This week millions of Americans will engage in an illegal activity. And they'll do it at their place of work, no less.

As the nation gears up for the NCAA tournament, Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel tweeted a friendly reminder that the governing body's official position is in opposition to brackets.

From the NCAA's website, here's the organization's official position:

Does the NCAA really oppose the harmless small-dollar bracket office pool for the Men’s Final Four?

Yes! Office pools of this nature are illegal in most states. The NCAA is aware of pools involving $100,000 or more in revenue. Worse yet, the NCAA has learned these types of pools are often the entry point for youth to begin gambling. Fans should enjoy following the tournament and filling out a bracket just for the fun of it, not on the amount of money they could possibly win.

So there you have it. While the NCAA rakes in $11 billion over 14 years from TV rights to the tournament, it is technically illegal for someone to profit from a $10 office pool. Of course, the NCAA is simply following gambling regulations with this policy, but there's something cheeky about the way it informs fans of its stance.

In case you forgot, this is the same organization that polices eight-second phone calls and extra servings of pasta.

Perhaps it is no coincidence in the timing that one day after the tournament brackets were released, there was a federal lawsuit was filed, calling the NCAA an unlawful cartel.

(H/T to Business Insider)

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For the second time in three years, the first score of the Super Bowl was a safety. And for the second time in three years, Jona Rechnitz cashed in big time.

According to TMZ, Rechnitz, a New York real estate mogul, bet $500 at 50-to-1 odds that the first score of this year's Super Bowl would be a Seattle safety. After center Manny Ramirez's first snap of the game flew by Peyton Manning and into the end zone, Rechnitz was $25,000 richer.

Two years ago Rechnitz bet that the first score of Super Bowl XLII would be a safety. He put down $1,000 that time and came out with $50,000 when Tom Brady was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone against the Giants.

He donated all that money to charity and told TMZ he plans to do the same this time. Rechnitz says he'll be giving his winnings to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Stewart J. Rahr Foundation.

Here's Rechnitz's winning ticket:

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Just like the commercial catchphrase of "there's an app for that," when it comes to the Super Bowl, there's a bet for that, whatever that happens to be. Since the first prop bet involving William "The Refrigerator" Perry in Super Bowl XX, the concept has boomed to the extent that account for 40 percent of the game's action. Here are some notables for the Broncos-Seahawks showdown in New Jersey:

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The prop bets for this year's Super Bowl are as creative as they are numerous.

What will Bruno Mars wear on his head? How many times will Peyton Manning call "Omaha"? Will Knowshon Moreno cry during the national anthem?

These wagers are meant to capitalize on the spectacle that is the Super Bowl. It's such an enormous event that people are willing to gamble on what color Gatorade will be poured on the winning coach. Indeed, according to a New York Times story, prop bets may account for as much as 40 percent of the $100 million wagered on Sunday's Super Bowl.

So whom do we have to thank for this gambling sensation?

William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

The Fridge, as the Chicago Bears defensive lineman was called, had become a phenomenon during his rookie 1985 season as coach Mike Ditka used him as a running back in goal line situations. The hype around Perry was so large leading up to the Super Bowl that legendary bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro posted a bet at 40-to-1 odds for whether Perry would score a touchdown in the big game.

As Ditka downplayed Perry's role the odds rose to as 75-to-1. But once the line gained publicity in the national media, money began flowing into the wager. The line dropped tremendously, and by game time it was closer to 5-to-1.

Sure enough, in the third quarter of Chicago's rout of New England, Perry rushed for a one-yard score. Putting aside the fact that many fans and players wanted Walter Payton, the team's star running back, to tally a touchdown in his first (and only) Super Bowl, Perry's score validated the prop bet.

“I opened the number at 40-to-1, and by kickoff, it was all the way down to 5-to-1,” Vaccaro told the Sporting News. “We got beat up pretty good on the prop itself, but between all the hype from the national media after the prop was sent out on the wire and the lingering effects afterwards with follow-up stories, we got some pretty good attention.”

Prop bets took off after that year, to the point where now people can bet on whether the Red Hot Chili Peppers will play shirtless at halftime. Thanks, Fridge.

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Forget every March Madness pool you've ever entered. Warren Buffett is offering a new contest this year, and we can assure you the only thing more insane than the winnings are your odds of coming out on top.

