouts are made, reducing their profit.

The thrill of Calcutta auctions comes from not knowing how much the pot is worth. This means you must guess everyone else’s thoughts before determining how much each team is worth.

What about Prop Equity?

Estimating prop equity is your call. But ensure it all sums up to 20 percent. One way is to start evenly across 14 teams, then adjust based on your judgment. For instance, with 14 teams, each begins at 7.14 percent. But considering the stats, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia seemed likelier losers than Green Bay or KC. So, raise Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to 12.14 percent and lower Green Bay and KC to 2.14 percent. Raiders might increase to 10.14 percent while Tampa Bay drops to 4.14 percent. Arizona and San Francisco get 9.14 percent, while Buffalo and Tennessee get 5.14 percent. It’s all about sizing up your guesses.

Key Notes:

  • Calcutta betting auctions are a fun way to gamble with friends
  • Participants often feel they’ve scored big in Calcutta auctions.
  • To compete, create a model projecting probabilities for each outcome.
  • The first item auctioned sets the pace for the rest.
  • Seek value early and late in Calcutta auctions.
About the Author
David Abayomi Aje is a freelance writer and digital marketer. David has been a content writer and a digital marketer for 16 years. He is published in different sports blog websites such as, When he is not writing, David is watching his favourite sports teams - Arsenal football club in England, the Los Angeles Lakers, Barcelona e.t.c. You can connect with David on Twitter via @thebottomcorna