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Beat the Buffett Pool? Forget about it!


Published March 20, 2014

“Warren Buffett didn’t make his billions by taking low odds on his business ventures.”
Alan Hutson, chair
Department of Biostatistics

UB faculty member Alan Hutson has a tip for all those candidates lining up to win Warren Buffett’s $1 billion sweepstakes for picking all 63 NCAA basketball tournament games.

It’s not going to happen.

That’s the message from Hutson, chair of the Department of Biostatistics and a member of the American Statistical Association.

“Warren Buffett didn’t make his billions by taking low odds on his business ventures,” says Hutson. “That’s why they threw $1 billion at it. It could have been a trillion for that matter.”

Hutson laid out the odds if each of the 63 games were like a coin flip, each team having a 50-50 chance of winning. Then picking two games correctly would be ½ times ½, or ¼, multiplying ½ by itself 63 times.

That works out to a probability of 1 out of 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

True, the odds aren’t quite that long, Hutson points out, because those making choices on games don’t imagine their odds as 50-50. But even taking into consideration that people can play favorites, it doesn’t change the action enough to give anyone anything resembling a reasonable chance of winning the jackpot.

 “No matter how good a prognosticator you are based on your basketball knowledge,” Hutson says, “the odds are still infinitesimal.”