I’ve seen football squares played in multiple ways, especially during the Super Bowl. I used to play with my buddies from work on a regular basis. I also hung out in a neighborhood bar that always hosted Super Bowl squares. These are the rules for the football squares games I’ve always played in:
Football Squares Rules and Options
We always used a piece of poster-board to create the squares. The game was set up with a 10X10 grid, which results in 100 individual squares. Across the top, you took one team. You also had a team assigned to the team on the left.
You decide on how much it’s going to cost to play. $20 is a good number, although I’ve played in betting pools that used $1, $5, or $10 to buy a square. If you have some high rolling friends, you could even sell squares for $100 each.
If you’re running the pool, you should always collect the money for the squares before letting people put their names in the squares. And that’s the basic idea—the players pay their fee, and when they do, they get to write their name in a square.
The players should be allowed to buy multiple squares if they want to, also.
When we played at the local bar, we always used a variety of colored pens for people’s names.
It’s usually a good idea to get the football squares announced and sell the squares as early as possible. If you don’t sell all the squares, you’re pretty much forced to refund everyone’s money, which makes for a lame betting pool indeed.
AFTER you’ve sold all the squares, you chose the numbers for each row and column, 0 through 9. This is best done with a witness or 2 present, and we always used a deck of cards for this. (We just took an ace through 10 of a specific suit and drew the cards at random, filling the areas in the column and the rows in as we went.
An Example of a Completed Football Square
Here’s what a completed football square would look like:
You use the final digit of the score for each team to determine the winner. In some betting pools, it’s a winner-take-all situation.
For example, using the example above, let’s assume everyone paid $10 to play. This means that there’s $1000 in the pot.
The final score for the game is 10-7, so the number to look for is 0 and 7. Cliff has that square, so he wins the $1000.
A more common way to run such a pool, though, is to have winners each quarter. You can set it up so that each quarter wins 25% of the pot. This means that if you had the appropriate square at the end of the first quarter, you’d win $250.
It’s also common to pay out 20% of the pot for the scores at the end of each of the first 3 quarters, then pay out 40% of the pot for the final score. This means $200 for quarters 1 through 3, and $400 for the final square.
Football Squares – Variations
You can set up different variations of the squares, too. You could set it up so that you have a different set of numbers for each quarter, for example. You’d need to modify the square accordingly or have 4 separate squares.
You could set it up so that there are 2 sets of numbers, one for the first half and another for the 2nd half.
Or, if you don’t have a lot of players, you could set up a 5X5 grid instead of a 10X10 grid. Each square would represent 2 possible numbers for each team instead.
You can, if you like, use some kind of online app for the actual management of the football squares. Some people enjoy this option, although I enjoy analog stuff like poster-boards and markers.
If you’re the greedy type, say, if you own a bar or something—you might charge all the participants $11 to buy squares, then base the payouts on a $10 buy-in. You sell 100 squares for $11 each, and you keep $100 for hosting the game. The other $1000 goes into the prize pool.
Depending on the nature of your business and its patrons, this might or might not make sense. If you own a bar, you might be better off just not trying to profit from the Super Bowl squares anyway. After all, people will be coming to the bar to watch the games, and they’ll spend money on drinks while they’re doing that.
Which Are the Best Numbers to Get in a Football Square?
- The best numbers to have at the end of the first quarter are 0, 0. Statistically, it’s common for that to be the score at the end of the first quarter. The 2nd-best numbers to have at the end of the first quarter are 7, 7.
- At halftime, the best numbers to have change. 7, 3 are the best numbers to have at halftime, followed by 7, 7 and 4, 0.
- At the end of the 3rd quarter, the best numbers to have are 4, 0; 7, 0; and 3, 7.
- For the final score, the best number to have are, in order, 3,0; 5, 4; 1, 7; and 4, 4.
- The worst numbers to have at any point in the game are 2, 9, and 5.
- The 0 and the 7 are far and away the best digits to have.
These numbers are based on statistics from Super Bowl scores from the years from 2005 to 2014.
Other Kinds of Football Betting Pools
This is just the most common kind of football betting pool. The other most common football pool that I know of (and my favorite) is the pick’em pool, or the last man standing pool.
Here’s how the pick’em pool works:
Everyone contributes to the pot. $20 is a good number, but you could do $10 or $100 if you have a bunch of high rolling friends.
Every week, you pick the winner from one game. For purposes of determining the winner, you ignore the point spread. All you must do is choose the winner.
If you’re right, you survive to go on to next week’s game. If you’re wrong, you’ve lost.
Eventually, and sooner than most people think, there’s only a single player left. That player wins the pot.
If, at the end of the season, you have 2 or more survivors, they can split the prize money. In fact, they can decide to split the prize money at any point, too. I was in a survivor pool once that got down to 2 survivors, and they each continue to pick winners correctly through the end of the season.
I’ve also hung out at bars that hosted these kinds of pools who would set up multiple pools. After the first week, a surprising number of people get knocked out of the original pool, and they’re usually eager to get into a new survivor pool.
You can only do this if you have a reasonable number of weeks left in the season, though. At some point in the season, you have to stop launching survivor pools.
Fantasy football games can also be considered a kind of football betting pool. When I started playing fantasy football, it was just fantasy football, but nowadays you must distinguish between daily fantasy football events and season-long events.
Here’s how fantasy football works:
Everyone gets to draft a team of players. Their team scores points based on each individual player’s performance on their team. In most season-long leagues, you play according to a schedule each week—your team faces another team.
In other season-long leagues, every week you’re ranked based on your score compared to everyone else’s. I’ve also seen fantasy football leagues where you play every other team in the league every week.
In a daily fantasy sports contest, you do the same thing, but the season ends at the end of the week when the last football game has been played. These fantasy games can be played heads-up or tournament-style. When you’re playing heads-up, you only need to beat one opponent. But if you’re playing in a tournament, you face a field of opponents and must score enough to place in the top XX% to win money.
This necessitates a different approach to drafting a team, by the way. If you’re playing heads-up, you’re looking for reliable numbers you can count on that will probably defeat an average competitor.
But if you’re playing in a tournament, you’re looking to draft players who have the potential to have a huge week. You’ll need multiple players to have huge weeks to win a tournament, because you’re facing so many opponents.
The daily fantasy sports industry owes much to the world of online poker for its approach to heads-up and tournament-style fantasy sports contests. The buy-ins and payouts are similar to the buy-ins and payouts you’d find in single and multi-table tournaments at an internet poker site.
This post about how to play football squares and how to play Super Bowl squares is one of my shorter blog posts. That’s because it’s just not that hard to host and play this kind of game.
It’s as simple as creating a 10X10 grid and selling the squares, then randomly assigning the digits to the rows and columns. Deciding how the payouts work in advance is a good idea, too.
Finding a pool of players is usually pretty easy if you’re at all social. If you’re a regular at a bar or own a bar, that’s probably the best way to find players.
Have you ever played football squares? What’s the most you ever won?