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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 Masters - Preview Day 3 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There are plenty of bets to be made as the 2023 Masters Tournament, the biggest weekend in golf, tees off on Thursday. One way to wager on your favorite golfer is through a Calcutta, a unique betting format in which bettors compete in an auction to “draft” a golfer.

The chances to win are generally very low, and because of the auction-style bidding that allows you to draft a player, the better golfers cost significantly more. However, the payout is big — all of the money from the highest bids for each golfers goes into a pot, and the majority of that money will go to the bettor who drafted the winning golfer.

A smaller percentage generally goes to the bettors with the second and third place golfers, as well, but most entering the pool won’t see a dime. 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.

There is a lot of poker-like strategy involved. Bettors can choose to drive up costs with opposing bids to get more money into the pot, but go too high and you’re stuck with a golfer you may not have wanted in the first place. There are 88 golfers in the field this year available to draft in a Calcutta.