Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans Will Pay You $1 Billion for the Perfect March Madness Bracket

Why? To make a mathematical joke.
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Reuters

To all those concerned about America's productivity collapse during March Madness: Be more concerned.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Quicken Loans have agreed to pay $1 billion to whomever fills out a perfect Men's NCAA Tournament bracket this year, in 40 annual installments of $25 million

Why offer $1 billion for sheer dumb luck? I've called and emailed Quicken Loans for a response. When I get it, I will tell you. But I have a pretty good guess: They are offering to pay $1 billion, because they know they will never have to pay $1 billion.

You might consider the odds of filling out a perfect March Madness bracket to be, well, small. You would be wrong. Flipping a coin and getting 10 straight heads; predicting the Super Bowl MVP before the NFL season begins; finding exact change in your pocket—the odds of these marvels occurring are, indeed, small. But the chances of correctly guessing all 63 games in the NCAA tournament are so vanishingly minuscule, they exist in the realm of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and "President Alec Baldwin"

Those odds are 1 in 128 billion, according to DePaul math professor Jeff Bergen. (Some outlets are quoting 1 in 9.2 quintillion, but that assumes that all 63 games are 50-50 toss-ups, which they're not. For example, Number 1 seeds just about always advance to the second round.) If everyone in the United States filled out a bracket, Chris Chase calculated, we'd get a $1 billion winner every 400 years.

So Buffett and Quicken Loans are "offering" $1 billion for the perfect bracket the way I'm now (officially) "offering" $1 billion to anybody who, in the next week, guesses the names of every sitting member of the House of Representatives in 2020. Please email your losing guesses to ihaveliterallynothingtodothisafternoon@theatlantic.com.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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