For college basketball fans – particularly in the Triangle region of North Carolina – there’s no better time of year than the start of the NCAA basketball tournament. Across the country, millions of people are filling out their tournament brackets with the hopes of winning various contests and office pools. Quicken Loans has capitalized on bracket fever and teamed up with Warren Buffet to promote a unique challenge: pick a perfect bracket and win $1 billion.
Before you go off and complete your bracket entry (and, in the process, provide Quicken Loans with plenty of personal information about yourself, which they will then use for marketing purposes), you should know that your odds of winning aren’t very good. In fact, they are outright terrible.
To win, you need to correctly pick the winners of all 63 games. If you assume that there’s 50/50 chance of picking the winner of each game, then your odds are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. (Yes, quintillion is a word and the exact number is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.) Folks that know a little bit about basketball can probably do a little better, since they know that a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed. Your bracket would probably look better than the 50/50 coin flip. For you, DePaul professor Paul Bergen estimates that your odds are about 1 in 128 billion. To put that in perspective, according to lostlettermen.com, you’re more likely to make two holes-in-one in the same round (1 in 67 million) or be killed by a falling vending machine (1 in 112 million).
But let’s assume for a minute that you’d entered the contest and made it all the way to the Elite 8 with a perfect bracket. You’ve picked the correct winners of 56 games and only have to get 7 more games right to win that $1 billion. Then Warren Buffet walks up to you and says, “I have an offer for you. You can let it ride and try to win the $1 billion, or I’ll write you a check right now for $_____.”