There are now two relatively easy ways to make $1 billion: Inherit it or fill out a perfect NCAA tournament bracket.
(I don’t like my chances on either count – my parents still give me a $50 check every year on my birthday, and my prognostication skills have waned so much, if I told you Saturday would follow Friday this week, you should bet against it.)
Quicken Loans and Berkshire Hathaway, stomping grounds of investor stomping king Warren Buffett, have combined forces, offering to make someone a billionaire if someone can somehow pick 63 games in a row.
Quicken Loans is running the promotion, Berkshire Hathaway is insuring it. A perfect bracket gives you a choice of riches: You either would receive 40 annual installments of $25 million or you can opt for an immediate $500 million lump-sum payment.
In the press release announcing the contest, Buffett said, “While there is no simple path to success, it sure doesn’t get much easier than filling out a bracket online. To quote a commercial from one of my companies, I’d dare say it’s so easy a caveman could do it.”
Uh, I hate to disagree with the Oracle of Omaha, but it’s likely a caveman can’t do it because I guarantee you Time Warner Cable can’t provide high-speed Internet to most caves. And even with online access, how easy do you think it is to fill out an errorless bracket?
Which brings us to the two basic issues at hand here:
1. What are the chances of executing a perfect NCAA bracket?
2. If you manage to do it, which payout option do you choose?
(Column Intermission: Springbrook received a first-round bye in the Maryland state Class 4A boys basketball playoffs, so this week crusty coach Tom Crowell, Stepson of Destiny Isaiah Eisendorf and the sublime Robinson twins, Andrew and Aaron, need to win three games to make it to the state semifinals at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center, which would mark Couch Slouch’s first return to campus since graduating without honors in 1981.)
Let’s deal with the payout choices first.
Simply put, $500 million upfront beats $1 billion later. And who wants to deal with bank lines 40 times just to endorse a check?
Besides, there’s a good chance I won’t live 40 more years. Plus, what am I going to do with $25 million a year when I’m 90 – clear Costco’s shelves of all the Metamucil, Flomax and Life Alert medical alert systems in stock? So I prefer to get one fat check and then start livin’ la vida loca.
(I disagree with the adage, “Money saved is money earned.” I say, “Money spent is money well-spent.” When you spend money, you enjoy yourself; when you save money, you end up sitting at home watching Nat Geo’s “Border Wars.”)
Now, for actually achieving perfection here, I am told there are 9,223,372,036,864,775,808 ways to fill out an NCAA bracket. That’s a large number. To put it in perspective, there are only 9,223,372,036,854,775,769 varieties of Snapple. On the other hand, a New York Times article – using a different statistical model, I guess – estimated that the odds of a perfect bracket were 1 in 128 billion. Frankly, that seems somewhat obtainable, compared to 1 in 9.2 quintillion.
(To settle this, I was going to ask Nate Silver to run the numbers, but he’s too busy projecting tribal council elections in southern Sudan.)
Entries are limited to one per household, which – to be perfectly honest – is unfair to large households, like the Kardashians or, say, Antonio Cromartie’s crib.
It is free to enter, so I believe the optimal strategy would be to get as many households as possible to submit different brackets under your name. My plan is to go door-to-door to millions of homes and offer each household a cut of the winnings; this is logistically difficult but definitely doable.
There are an estimated 1.4 billion households worldwide. Southwest Airlines flies to more than 90 destinations – I have a Rapid Rewards card – so that’s a start. I can use Amtrak, ferries and regional transport to make my way to other locales.
On the downside, it is a statistical improbability that I can put together a perfect NCAA tournament bracket, considering that in every bracket I’ve ever filled out, Duke doesn’t win a game.
Ask The Slouch
Q. If you were subjected to the multiple mental and physical examinations that the prospective draftees were put through at the NFL scouting combine, do you believe your ex-wives would’ve made better picks? (J.B. Koch; Macomb, Mich.)
A. Arguably, they couldn’t have made a worse one.
Q. Any truth to the rumor that next year’s Westminster Dog Show and NFL scouting combine will, in fact, be combined and held on the same night in the same arena? (Thomas Ponton; Columbia, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
Q. Are the Redskins using Match.com or the NFL scouting combine this year? (Jack Smith; Fairfax, Va.)
A. There’s something about the NFL scouting combine that brings out the best in my readers.