Quest for Perfection and $1 Billion of Warren Buffet’s Money: A Historical Perspective

While your chances of attaining perfection are slim to none, Buffet is prepared to reward you handsomely on the off-chance.

Billionaire Warren Buffet recently announced he will give $1 billion to anyone who fills out a perfect March Madness bracket in what is titled the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge with Yahoo Sports. Contestants have until March 19th to enter, and the number of participants will be capped at 15 million. Oh and, its free to enter. $1 billion dollars!! That’s a lot of money even for him, so why would he risk giving it away? One reason is that the stunt will give him positive publicity.

Buffet is the rare tycoon whose likability nearly matches his fabulous wealth. Billionaire, philanthropist, basketball fan and guy generous enough to offer you $1 billion for free. Now that’s somebody I would vote for in a presidential election, let alone enter a sportsbetting contest with. And here’s the kicker for Mr. Buffet: it is a free publicity stunt. The chances of someone filling a bracket with all 67 games chosen correctly are less than microscopic.

The chances of a perfect March Madness bracket

• Billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffet is offering $1 billion to anyone who fills out a perfect bracket this March Madness 2014

• Estimated chances of choosing all 67 games correctly: 1 in 9.2 quintillion (that’s 9.2 billion multiplied by 1 billion!). No one has ever done this

• Quicken Loans, ESPN and CBS Sports are also offering great prizes to those who submit great but less than perfect bracket

According to USA Today, the odds of perfection are 1 in 9.2 quintillion, to be exact. What is a quintillion? A number you will never have to encounter. 9.2 quintillion is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That is 9.2 billion, 1 billion times. It may look mathematically impossible. It isn’t, but don’t count on winning Buffet’s grand prize.

Mr. Buffet can be pretty confident that he won’t have to pay out the $1billion. ESPN has received roughly 30 million bracket submissions over the past 16 years and not a single one has been perfect. Even experts on how to bet on March Madness never dream of picking a perfect bracket. In fact, no one anywhere has ever reported a perfect bracket.

To give an example of how difficult it is to predict the outcomes of the tournament, let’s take a look at how many people correctly picked the national champion in the last two years. In 2013 Louisville was the favorite of oddsmakers and didn’t disappoint, defeating Michigan in the final game. However, only 22 percent of participants in the ESPN Bracket Challenge correctly chose them to win. In 2012 Kentucky won the championship despite only 35 percent of participants choosing them to win. And if only 1/5 or 1/3 of people were able to choose one game correctly, how is anyone supposed to choose 67 games correctly?

Other opportunities to win cash this year

But don’t despair, there are plenty of prizes out there for those unable to reach perfection. Quicken Loans is also offering a plush package to 20 skillful brackets who nonetheless fall short of perfection. What will these contestants receive? A check for $100,000. The best part is, you don’t need to be perfect to win, you just need to be better than everyone else. Another plus: its free to play, just like gambling with someone else’s money.

ESPN is offering a grand prize of a $10,000 Best Buy gift card to whomever completes the best bracket in the 2014 Bracket Challenge. The bounty may pale in comparison to Buffets’s offer but it’s nothing to scoff at. I don’t personally have much interest in electronics, but I’m sure you can find something of interest there. The ESPN contest is also free to enter.

CBS Sports is also offering a great package for its special winner this year. They will randomly select one random participant from among those who submitted one of the top 10 percent of brackets. The grand prize includes 4 tickets to the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis including $6000 cash to cover airfare, hotel accommodations, and whatever else the winner wants (CBS puts the total cash value at $10,000). This contest is also free to enter.

Should you participate?

You should absolutely submit a bracket to Buffet’s billion dollar challenge. You won’t win, but its free to enter, so why not? And you might just take home one of twenty $100,000 prizes. Our advice would be to enter several brackets in different contests. Enter the ESPN Bracket Challenge and the CBS Sports Bracket Challenge as well. Prizes range from everything to cash to electronics to Final Four tickets. In addition to one of the official bracket contests, join an office pool with your friends or colleagues. It’s a great way to have fun, and you may win a little cash on the side. No wonder its the most popular way to bet on sports in America.

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