Quicken loans and Yahoo have teamed up for their promotion.
Quicken loans and Yahoo have teamed up for their promotion. - 
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If you're getting ready to fill out a bracket for March Madness, then you might consider joining a competition with a significantly bigger payout than your office pool: The mortgage company Quicken Loans is offering $1 billion to anyone who fills out a perfect bracket. Warren Buffet's company is insuring the bet, so they're probably good for it.

What are your chances of winning? DePaul University math professor Jeffrey Bergen has figured the odds:

9.2 quintillion to one against

 If you’re just guessing, you’ve got 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible combinations to choose from. Yes, that's a 19-digit number.

For perspective: The odds of hitting the jackpot in Powerball on a $1 ticket are 1 in 175,223,510. The odds of hitting the jackpot in Mega Millions are on a $1 ticket are 1 in 258,890,850. The odds of hitting both, having bought just one ticket in each, are 200 times better than your odds of correctly guessing a perfect bracket.

128 billion to one against

 These are the odds of picking a perfect bracket if you actually know something about basketball, i.e. if you can manage to eliminate all the extremely unlikely possibilities. 

15 million

 That’s how many entries the contest will actually accept. Note that this is a way lower number than 128 billion.


 The chances that the Billion Dollar Bracket will NOT pay out a billion dollars—even if all 15 million entrants know something about basketball. If everybody just guesses, the chance of a payout is 1 in 600,000,000,000. 


The number of perfect brackets that have ever been recorded. The person who came closest was an autistic teen in the Chicago area who nailed the first two rounds—48 games—in 2010.

Follow Dan Weissmann at @danweissmann