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What is a Calcutta? Breaking down golf’s auction-pool wagering system

We discuss a unique betting option you might have heard of, and is often a great way to make tournaments like The Masters more interesting.

The entrance to Augusta National Golf Club is pictured during a preview shoot for The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 02, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The biggest weekend for American golf fans gets started on April 7 as the PGA Tour heads to Augusta, Georgia, for The Masters. And sports betting goes hand-in-hand with the game of golf, which might be the only sport where the rules specifically permit wagering between the participants.

So while this coming weekend is about The Masters, it’s also a huge weekend for sports betting. And one of the unique betting formats utilized in golf is the Calcutta.

A golf Calcutta is an auction-style event that utilizes a pot and pays out a few winners. Each golfer or team is put up for “auction” and you bid on players. The highest bid gets that player, and if that golfer were to go on to win The Masters they would get the highest payout of the pot. All of the winning bids from players are put into a pot, and winnings are distributed in a pre-determined format. The most common distribution is that 70% of the pot goes to the winner, 20% goes to the second-place finisher and 10% goes to the third-place finisher.

For example you would bid on Dustin Johnson, and if you “win” him, and DJ goes on to win the 2022 Masters, you would receive the highest payout from the pot. If you have Johnson and then Jon Rahm wins the tournament with Johnson in second, you would receive 20% of the pot.

Usually one of the bettors participating throws out a name to start the bidding process, and then it’s just an auction where players bid until one submits a higher offer than their opponents. But this can lead to strategies as well, where if you know Bettor A really likes Bryson DeChambeau, Bettor B can drive up DeChambeau’s price in the auction forcing their opponent to spend more money.

But there’s a downside here as well, since if Bettor B bids too high and Bettor A bows out, Bettor B is now on the hook for a player he might not have valued as highly.

It’s a great betting format as long as you understand how to bid on competitors and the payout system. There are also ways to modify a Calcutta so the leader after each round is allocated a portion of the pot, or so that more than three players are rewarded.

And with over 100 players in this year’s Masters, it’s a terrific way to make watching a weekend of golf with your friends much more interesting!