The Quest For The Perfect Bracket, And Why You Should Just Give Up Now

Out of more than three million brackets filled out on one popular site, a paltry 20 remain perfect after just one day. So much for that million dollars, huh?

The big money offered by a number of sites for a perfect bracket seems like easy money for someone. Yet tens of millions of people couldn't correctly pick 16 games yesterday, so what chance do you have? Virtually none, and that's kind of the point.

In recorded history (aka the Internet age) there hasn't been a single perfect tournament bracket. And it's not like there's not incentive. Sometime over the past few years, it's become stylish to offer $1 million to anyone who nails all 63 games. Yahoo's doing it. One betting site is offering $13 million.

It's akin to me offering a billion dollars to anyone who anyone who can rebuild a Jenga tower by dumping the blocks out their window. It's technically possible, but I'm not particularly worried about having to pay up.

It's not the web sites who would have to come up with the payout anyway. Yahoo might have $1 million laying around, but they're not responsible. Rather, the contest is insured, and the insurance company would be on the hook. In return, Yahoo pays them a premium, probably little more than a pittance. What's in it for the insurance company? Those premiums, however small, are essentially free money. Look at the odds.

There are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 different ways to fill out a 64-team bracket. That's tough to put into perspective, but let's say that every man, woman and child on Earth filled out a million brackets each. There'd still be less than a one-in-a-thousand chance that anyone would get it perfect.

Of course, that nine quintillion figure comes from assuming 50/50 odds for each game, which, paradoxically, could make it even harder. We all know most games aren't 50/50 propositions. You can theoretically increase your odds of a perfect bracket by taking the top seeds: Kentucky over East Tennessee St., Villanova over Robert Morris, Georgetown over Ohio...and there you see the problem. In a perfect bracket, one needs to pick the upsets that will happen, while avoiding the ones that won't. It's no longer 50/50, but not in a direction that helps.

So it's time to let go of those caviar dreams of a perfect bracket. Luckily for you, you only need to beat Heather in accounting.