Warren Buffett Backs Billion Dollar March Madness Challenge

Picking a perfect bracket could earn you big bucks, but what are the odds?

ByABC News
January 21, 2014, 5:18 PM

Jan. 21, 2014— -- Financial guru Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is insuring the colossal prize that would go to someone who successfully picks all 64 team brackets in the NCAA men's basketball tournament –- a feat so complex that the company is betting $1 billion it won't happen.

The prize is being offered by Detroit-based Quicken Loans Inc., the nation's fourth-largest mortgage lender, and would be doled out in 40 annual installments of $25 million, unless the winner opts for a single lump-sum payment of $500 million.

"We've seen a lot of contests offering a million dollars for putting together a good bracket, which got us thinking, what is the perfect bracket worth?" Jay Farner, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans, said in a statement. "We decided a billion dollars seems right for such an impressive feat."

The NCAA's single-elimination men's basketball tournament, known as "March Madness," is one of the country's most-watched sports events and consists of 68 teams, which narrows to 64 teams after the four play-in games.

Runner-up prizes of $100,000 for picking the tournament's top 20 most accurate "imperfect brackets" will also be given to up to 20 entrants for them to remodel or refinance their home, company officials said.

Guessing the NCAA winners is somewhat of a national pastime in offices around America, with no shortage of workplace pools or public tournaments for cash prizes.

"Millions of people play brackets every March, so why not take a shot at becoming $1 billion richer for doing so," Buffett said in a statement. "While there is no simple path to success, it sure doesn't get much easier than filling out a bracket online."

Quicken Loans' billion dollar prize is the largest to be offered for any NCAA bracket tournament so far, beating Fox Sports, which offered $1 million to anyone who could correctly guess all 64 teams and Yahoo's $5 million reward for the perfect bracket.

But the odds of actually guessing all the brackets correctly are exceedingly slim, according to a mathematics professor at Chicago's DePaul University who posted a YouTube clip last year explaining that there are more than 9 quintillion ways to fill in a bracket.

"If you're just guessing, you basically have no chance," Jeff Bergen says in the video. "If you know something about basketball then your chance of getting a perfect bracket is probably more like one in 128 billion."

Free registration for the Quicken Loans tournament starts March 3 and will run until March 19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.