The Buffett Bracket: Why the Odds Are Against You

3 Minute Read

It’s March, which means people are thinking of three things: spring, warmer weather and the NCAA basketball tournament.

This year, a well-known (and well-off) name is getting involved. That would be Warren Buffett, the chairman and CEO at holding company Berkshire Hathaway and one of the wealthiest men in the world. He is pairing up with Quicken Loans to offer a staggering prize: Any person who fills out a perfect NCAA bracket—meaning they pick every winning team from every game played—will receive a jaw-dropping $1 billion prize from Quicken paid out by Berkshire Hathaway.

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With 68 teams competing, the odds of being bracket perfect are one in 9.2 quintillion. You are 52 billion times more likely to win the lottery, and don’t get us started on how that compares with being struck by lightning. If we were to make a bet, it would be that Buffett’s money is safe.

People go nuts over March Madness. Time magazine estimated that $12 billion was wagered on the 2011 tournament. So why does all that happen? When the odds are so long and the chances of winning are almost non-existent, why do so many people gamble for the prize?

Whenever we are presented with a get-rich-quick scheme, most of us fall for the “dreaming” part of it. We envision what it would be like to suddenly come into a ton of money without having to put in a bunch of time or effort. We then envision things like quitting the job we hate, buying everything in sight, and living life on Easy Street.

People can get so carried away that they’ll pay for a ticket/sign up/enter to win/invest/whatever, only to set themselves up for disappointment, often losing money in the process. That is “sucker” thinking. Chasing quick wealth will lead to ruin. The odds are stacked against you and gambling requires little or no skill to win. If you do win, it’s by chance.

Don’t participate in losing money where your key to success is dumb luck. Even if you do win, chances are it won’t be enough cash to set you up for life. It probably won’t even be enough to cover the losses you incurred getting there.

Hard work, living on a budget, saving money, and avoiding scams are not gambles. They are the behaviors that will get you money and help you keep it. And the odds that they work? Let’s just say a heckuva lot better than 9.2 quintillion to 1.

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