Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner. The Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, both of whom went into overtime to come out on top of the playoffs, will square off to take home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIII.
The game, which will take place on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, home of the Falcons, should draw millions of viewers worldwide. Last year's game averaged 103.4 million viewers, many of whom competed with friends and coworkers in a Super Bowl betting game, Super Bowl Squares.
Here's a primer on what Super Bowl Squares actually is and how the game works — as well as which squares are most likely to pay off.
Super Bowl Squares, also known as grids or football squares, are a staple of Super Bowl parties. In short, they're a cheap, simple way to bet on the outcome of the game — and you can even play online!
If you're not much of a gambler, Fantasy was never quite your thing, or you have generally no idea how the game of football works, don't sweat it. The game of Super Bowl Squares is nothing but a 10-by-10 grid, and you need next to no knowledge of the sport to win it.
The grid is made up of 100 individual boxes (for those of you who also struggle in the math department), each of which is assigned a universal price tag, such as $1 per square. All you and anyone else participating has to do is buy a square or a few—ultimately, all 100 squares need to be accounted for.
Then... well, you don't do anything. This game is mostly pure luck (we'll get to the nitty gritty momentarily). For you visual learners, here's a handy example of the grid from Printable Team Schedules (which you can print for yourself):
So, how do you win in Super Bowl Squares?
Each column and row are assigned the numbers zero through nine, usually at random after each participant purchases their squares, so that each square corresponds with two numbers. Typically, one axis represents the last digit of the National Football Conference (NFC)'s score (in this case, the Rams), and the other represents the last digit of the American Football Conference (AFC)'s score (in this case, the Patriots).
It may look like such, for example:
After you purchase your cell(s) and the numbers are assigned, you just kick back and enjoy the game. A winner will be determined at the end of the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and at the end of the game. Whoever has the last digits of the score of each quarter, and ultimately the final score of the game, wins.
For example, if the Patriots win 28-21, the winning square will be where the No. 8 on the AFC axis and the No. 1 on the NFC axis meet. Like this:
Payouts for each of these winners will vary depending on how you decide to set up the game, but usually the first-, second- and third-quarter winners get about 20 percent of the pot each, and the final-score winner would get the remaining 40 percent of the pot.
The values assigned to each axis are usually done at random after everyone initials their boxes so, really, this betting game is pretty much based on luck (and how much the officials favor Tom Brady, but I digress...). That said, it can be fun to play in a way that everyone chooses boxes after each one has already been given two numbers — especially for avid football fans who know the sport and their teams' tendencies well and, as such, can make some more informed, educated decisions here.
If you play this way, it's wise to keep in mind some general NFL track records. On average, there are 48.4 points scored in a game, and, since 1970, there have been only eight teams that have averaged more than 35 points per game. That's good to know, but here's what you really want to keep in mind...
For years, statisticians have been looking into which squares have the best odds. By some science in a 2013 blog post, the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective found that the single best cell to have is the seven on the favorite's axis and the zero on the underdog's axis. In this year's Super Bowl, the Patriots are considered the "favorites."
In 2015, FiveThirtyEight calculated the projected payout for each square, based on data from 10 NFL seasons. It noted that, because "football scoring tends to come in chunks of sevens and threes (and, much less frequently, sixes, eights and twos)," squares containing zero, seven and three are arguably more valuable than those containing a five or a two, per say.
Last year Eldo.co took the research a step further in examining the final score probabilities for Super Bowl LII, taking into account the uncommon scores that have become more common as the NFL moved the extra-point kick back 13 yards. The probabilities it concluded take into account the impact of 2015, 2016 and 2017’s "historically weird NFL scores," as well as each team’s win probability per FiveThirtyEight. Ultimately, it suggested that the Super Bowl LII’s best final-score number combination was Patriots zero and Eagles seven, followed closely by its inverse, Patriots seven and Eagles zero. The worst draw, it found, could have been a pair of twos, which has happened only three times in any regular season or playoff games in the Super Bowl era, which dates back to 1966.
Ultimately, the worst squares are the ones you'd expect — combinations that include two, five or nine since, for a team to end up with that kind of score, they'd most likely need a two-point conversion or a safety.
Of course, none of this matters if you purchase cells before randomly assigning them numbers.
Looking for other Super Bowl Games? Here are three more that you might enjoy:
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.