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I won!Now what?

By Kelley Atherton

Well sport fans, I did it.

I won a bet I (at first) did not want to take—entering the office NCAA tournament pool.

I took a chance, did my homework and put my money on the line. I had some slip-ups, some bad calls, but was ultimately successful.

Kansas, thank God for Kansas, was the only chance I had at winning once UCLA went under.

OK, so maybe Pitt wasn't as strong of a team as I had thought.

I wanted to put all the top seed teams in the Final Four. However, since this had never happened before, I picked an underdog.

Sometimes there isn't a lesson to be learned from history. I did learn a few other lessons nonetheless.

I should have chosen a few more 10-12 seeds to champion over their highly touted counterparts in the first round. Davidson, Western Kentucky, Villanova, Kansas State, I underestimated them all.

The Bruins were not the golden gods sport commentators were making them out to be. I was obviously right in choosing Kansas in the championship game, but I thought they would choke in the end. This year, Memphis did all the choking.

I did choose right with Tennessee, Texas, Stanford, Xavier and Wisconsin, among others. It's hard to tell whether it was sheer beginner's luck or my research that helped me pick winners right off in the first round.

It was probably a little bit of both.

I probably won't become a college ball fan or gambling svengali. However, I did notice that with money involved I cared a lot more about who won.

After putting my 10 bucks in the pot, I became invested in each game I happened to watch. I greedily watched each pass, each free-throw, each shot—I wanted to win. I never thought I would want to watch college basketball.

At a small bar in Portland I found myself standing in front of a big screen screaming "come on!" as Pitt lost to Memphis. Even my frothy beer couldn't take the bitter taste out of my mouth.

I got a little nervous at that point. Maybe I made a lot of wrong choices. Ten bucks is ten bucks and I have student loans to pay off.

The over-arching lesson is that there isn't a science to gambling. It's a risk. I could as easily have come in last instead of first. I can't predict the future, but using some bracketology strategy certainly helped. Otherwise, I would have chosen teams based on locales.

Since I don't particularly like the flat, barren state of Kansas or the southern locales of North Carolina and Memphis, I would have never chosen the Jawhawks, Tar Heels or Tigers to go as far as they did.

However, Kansas was a last-second decision—I thought they could go almost all the way (it seemed like UCLA's year). I went with my gut instinct and ended up winning a chunk of change.

I realized, though, that this applies to the business world. For most, once you put your hard-earned money into something, you care much more about the return.

It's also about doing what feels right. You can't throw yourself into a new venture without first knowing that its the right thing to do. Then you become an expert at whatever it is. The last step is the plunge.

My editor suggested spending my co-workers' money at one of the local casinos to try to turn it into really big money, but I think I'll save it for a rainy day.

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