Super Bowl squares, also known as football squares, have become a staple of Super Bowl parties everywhere — a cheap, easy way for guests to bet on the outcome of the game.
So as we get closer to this year’s Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, it’s time to get up to speed on how it all works.
Here’s a primer on Super Bowl squares, how to run the betting game at your upcoming Super Bowl party and, perhaps most importantly of all, which squares are most likely to pay off.
How does it work?
The game starts with a 10-by-10 grid, or 100 individual boxes — each of which is assigned a universal price tag, like $1 per square. Before the Super Bowl kicks off, participants purchase individual boxes — generally as many as they wish — until all 100 of them are accounted for. The numbers 0-9 are then assigned to the columns and rows (usually at random), giving two numbers to each individual cell.
From here, the game can be played a few different ways. Typically, one axis represents the last digit of the NFC team’s score and the other represents the last digit of the AFC team’s score. Whoever has the correct digits of the final score wins the pot; If the Rams win 28-21, for example, the winning square would be where the No. 8 on the NFC axis meets the No. 1 on the AFC axis.
How can I switch it up?
One of the most popular variations on Super Bowl squares is to pay out 25% of the pot at the end of every quarter, rather than all of it at the end of the game. (Or, in some cases, 20% at the end of the first and third quarters, and 30% at the end of each half). This makes it more likely that there will be multiple winners, albeit with smaller shares of the pot.
What are the best squares to have?
The values on each axis are usually assigned at random, so you might not have a choice here. But if you do, your best bet will generally be some combination of zeroes and/or sevens. In a 2013 blog post, the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective wrote that the single best square to have is seven on the favorite’s axis (the Patriots are the favorites this year) and zero on the underdog’s, with the 0-0 square a close second. The Washington Post lists 0-0 as the best square to have, with the two combinations of seven and zero (7-0 or 0-7) right behind it. Three, four and one also aren’t bad numbers to have from an odds standpoint.
What are the worst squares to have?
Any combination of twos or fives. According to the aforementioned Harvard Sports Analysis Collective post from 2013, the 2-2 square and 2-5 square (two on the favorite’s axis, five on the underdog’s) are among the worst because it usually takes some combination of safeties, missed extra points or other general strangeness to get there.
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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