The Probability of Winning Warren Buffett’s Billion Dollars

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Michael John Sullivan


Stated in the contest rules the probability of winning the NCAA College Basketball Tournament “Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge” is one in 9.2 quintillion (9.2 x 1018).  This is calculated based on each team having an even chance of 50% to win any given Tournament game.  In this paper, I use two alternative methodologies to calculate the probability of teams to win individual games and use these probabilities to calculate the overall probability of achieving a perfect 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket.  Based on Las Vegas closing point spreads, I find the probability of having a perfect 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket is approximately one in 1.31 quadrillion (1.31 x 1015).  Alternatively, using Conlen and Silver (2014) estimated probabilities, I find the probability is approximately one in 1.57 quadrillion (1.57 x 1015).  These alternative methodologies produce surprisingly similar probabilities and are lower (better) by a factor of approximately 6,000 to 8,000 times than the probability stated in contest rules.

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Author Biography

Michael John Sullivan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Michael J. SullivanFull ProfessorDepartment of FinanceUniversity of Nevada, Las Vegas 


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