Buffett and his billionaire buddy Dan Gilbert are partnering on a promotion that will award $1 billion to anyone that can predict every single game of the NCAA tournament. Gilbert's Quicken Loans is offering the grand prize and Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is insuring it. The winner can take his or her prize in 40 installments of $25 million or an immediate lump sum payment of $500 million.

Your odds of picking every single game? A smooth 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

"We've seen a lot of contests offering a million dollars for putting together a good bracket, which got us thinking, what is the perfect bracket worth? We decided a billion dollars seems right for such an impressive feat," Jay Farner, President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quicken Loans said in a statement. "It is our mission to create amazing experiences for our clients. This contest, with the possibility of creating a billionaire, definitely fits that bill."

The 1 in 9.2 quintillion figure is a bit of a stretch because some outcomes are more likely than others. A No. 1 seed has never lost in the first round, for example. According to DePaul University math professor Jay Bergen that yields odds of about 1 in 128 billion.

Those odds aren't likely to do much in the way of optimism, but there are actually some attainable prizes being offered by Buffet and Gilbert. The 20 entrants with the best brackets will each win a $100,000 prize from Quicken Loans that can be used towards buying, refinancing or remodeling a home.

As part of the competition, Quicken Loans will be donating $1 million to inner-city non-profit organizations in Detroit and Cleveland. Quicken Loans is based in Detroit (where Gilbert was born) and Gilbert is the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The contest, which is free to enter, begins on March 3.

"Millions of people play brackets every March, so why not take a shot at becoming $1 billion richer for doing so," Buffett said. "While there is no simple path to success, it sure doesn't get much easier than filling out a bracket online. To quote a commercial from one of my companies, I'd dare say it's so easy to enter that even a caveman can do it."

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Floyd Mayweather is at it again.

The boxing star, a noted gambler who is never shy to open about his winnings, appears to have taken in a nice sum this week thanks to the Michigan State Spartans and the Oklahoma Sooners.

After Michigan State's 24-20 win over Stanford Mayweather, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native tweeted that he had won $112,500.

Then, following Oklahoma's 45-31 upset of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, Mayweather tweeted this photo of another winning ticket. The Sooners' 31-17 halftime advantage made Mayweather $102,500 richer.

All told, Mayweather won $215,000 this week. Of course, Mayweather never posts his losing tickets, and assuming he does sometimes pick the wrong team, he may have lost some money too. And while $215,000 is a fortune for most people, this is just a drop in the bucket for Mayweather, who is one of the world's highest paid athletes and has more than $120 million in a checking account.

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Like Robert De Niro's character in Silver Linings Playbook, every gambler has theories and superstitions. And if anyone's ever told you to bet on West Coast NFL teams when they play East Coast squads at night, hopefully you took their advice.

Researchers from Harvard and Stanford recently analyzed 30 years of NFL night games featuring an East-West matchup. The West Coast clubs beat the point spread 66 percent of the time -- and by an average of more than 5 points, according to the study data. (When it comes to making wagers and playing the odds, see where your city stacks up among The 100 Best Cities for Gambling.)

How come? Your physical performance is affected by circadian rhythms -- or your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. And your performance tends to peak in the late afternoon, the researchers say. As a result, the time change between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts means West teams are playing at their best, while East beasts are suiting up when their day would normally be winding down.

Now, they call it gambling for a reason -- there are no sure bets. But if rearranging remote controls and holding your team's handkerchief aren't working any better for you than they did for De Niro*, try these other science-backed betting tips. (Gain the edge in your office pool this football season. Find out how to Make Smarter NFL Bets.)

If the weather's frigid, bet on the home team, indicates research from Texas State University. Home teams who play outdoors win roughly 54 percent of the time when the temp drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. And that win rate climbs if the home squad is playing a team traveling from a much warmer climate -- say New England hosting Miami. Why? Vegas -- and betters -- tend to undervalue the visiting team’s lack of experience playing in cold temps, says study author Richard Borghesi, Ph.D.

If the weather’s windy, rainy, or snowy, bet the under. Your odds of winning jump as much as 9 percent, shows another of Borghesi's NFL studies. Although it seems obvious that crappy weather would affect a team’s ability to score, the over/under line tends not to factor this in, Borghesi adds. His research also shows throwing your lot behind home underdogs during the NFL playoffs is a winning strategy a whopping 78 percent of the time. (And while you're at it, make sure you know the 4 Ways the Weather Makes You Crazy.)

