Warren Buffett’s Best Gambles Outside of Berkshire Hathaway

From a decade-long bet benefiting charity to a $5 gamble on the Nebraska Cornhuskers, these are some of the investor's most notable wagers.

Warren Buffett has long been respected for his good bets—after all, the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) CEO’s investment picks have made him one of the world’s richest people. But as evidenced by a recent deal made between Buffett and Chevron (CVX)’s Mike Wirth, the billionaire doesn’t just limit his gambling to business decisions.

Older man in glasses and black suit
Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway’s 2019 shareholder meeting. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

A few weeks ago, the two CEOs made a friendly wager on last month’s football game between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Colorado Buffaloes. Buffett, who was born in Omaha and still lives in Nebraska, saw his team beaten by Wirth’s alma mater and subsequently mailed a $5 bill to the Chevron head via Federal Express. “There’s no fool like an old fool,” the investor told Barron’s, adding that Wirth “won fair and square.” Buffett, who has an estimated net worth of $116 billion, also declared that the $5 dried up his football budget for 2024.

This isn’t the first time Buffett, 93, has publicly gambled. Over the years, the investor has made several wagers, generally in support of teams in his home state or with the goal of educating investors. His most well-known wager occurred in 2007 when Buffett publicly bet $1 million that the S&P 500 stock index would outperform five hedge funds over ten years. “I then sat back and waited expectantly for a parade of fund managers—who could include their own fund as one of the five—to come forth and defend their occupation,” Buffett reminisced in a 2016 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. “What followed was the sound of silence.”

Ted Seides, former co-manager of the firm Protege Partners, eventually stepped up and selected hedge funds for the bet. By 2017, the wager—with its increasing pot—saw Buffett’s prediction ring true. He donated his $2.2 million in winnings to the nonprofit Girls Inc. of Omaha via Long Bets, a nonprofit funded by Jeff Bezos that donates the winnings of long-term predictions to charity. Buffett has since gotten involved with another Long Bets wager initiated by Microsoft (MSFT)’s Craig Mundie and Google (GOOGL)’s Eric Schmidt in 2002. Each tech executive put up $1,000, and Mundie argued pilotless plane flights will become routine by 2030 while Schmidt bet otherwise. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO sided with Schmidt, who promptly “laid off $500 with me,” according to Buffett’s 2016 shareholder letter. “I like his assumption that I’ll be around in 2030 to contribute my payment, should we lose,” joked the investor.

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Warren Buffett at a 2014 basketball game between the Creighton Bluejays and Providence Friars. Eric Francis/Getty Images

Warren Buffett’s history with sports betting

Buffett has previously displayed a distaste towards widely accessible gambling. At a 2007 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder conference, he called gambling a “tax on ignorance” and a “pretty cynical act.” The investor even revealed that he once installed a slot machine at home to educate his children on the ills of betting. “I thought it would be a good lesson for them,” he said. In 2017, Buffett revealed his skepticism about legalized sports betting. “If they’re making a bet with the guy next to him, that’s one thing, but if they’re doing it against a sportsbook, they’re going to lose money all the time,” he told Yahoo Finance.

But his warnings haven’t prevented the Berkshire Hathaway head from engaging in a few sports bets—especially when Nebraska is involved. While visiting Las Vegas in 2014, he placed a $550 wager on the Nebraska Cornhuskers as they went on to defeat Fresno State. His sage legacy as the “Oracle of Omaha” appears to extend to sports betting, as several passersby reportedly placed the same gamble after witnessing Buffett’s bet.

That same year, Berkshire Hathaway partnered up with Quicken Loans, offering to pay out $1 billion to whoever submitted a perfect March Madness bracket in a contest run by the mortgage lender. While no winner emerged, Buffett in 2016 decided to continue the challenge among companies who are majority-owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Since then, he has offered $1 million per year for life to any employee who correctly predicts the Sweet Sixteen round. No one has yet been able to offer a perfect bracket, although Berkshire Hathaway pays $100,000 annually to whichever employee’s bracket is correct for the longest period. Ever loyal to Nebraska, Buffett has since declared that this cash prize will be doubled if Omaha’s Creighton University makes it to the Final Four.

Warren Buffett’s Best Gambles Outside of Berkshire Hathaway