Democracy Dies in Darkness

# The best and worst numbers for Super Bowl squares

One of the highlights of a Super Bowl party, besides the food, is participating in box pools, better known as Super Bowl squares. What’s even more fun is winning that pool, and a few key indicators can tell you if the odds will be in your favor when the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams square off Feb. 13 in Super Bowl 56.

For the unfamiliar, Super Bowl squares require participants to place their name or initials in one or more of 100 squares for a 10-by-10 grid. Those initialed squares are then randomly assigned to cover the grid, with each column and row labeled with a number 0-9, each corresponding to one of the teams. To determine which box is a winner, take the last digit of each Super Bowl team’s score (traditionally done at the conclusion of each quarter, at each scoring change or at the final whistle) and find the corresponding square on the grid to identify the winner.

What do you want to serve for your Super Bowl feast?

Your pairings may be random, but there are certain number combinations that are more likely to hit than others. As of 2015, when the league pushed back the line of scrimmage for extra-point kick attempts, the best square to have is 0 | 0, a score combination that was found at the end of eight percent of quarters of all games over the past six seasons, including the playoffs. In a pool that awards \$25 at the end of each quarter (and not counting overtime), that combination has an expected value of \$0.97 per \$1 bet. It’s by far the most lucrative square to own and one of only six boxes with positive expected value throughout the whole game. The others are 7 | 0, 0 | 7, 0 | 3, 3 | 0 and 7 | 7.

But that’s only accounting for historical trends. We can determine more specific odds for Super Bowl 56 squares by incorporating a few other factors. The over/under is either 49 ½ or 50, depending on what sports books you have available in your area, and that projection will improve the value of a few combinations.

In games with an over/under total of 50 points or fewer, the frequency of the 0 | 0 square being the first-quarter winner increases to 17 percent of all games and the expected value also improves to \$3.44 compared to \$2.26 for games with higher totals. This makes sense since a lower-scoring game is more likely to be a one-score game at the end of the first quarter, improving the value of that 0 | 0 box. Other first-quarter squares with more value in lower-scoring games compared to the higher-scoring matchups include scores ending in combinations of 0, 7 and 3. The 4 | 0 square is one of the few that gains value in higher-scoring games.

At the end of the half, the 0 | 0, 0 | 3 and 3 | 0 squares start to gain value in games with a total of 50 points or fewer. In fact, the 0 | 0 square has a lot more value in games with a total of 50 or less (seven percent of occurrences) than it does in game with a higher total (two percent). As a final score, 0 | 0 still hits as frequently in games with a total of 50 points or fewer as the 6 | 0 and 7 | 0 square. All the other squares hold comparable value in both sets of games.

In almost all cases, the squares with a zero, seven or three will generate the most profits over time, so if you find yourself with squares with one or more of those numbers, rejoice, because you will probably walk away with some money. If not, you are going to want to hope for a safety or two-point conversion to help make some of those other squares more valuable.

No one is laughing at the Super Bowl-bound Bengals now

If you are in a pool that allows you to buy the squares you want, knowing the numbers beforehand, there are a few you should target quickly, as they are the only ones with a positive expectation in all quarters: 0 | 0, 0 | 3, 0 | 7, 3 | 0, 3 | 7, 7 | 0, 7 | 3 and 7 | 7. For every dollar you invest in those squares you should generate around 60 cents in expected profit.

Here are the 10 squares with the most value in a game with a betting total of 50 points or fewer.