Pick upsets -- but not too early. When it comes to March Madness-style pools, there are usually so many entrants that picking favorites only lumps you in with the crowd, says Byran Clair, Ph.D., of St. Louis University. His research shows the best tactic percentage-wise is to pick favorites early -- say, for the first two rounds -- when an upset won’t win you many points. But in the round of 16 and beyond, you’re better off hitching your wagon to an underdog -- at least for a round or two -- to differentiate yourself from the masses. (Anyone who had Michigan in the championship game last year knows how well this can work out.) And if the tournament has a significant favorite? “Picking that team to miss the Final Four could be a good strategy” most years because very few people will do likewise, Clair says.

Never bet on black. Teams who wear black jerseys are penalized more frequently than those wearing white, according to an analysis of 50,000 NHL games from University of Florida researchers. One possible explanation: Western culture teaches us to associate white with good and black with evil, and so the refs may have a built-in bias against the dark-shirted skaters, the study authors say. (In addition, athletes from all sports count on superstitions or rituals for luck. Here are 10 of the strangest.)

*Source: YouTube: Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook

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In the grand scheme of the night, Ohio State's last-second touchdown meant very little in its victory over Northwestern on Saturday. The Buckeyes were already winning by four points, and all they needed to do in order to win the game was prevent the Wildcats from scoring a miracle touchdown.

Thanks to some sloppy play on Northwestern's part, Ohio State ended up with a touchdown on the final play that changed the final score from 34-30 to 40-30.

The last-second swing was meaningless for both teams, but it had huge implications in Las Vegas.

The Buckeyes were 5.5-point favorites coming into the night, and because Ohio State is undefeated and the game was featured on ABC, there was a lot of money riding on the contest. So much dough, in fact, that when Ohio State scored the touchdown and covered the spread, insiders estimated that there was a $100 million swing from bookies to bettors.

In case you missed it, here's the final play.

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As he is wont to do, ABC's play-by-play man Brent Musburger referenced the spread when he noted that "there are some folks who are celebrating and other folks who are saying, 'you gotta be kidding me.'"

The Buckeyes' backdoor cover was so bizarre that some people suspected foul play. But Todd Fuhrman, a gambling analyst in Las Vegas, told the Chicago Tribune he didn't think there was anything suspicious about the way the game ended.

"I wouldn't call the outcome funny because there's nothing OSU did that was out of the ordinary," Fuhrman said. "They pounced on a loose ball after Northwestern's failed lateral attempts. It just happened to turn a non-cover into a horrific bad beat for Wildcat bettors."

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The Miami Hurricanes have achieved just about every possible honor that college football can bestow.

The Hurricanes have won five national titles while producing two Heisman winners and 35 All-Americans. The "U" is regarded as one of the most storied programs in the nation, and for good reason.

But never in all of its dominant and illustrious history has Miami been favored by 60 or more points heading into a game. Until now.

The No. 16 Hurricanes are 60-point favorites as they approach this weekend's matchup with FCS opponent Savannah State. If the line holds until Saturday, it will mark just the third time since 1980 that a team has been been pegged in Las Vegas to win by 60 or more points.

Coincidentally the last time it happened Savannah State was involved. The Tigers were 65-point underdogs heading into their matchup last year with Florida State. The Seminoles crushed the Tigers but did not cover the spread, winning by a final score of 55-0.

Miami isn't the only team gearing up for conference play with one last cream puff, and as Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal notes, there are seven other teams favored by at least 40 points this weekend. They are No. 1 Alabama (playing Colorado State), No. 4 Ohio State (Florida A&M), No. 7 Louisville (Florida International), No. 8 Florida State (Bethune-Cookman), No. 13 UCLA (New Mexico State), No. 17 Washington (Idaho State) and Virginia (Virginia Military Institute).

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Poker star Phil Laak was minding his own business at a table one day when a friend tapped him on the shoulder. The friend told Laak he had someone he would like Laak to meet. With two hands before the big blind coming up (an appropriate time to get up in poker is just before your blind), Laak did not want to budge.

"I said, 'Yeah right, because I'm going to miss two hands,'" Laak remembers from the conversation a few years back.

But then the friend revealed the stranger's identity: Brian Koppelman, writer of Ocean's Thirteen and Rounders.

"I stood up. It was the first time I ever stood up and missed two hands of poker that I paid for," Laak says. "I went over and met Brian and we became buddies."

