How to Win the Warren Buffett March Madness Bracket Challenge

by Kyle Woodley | January 22, 2014 8:30 am

The Oracle of Omaha has gotten into the collegiate sporting spirit early, offering up a Warren Buffett March Madness challenge. Warren Buffett and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert are pairing up to offer a cool billion bucks to whoever can pull out a flawless NCAA men’s basketball bracket.

warren-buffett-march-madnessNot bad.

The details are pretty straightforward — you can enter from March 3-19, fill out brackets starting March 16, one bracket per household. (More info here.[1])

But how do you give yourself the best chance to win the Warren Buffett March Madness challenge?

You’re in luck, as you’re talking to a member of the financial media who also has a decent background in sports … especially when it comes to winning the occasional pick ‘em, suicide pool and bracket.

And I’m willing to let you in on a little secret:

There’s No Good Way to Do It

None. No magic bullet. No secret formula.

Really, the truth is that Joe Fan doesn’t know nearly enough about all 64 (sorry, 68!) participants to have even remote confidence in their bracket.

Think about it: You’d have to make educated decisions not only about all the first-round matchups, but then all the resulting matchups through the very final one. And that means factoring in not only what you know about the teams, but having to account for the possibility of individual/team outperformance, underperformance, injuries, emotional highs and lows, ability to play closer to/farther from home, etc.

That’s why urban legends surround winning-but-not-even-perfect brackets. “I picked the coolest mascots.” “Favorite colors.” “Dartboard.” Enough people with little knowledge win their bracket pools that those strategies are plausible.

And there are no old wives’ tales concerning how such-and-such achieved a perfect bracket for one simple reason: It’s never happened.

Frankly, I’m a little peeved that my NBA rooting interest’s owner is dangling this apple of Tantalus in front of everyone, but hey … better to win $1 billion for the impossible than nothing at all, right?

And impossible it is — or as close to impossible as something technically possible can be.

The winner of the $1 billion Warren Buffett March Madness prize is looking at a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance[2]. Off the cuff, those are about the odds of finding a needle in a haystack, and that needle actually being the key to Davy Jones’ locker, in which someone has stuffed a winning Powerball ticket, the Hope Diamond and a written Kanye West apology.

Of course, if it were me …

I’d Just Pick by Seeds

The seeds are more or less an imperfect way of ranking teams based on their regular-season success, and reward better teams with easier paths to the championship (at least early on). The top seed is “1,” and the lowest seed is “16” — in the first round, 1 plays 16, 2 plays 15, so on and so forth through 8 seeds, which play 9 seeds.

In theory, “lower” seeds should beat “higher” seeds because they’re supposed to be better. Happens more often than it doesn’t, but certainly not all the time.

So, here’s how you play the seeds:



Go nuts. Whatever strikes your fancy. Try to stick to two things, though:

Of course, both sports and finance have something to say about betting on history: “History has never won a game,” and “Past performance is not indicative of future returns.”

Frankly, it’s just the way I’d prefer to lose.

Bottom Line

Playing the seeds is just what I’m comfortable with. But frankly, it’s no better a way than drawing each game’s winner out of a hat or having your dog point to pictures on a wall.

Remember that when you read the next 20 articles on how to be the king of Warren Buffett’s March Madness challenge.

Kyle Woodley is the Deputy Managing Editor of InvestorPlace, a former sports copy editor and a degenerate fantasy sports player. He’s also a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but not their progress this season.

  1. More info here.:
  2. 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance:

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