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Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge Opens: Up Your Odds of Winning With Warren Buffett's Secret

Over the weekend the NCAA Tournament brackets were finalized, which means the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge has opened. In case you've been living under a rock, the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge is a contest, backed by Warren Buffett, that will pay anyone who can pick a perfect bracket a billion dollars. Read on and I'll explain how to up your odds of winning with the secret Warren Buffett has used to make billions.

Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge
To win the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, you must pick a perfect NCAA bracket. This is a near-impossible feat: ESPN's John Diver has said no one has come close to a perfect bracket in the network's 13-year history of running a NCAA tournament bracket.

As such, some naysayers argue you shouldn't even play:

  • Slate: "Don't Be a Sucker: You Shouldn't Take Warren Buffet's $1 Billion Bracket Challenge"
  • USA Today: "Why you won't win March Madness billion-dollar bracket"
  • The Washington Post: Why you won't win a billion dollars with Warren Buffett's bracket challenge

The articles all correctly point out that winning is all but impossible, with Buffett putting the odds at 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 -- that's one in 9 quintillion. The odds are further stacked because the contest is limited to 15 million entrants, each allowed only one entry.

While there likely will be no Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge winner, there are 20 "consolation" prizes of $100,000. So what is Warren Buffett's secret?

Warren Buffett's secret
One of the reasons Warren Buffett became a billionaire is that he seized opportunity when he saw it and was patient when he did not. As Buffett puts it:

You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing.

Lottery players frequently say you need to play to have any shot of winning. But most people are smart enough to know that the lottery is a sucker's game, as you pay a hefty sum for terrible odds.

The opportunity presented by the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge is that it's free to play; you just need to spend a few minutes filling out a bracket. With 20 first prizes and the contest limited to 15 million people, your odds of winning $100,000 are one in 750,000.

Source: PA Lottery.

Free lottery ticket
People who play the lottery pay money for a similar opportunity, and they get worse odds. For example, the Pennsylvania Lottery's "$100,000 SuperCa$h" scratch-off costs $5 per entry and gives you one-in-a-million odds of winning $100,000. That's worse odds than the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge, and it costs you $5.

In this case, seizing the opportunity is just like finding a $5 scratch-off ticket. To have any shot of winning, you have to pick it up off the ground. It takes minimal time and effort, and you have a real opportunity to win $100,000. Sometimes seizing the opportunity really is that simple.

Seize the opportunity
Through the years, Warren Buffett has offered up his simple yet power wisdom to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway that attend his annual meeting. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.

Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 7:04 PM, publicq wrote:

    The odds of a perfect bracket are actually far, far better than 1 in 9 quintillion. Not all 9 quintillion outcomes are equally likely (the ones involving Florida winning the tournament are more likely than those w/ Coastal Carolina winning), and most entrants will have enough basic reasoning and basketball knowledge to recognize this and only pick relatively likely scenarios. Both these factors improve the odds greatly.

    That being said, Buffett's $1B is still quite safe. Per the DePaul math professor in the video below, taking those two factors into account only improves the odds of a perfect bracket to about 1 in 128 billion, which is still incredibly unlikely to be hit in 15 million tries (in fact, if every person in the US filled out a bracket every year, it would still take 5,000 years to get a perfect result):

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 7:07 PM, publicq wrote:

    (Correction: it would take 400 years to get a perfect result if everyone filled out a perfect bracket, not 5,000 - not sure where I got that from. Regardless, it's still not going to happen anytime soon.)

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 6:28 PM, jssiegel wrote:

    And there's no such thing as a blue swan (we already know there are a very few black ones).

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2014, at 10:50 AM, Gary158 wrote:

    I have been unable to enter the contest. Click the link and it sends you to yahoo, which asks for a cell phone number. They say they will send a 5 digit code . They do not send the code.

    Not worth the effort.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2014, at 11:10 AM, TMFDanDzombak wrote:

    @publicg Thanks

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2014, at 11:12 AM, TMFDanDzombak wrote:

    @jssiegel Blue swan?

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2014, at 11:14 AM, TMFDanDzombak wrote:

    @Gary158 Yahoo had some problems with their cell phone system but I haven't heard that one. You should try again

    "On Sunday, users trying to register for the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge with Yahoo Sports received an error notification that their phone number had already been entered into the challenge."

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2014, at 9:02 PM, thidmark wrote:

    As I recall, everyone was eliminated before the first day of play ended.

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Dan Dzombak

Dan Dzombak has written for The Motley Fool since 2008. He covers value investing, investing process, and success among other things. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the buttons below or head over to his blog at

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