Now, when Laak travels to New York City, he makes sure to meet up with Koppelman. The chance relationship proved mutually beneficial one day as Laak stopped by Koppelman's office. It so happened Koppelman was discussing a scene in the upcoming film Runner Runner that could use some poker players.

The film, which stars Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck and Gemma Arterton, features online gambling at its forefront. When Timberlake's character, Richie Furst, is swindled in online poker, he travels to Costa Rica to find the root of his problem. In the Caribbean, Furst meets Ivan Block (Affleck), the mastermind behind the scam.

Laak was "begging" Koppelman to put him in the film before the conversation in the writer's office.

"I was like bro, you have to put me in this movie. And he was like no way, no way," Laak says.

Laak made cameos in the films The Grand, Setup and Freelancers and the TV series "Knight Rider," but he was yet to take the set of a high-profile film starring actors like Timberlake and Affleck.

Present as Koppelman brainstormed, Laak found his chance.

"I think I was just in the right place at the right time. I said I get Antonio [Esfandiari] and whatever," Laak says.

Koppelman accepted Laak's offer and booked him and Esfandiari, a fellow professional poker player, on a plane to Puerto Rico, where much of the production took place.

"It all felt like it was supposed to happen. Like a little dream," Laak says.

For the scene, the two players acted in their natural habitat: a poker game. The game took place in the bottom of a mansion and Timberlake's character was passed information during the scene.

"My expectations were there would be a whole lot of waiting around and preparation and I was right about that," Laak says. "For any movie, for any one line, there's like three days of setup. I kind of knew how much work it would take to get one scene done. That didn't surprise me. Every scene they did, there were like six to eight takes and multiple camera angles. That was the highest-budget movie I'd ever been on."

However, not been in. The scene Laak and Esfandiari went to Puerto Rico to film was left out of the final cut.

"I think there might be the top of our heads," Laak says about the extent of his presence in the film when it hits theaters Oct. 4.

Laak did have the opportunity to interact with Timberlake. He was grateful the singer/actor spent some time with the director, the producer, Esfandiari and Laak during a break.

"He came over and was very personable," Laak says. "He's a very funny guy. He actually made me laugh. He's a bit of a comedian."

Timberlake does not have the poker background of Affleck. The Argo star has spent some time dabbling in high-profile poker events in the last two decades. Laak estimates he has played with Affleck around a dozen times, most instances coming a half decade ago.

"He got a lot of his training from the casino. He was always trying to learn strategy. He absorbed everything," Laak says. "He was the most improved player. He became a winning player. He plays less now, but back in the day, he was a good player."

Affleck's crowing poker accomplishment came when he won the 2004 Commerce Casino's California State Poker Championship. Affleck pocketed $356,400 with that title.

Although Laak's performance, or absent performance, is not going to win him an Academy Award -- girlfriend Jennifer Tilly has a nomination -- Timberlake, Affleck and Arterton's showings can help spread his game of poker.

"I think any kind of exposure, especially having guys like Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck bring poker to a new level, it's just exciting," Laak says. "I think anything that shoots awareness or exposure towards the game is good."

Now that he is part of the high-profile production of Runner Runner, Laak could have his mind set on larger acting roles. If he does act again, he does not need to necessarily portray a poker player.

"I never had a poker acting career. I don't expect one to grow," Laak says. "However, if you're at a party or I'm at a poker game and I happen to meet a guy who makes movies and likes poker, I'm the kind of guy you can't put it past me. I'd say 'Oh, put me in your next movie.' Even if it's a small part like a waiter. That'd be fun."

In seeing his face on the big screen, Laak will have to wait another for his next role to have a presence in theaters. Although Laak's scene was cut, he claims to be excited for the film's release and he is enticed by the trailers.

The vacation to Puerto Rico was enough for Laak. He took the bull by the horns and he advises others do so as well.

"I want to say the more in tune you are in grounds with moment, the more the future can open in unexpected and great ways," he says. "Just getting involved with this movie at all was spur of the moment me being aware, Koppelman's making a movie, peaking my head out there and looking. Because I was so living in the present, I was able to get an amazing experience out of that. The scene got cut and I still had an amazing time. I met great people and have new relationships. I met extra people in the world."

Success takes a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill. Just ask a poker player.


To learn more about Runner Runner, check out this story.

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