Entertainment, Personal Finance

$1 Billion Perfect Bracket Challenge vs Mega Millions Lottery: Which is Best to Enter?

mega millions lottery billion dollar brackets challenge odds
I received an email asking me my opinion on whether it would be better to enter the NCAA March Madness basketball Billion Dollar Bracket challenge or to buy a ticket for the Mega Millions lottery. While the Mega Millions lottery is not worth $1 billion at the moment (as of this writing, the estimated jackpot is $400 million), chances are that there will be a jackpot of that size in the near future. With that in mind, and making the assumption that the payouts are of relatively equal value, the best answer would be neither. Your chances of winning either of the two is minuscule at best. If you need to choose one or the other, the answer depends a lot on what “best” means to you as part of the question.

If “best” means which one gives you the best odds of winning, then the Mega Millions lottery would be the better bet. The odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 258,890,850 (1 in 258.9 million). That’s downright fantastic when compared to the Billion Dollar Bracket challenge which comes with odds of 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (1 in 9.2 quintillion) if you picked your bracket at random. If you use a little bit of NCAA basketball tournament knowledge, you can increase the odds of picking a perfect bracket to 1 in 128,000,000,000 (1 in 128 billion). Still, as far as pure odds go, 259 million to 1 is much better than 128 billion to 1, meaning that playing Mega Millions would be the “best” to enter in this scenario.

Looking strictly at the odds, however, leaves out a few important factors which can have a significant impact on which of the two would be considered “best” to enter. For example, in order to play Mega Millions, you need to pay, whereas you can play the Billion Dollar Bracket challenge for free. As mentioned above, both contests come with odds that are so large that it isn’t likely that you would win either of them. If you look at which contest is “best” from the point of view of “Is it better to lose no money or lose some money?” the Billion Dollar Brackets is the best choice since you don’t have to risk any of your own money to play.

It’s important to remember that the grand prize isn’t the only monetary prize available in both contests. The second prize for Mega Millions is $1 million which comes with odds of 1 in 18,492,204 (1 in 18.5 million). The second prize for the perfect bracket challenge is $100,000 and comes with odds of 20 in 15,000,000 (20 in 15 million). While the prize is less for the bracket challenge than the lottery, the odds of winning are much greater.

In fact, the odds for the $1 Billion Bracket challenge are likely even better that 20 in 15 million. First, those odds assume that all the 15 million entries for the contest will be filled. Secondly, it assumes that everyone who participates will know previous NCAA tournament history to have a better chance of picking a quality bracket which isn’t likely to be the case. Since it’s the best 20 brackets that win if there isn’t a $1 billion winner, and if winning a major prize is the criteria for “best,” then the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge would win.

Another way to look at it would be which contest gives the best chance to win something. If this is what would be considered “best,” then the lottery would win hands down. The odds of winning something would be just under 1 in 15 (see chart below), although in many cases, the prize would be quite small.

prize odds for Mega Millions
Probably the best way to look at both of these contests is to consider them both as entertainment and not as an actual way to win some money. If you take this perspective with each and their $1 billion prize, then both of them can be considered a good value for the entertaining dream. For a dollar or less, they can give you the the tiniest of hopes of joining the other billionaires as one of the richest people in the world.

2 thoughts on “$1 Billion Perfect Bracket Challenge vs Mega Millions Lottery: Which is Best to Enter?

  1. Here’s some lottery advice I was given that may be helpful:
    • DON’T have regular special numbers – they can soon become a millstone round your neck so you dare not ever forget to play them.
    • DON’T choose all birthday or calendar date numbers – millions of people do that and you’ll probably have to share any win.
    • DON’T choose consecutive numbers (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Amazingly, tens of thousands of people do this, so your win share could be very small.
    • DO consider quick picks (lucky dips) – many big winners have reported that their wins came from quick picks.

  2. both are worth playing for fun if you’re into that type of thing, but not much else in my opinion.

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