The football squares pool is as big a part of a NFL Super Bowl party as pizza and beer. Long a tradition in home and office football game viewing parties (and in particular for the Super Bowl), “squares” is a simple pool-based betting format that probably doesn’t interest serious bettors all that much.
Playing “Super Bowl Squares”
The only real prop involved in the game is the betting sheet, which is drawn up into a grid with 100 individual squares, made up of a total of ten squares on both the x and y axes. This 100-square layout is fairly standard, but some variations do exist.
The picks strategy and other discussions below cover the standard 100-square size, but could easily be altered to cover alternate numbers of betting spaces.
Example of a 100 square board I pulled from Google (click to ENLARGE):
Each of the 100 squares is an available wagering space, labeled 0-9 on both sides. The price of each square is determined by the game’s host, but is usually pretty low since this is usually a friendly contest.
Once all the squares are sold, the boxes are assigned, usually at random to give the bet some parity.
Some squares contests allow entrants to pick their own numbers – these are the only ones that can really be exploited with any strategy, so hopefully your next big football party will let you pick your own.
Football Squares Strategy
As discussed earlier, if the squares game you enter assigns squares randomly, there isn’t much strategy beyond buying as many squares as you’re allowed and hoping or the best. Strategy comes in when bettors are allowed to pick their own squares, even in cases where they’re allowed just one choice, with the rest left up to chance.
In the case where bettors are allowed to pick their own numbers, those of us in the know are in luck. Remember that Super Bowl parties are stuffed with total betting amateurs with no understanding of the game.
If you’re playing in a $5 or $10 per square game, with prizes in the hundreds of dollars, it doesn’t make sense not to jump in and put your sports knowledge to use. Hey, it may be the one time in your life where you are a true sharp, at least relative to everyone else taking part in the wager.
Betting Past Scores and Patterns
Strategy is simple. Look back at the final scores of past games and pick the numbers that pop up most commonly. You can and should tailor this to the specific game you’re betting on.
For example, going back forty-five years, a few numbers pop up way more often than others. The most common final scores are 27-24, 24-17, 20-17, 17-14, and 13-10. Notice how often the numbers 0, 3, 4, and 7 pop up in the final digit of those scores? Make those numbers your Super Bowl square selections and you’ve increased the likelihood of winning considerably.
Those figures don’t do much for the first three quarters of scoring, but since the final score prize is usually twice as big, that’s the one you should focus on winning. It doesn’t hurt that 0 and 7 are also really common numbers in early scoring totals as well.
Winning at Squares
How does a player win on football squares? Each of the numbers of each of the squares, 0-9, corresponds to the final number in the score of the home or the away team in the game.
Whether the wager refers to the home or away team is determined by its position on the board. One axis is the home score, the other axis is the away score. Only the final number in the score is used because it’s fairly common for a quarter of football to pass without a score.
An Example of a Football Squares Result
If that’s a little confusing, here’s an example. If the score at the end of a game is Dallas 23 @ Washington 20, the winner is whoever has the square that falls on the number 3 spot of the away axis and the number 0 spot of the home axis.
Football Squares Prizes
Traditionally, prizes are paid out at the end of each quarter, for a total of four prizes. The prizes are traditionally not paid evenly – often, the total prize pool is broken up into fifths, so that one share goes to the first, second, and third quarter winners, while the winner of the final score gets two shares, or two-fifths of the total prize.
How much money are we talking about here? Let’s say your next Super Bowl party charges $10 per square – that makes for a $1,000 total prize pool. The first three winners would win $200 apiece, while the owner of the final score square would win a payout of $400.
What about the odds of winning? If everyone buys just one square, each participant has a 1 in 25 chance of taking home the cash. In large pools, such as office parties, this is common, but it is often the case that people are allowed to purchase up to a certain number.
As a bettor, it’s best to play in a game that allows you to buy more than one square – remember that each additional square purchase is one full percentage point increase in the chance that you’ll bring a fat wallet home from your party along with a good case of acid reflux.
It’s easy to apply this same method to squares bets on NCAA championship games and other football contests, especially as team parity increases in college football and the scores normalize to form trends.
Are football squares bets the most interesting way to wager on the Super Bowl? No – the number of crazy propositions available during the Super Bowl season is far sexier, and the payouts aren’t usually all that high.
But squares are easy to take advantage of – armed with a little knowledge (and the right squares rules and game setup), it’s easy to swoop in and claim a few hundred bucks with a layout of twenty bucks or so at your next football party.