For anonymous help from the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, call (800) 426-2535 or visit www.wi-problemgamblers.org/.
For the first time since the NCAA started seeding its men's basketball tournament in 1979, there will not be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Final Four.
The heavy dose of upsets and chaos may provide drama and delight for the average March Madness fan, but it's a nightmare for many gamblers.
The Final Four games begin today with No. 8 seed Butler University playing No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth University just after 5 p.m. No. 3 seed University of Connecticut plays No. 4 seed University of Kentucky just before 8 p.m.
For problem gamblers, the vast media and social attention surrounding the tournament makes it difficult to resist placing a bet, according to Dennis Lorenz, associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and board member of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling.
The council's gambling help hotline tends to see about a 10 percent spike from problem gamblers following large cultural sports events such as the Super Bowl and March Madness.
"We can assume that, in addition to other types of sports gambling, they are swept away by the current events that are going on in terms of the sports world," Lorenz said.
VCU and Butler were 200-1 and 150-1 long shots to win the championship at the start of the tournament, respectively.
Heading into the final games, many bettors who have faired poorly will aim to recoup their losses in the final games — a dangerous make-it or break-it wager, according to Rose Gruber, Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling executive director.
"If they're sports bettors and they've had losing seasons, the big games become make it or break it for them," Gruber said. "A lot of times they'll put everything they have or can get their hands on for these big games."
Additionally, some believe their odds have improved dramatically with a narrowed field, which just isn't the case, Lorenz said.
"The fact of the matter is, with every game, like every coin flip, it can come up heads or tails. It really doesn't improve anything thinking about it in terms of gambling statistics," he said.