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

By Dan Dzombak – Mar 17, 2014 at 8:00AM

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With the NCAA tournament brackets finalized, the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge is open. Learn from Warren Buffett.

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.

Dan Dzombak can be found on Twitter @DanDzombak or on his Facebook page, DanDzombak. He enjoys picking up dollars off the ground. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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