Warren Buffett offers $1bn prize for basketball competition


Berkshire Hathaway Buffett

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is offering $1 billion in prize money to anyone that can correctly predict the winner of every game in this year's US men's college basketball championship tournament.

To claim the prize, the winner will have to correctly predict the results of 67 games, in what's known as a bracket.

"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? We decided a billion dollars seems right for such an impressive feat," says Jay Farner, president of mortgage lender Quicken Loans, which has partnered with Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, to create the competition.

The winner can choose to receive the full $1 billion prize in 40 annual instalments of $25 million, or take an immediate $500 million lump sum instead. If more than one person manages the feat, they'll have to split the prize.

Warren Buffett, in a statement, makes the feat sound easy. "While there is no simple path to success, it sure doesn't get much easier than filling out a bracket online," he says. "To quote a commercial from one of my companies, I'd dare say it's so easy to enter that even a caveman can do it."

But - quite apart from the fact that the competition's only open to US citizens - nobody should get their hopes up too high. The odds really aren't that great: a staggering
9,200,000,000,000,000,000 to one, for anyone picking their winners at random.

Sometimes, though, bets against extreme odds really can pay off. Earlier this month, according to bookmaker Paddy Power, one individual won £20,000 from a 14-team accumulator on just a £1.00 bet, while another won £18,000 from a 17-team accumulator with a stake of £2.50. "Obviously, you need an incredible amount of luck for these kind of bets to come in," says the company's Paul Mallon.

And in 2001, a Manchester United fan from Lichfield, Staffs, beat odds of 1,666,666 to one to scoop a £500,000 win - from a single 30p accumulator.

But the winner with the longest odds against him seems to be the Maltese man who won a whopping £585,000 from an 85p accumulator bet back in 2011. He correctly predicted the results of 19 matches, beating odds of 683,738 to one.

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