Calling the likelihood a ‘long shot’ is overselling it
March Madness means it’s time for brackets, pools, and payouts. While most tournament pools only require you to be better than the competition in predicting the outcome of games, Warren Buffett’s offer to his Berkshire Hathaway employees requires something a little more difficult—perfection.
Buffett has offered a cool million dollars to anyone who predicts the winner of all 32 first-round games taking place Thursday and Friday. So is the savvy billionaire overextending himself with this pledge?
Not at all, according to statistical analysis. Picking the winner of all 32 games is as astronomically difficult as it sounds. The rough math on picking all 32 winners amounts to something on order of 1/2^32, or 1 in 4,294,967,296.
Here’s a video to give you a sense of how quickly the odds against you get out of hand:
You might be thinking to yourself, But that’s if the winners are randomly selected. I have data analysis and history on my side to improve my odds. And you might be right. The 1s will most likely beat the 16s handily, but at some point, something random is going to happen. Odds are, actually, that several random, unforeseeable acts will tip games in unexpected directions. So nailing down the outcome of 32 games, even using rankings, is unlikely.
Last year, the longest streak seen in the combined NCAA.com, ESPN, CBS, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo pools was just 25 games. In 2015, it was 34, which is thought to be the longest perfection streak in tourney history. So, going back to Buffett’s offer: In the entire history of tracking tournament entries, one person out of millions (possibly billions) of entrants stayed perfect past the 32 games. Now, what are the odds that solitary soul happens to be an employee at Berkshire Hathaway?
Something tells us Buffett’s money is going to be safe, but don’t let that dash your hopes.
I can't wait until I win Warren Buffet's $1 Mill for the perfect bracket this year— Fara (@Fara) 1489600238.0
Warren Buffet better be glad he stopped the billionaire bracket contest because my bracket is worth billions #ESPN #CBS #NCAA #MarchMadness— Joosik Energetik (@Joosik Energetik) 1489607105.0