betting squares

Super Bowl: The best strategies for playing squares

When Super Bowl approaches, out come the prop bets: bets that aren’t really about who wins or loses, but bets on interesting details during the game.

Big events tend to make people bet-happy, and with the Super Bowl, there are unique prop bets passed around offices and friends as everyone shows off their inner football analyst and make select their Super Bowl picks and predictions.

One of the most popular of these is the game of Squares for the Super Bowl, so in this post we’ll look at some of the best ways to play Squares.

What are these “squares”, you say? If you’re new to Squares, it’s a betting competition where people try to guess the last digit of the score for both teams at the end of a given quarter, and is common for playoff games and the Super Bowl (it is played for regular games as well, but not as often). NB: This fun betting competition is much different than the football handicapper strategy, how to bet against the “squares”.

For example, let’s take Super Bowl XLIX; the Patriots and the Seahawks. If, by the end of the first quarter, the score is 21-14, the last digits would be “1” and “4”, and those who bet on those last digits win.

Here’s a diagram of a typical Squares grid.
 Click to open to a full print-friendly version.

football squares

The Super Bowl Pool

As you can see, the game begins with a 10 x 10 grid. The numbers “0” through “9” are written into the grid vertically and horizontally. While everyone’s grid looks different (some place the NFC team horizontally and the AFC vertically, et cetera), the basic rules are the same: One team’s “rows”, and one team is listed as “columns”.

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Super bowl bettors then put their initials in each square until all the squares are filled up, placing a bet on each square (usually $10 or some other amount).

After each quarter, the last digit of each team’s score is taken. Then the player with who bet on the grid wins for that quarter.

Using our 21-14 first quarter score above, the winner would be the person who picked Row 1, Column 4. The way the quarters are traditionally decided are 20% for the first quarter and the third quarter, while the person who predicts either halftime or the fourth quarter get 30%.

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With these weights in mind, what is the optimal strategy for winning at Squares– and just as important, what are the numbers to avoid?

In an idealized grid, we’ll place the favorite on the columns and underdog on rows. By aggregating NFL playoff data from the past 30 years, we then can compile the score frequency at the end of each quarter to determine which are the most common.

Using the traditional quarter-to-quarter payouts (20% in the 1st and 3rd quarters, 30% at halftime and the 4th quarter), we’ll then divide the aggregate by the total number of games.

Then, using a $10 baseline in a $1000 pool by way of example, we can now create a grid that easily shows which are the best numbers to play. The results can be seen here:

betting squares

As you can now see, the optimal strategy is to predict “7” for a favorite digit, and use “0” as the underdog.

This gives an average payout of $82.74. Assuming these squares are the same price, there are only 24 squares that have, over time, shown a profit.

In fact, there are five squares which have never materialized at all. 

So whoever you’re rooting for, make sure to bring this handy chart along with your chips and salsa. Square up!

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