Warren Buffett has a billion reasons to hope for some Cinderella upsets in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Buffet is teaming with Quicken Loans and Yahoo! Sports in offering a $1 billion bounty for anybody lucky enough to fill out a perfect bracket.
So just how much luck would a person need to become an instant billionaire?
Unlike most math problems, the answer to this question isn’t quite as simple as A + B = $1 Billion.
Simple Math: 1 in 64 Teams at Even Odds
At its core, the NCAA Tournament consists of 64 teams playing in a single elimination tournament. If every team had a 50 percent chance of winning each game, the odds of a perfect bracket would be equal to the odds of correctly guessing a coin flip 63 times in a row.
Per Forbes, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket with theses odds is about one in 9,000,000,000,000,000,000 (9 quintillion).
But many of the games in the first round are not a 50/50 proposition. For example, no No. 1 seed has ever lost is first round game against a No. 16 seed.
Factoring in Match-ups
Once the relative strength of schedules of the early stages of the tournament are factored in, the math is still a bit fuzzy.
A previous Wall Street Journal survey of mathematicians pegged the odds of a perfect bracket somewhere between 1 in 150 million and 1 in 9 million trillion.
That’s quite a spread.
Because of the complexities involved with predicting something as unpredictable as sports, not even mathematicians can agree on just how astronomical are the odds of a perfect bracket.
The same WSJ article states the odds of pre-tournament favorites winning every game in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was 1 in 3 billion.
Simply riding the favorite in every game still fails to gives very good odds of a mistake-free bracket.
Winning Buffett’s Billion
I have been competing in bracket challenges with family and friends for nearly 20 years. While I’ve never come close to perfection, here are my tips from years of experience to help you win Buffett’s billion:
-Pick all No. 1 seeds and No. 2 seeds to win in the first round, unless one of them is Georgetown.
-Pick one Cinderella and ride them to the Elite Eight. Those who recently bet on Wichita State, VCU, or Butler did well in recent years.
-Make sure your Final Four has at least two schools from these states: North Carolina, Kentucky, or Michigan.
-Always choose your favorite school to lose early. If they win, it softens the pain of making a wrong selection in your pool.
With the odds of completing a perfect bracket somewhere between 1 in 150 million and 1 in 9 million trillion, you can use all the help you can get.