How Super Bowl squares work

The Big Game

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Now that the Super Bowl is set and anticipation builds, you may see friends or coworkers passing along Super Bowl squares.

What may seem like a complex grid of numbers is actually a fairly straightforward scoring system and by participating you could stand to win a decent amount of cash. Plus, it’s a lot more random than a March Madness bracket where some knowledge of the sport definitely gives participants an edge.

Although there a few different ways that people can play Super Bowl squares, the following is the most popular among pools with your friends, families or coworkers.

The Grids

A standard Super Bowl square is a 10×10 grid. Each team playing in the game is assigned to the x and y axis, in this case, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Each corresponding column and row will later be assigned a numerical value of 1-9, selected randomly.

Hold off on assigning the digits just yet, that comes after step two, but this setup gives players 100 chances to win. Just remember to leave a column and a row empty to include the numbers once the square is filled with players (example below).

Filling it out

Once the squares bracket is setup, the next step is to simply invite people to join the pool, or to join one yourself. Using online systems is convenient, because it can be done electronically or over email depending on the software, but you can fill them out by hand if you prefer more traditional methods.

Most squares let players choose their cells, but before the the numbers are assigned. It’s rather random, which keeps an even playing field for folks who many not be following football as closely as others.

Assigning the numbers

Once the players have filled up the squares, the next step is to fill it out with the corresponding numbers. Many online square setups will randomly select the numerical sequence for you, but if you’re doing it offline, just lay out the digits in a way that prevents patterns. Like this …

Again, this setup creates 100 chances for players to win. The winner, or winners, will ultimately be decided by the final score of each quarter and the end result of the game.

Football, traditionally, has scores that end in 7, 3 or 0 because the two predominant scoring methods (touchdowns and field goals) are worth seven and three points. If you aren’t using an automated method to fill out the numbers, make sure you are selecting them at random (out of a hat always works).

The cells with 7’s, 3’s and 0’s will be at a bit of an advantage. Administering a pool where those numbers end up in conspicuous places is a good way to create unnecessary drama.

Who wins

In most Super Bowl squares, a winner will be determined at the end of the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, plus the final game score. The winner is decided by looking at the last number in each teams’ score and then matching those digits on the grid to see where the squares intersect.

For example, if the score at the end of the first quarter is Chiefs 7, 49ers 3, the first quarter winner would be:

That process would play out for the second and third quarters as well. If the final score was 49ers 31, Chiefs 24, the final score winner would be:

Although some square formats and payouts vary, the standard scoring is the winners of the first, second, and third quarters would receive 20% of the pot each, and the final score (4th quarter) would receive the remaining 40%. Check with the square organizer for specifics.

Advanced Squares Rules

The basic game is the most common version, but many pools add extra layers of winning. The more chances to cash, the more fun a squares pool can be.

The most often employed addition to the standard game is winning on “touching” squares. This means the cells immediately adjacent to the winning square–both vertically and horizontally–also win.

You must have one of the two winning numbers to have a touching square. The prize is usually significantly less than the winning square for that quarter. Sometimes, it’s just getting your entry fee back. Touching squares still can occur if the winning cell is on the edge of the grid.

Many larger dollar pools will change each person’s winning numbers from quarter to quarter. While this does keep things a bit more interesting, it also helps prevent one person from winning multiple times if there is a scoreless quarter. The board would probably look something like this:

Some pools where the numbers are different as the games goes on will also add “Halftime” and “Final” as winning possibilities. The winning number combination will be the same for both “2nd quarter” and “Halftime”, but the payout will be different. The “Halftime” and “Final” winner will almost always receive a much higher payout than “2nd Quarter” and “4th Quarter”, respectively. For pools like this, “Final” is usually the grand prize.

Another additional prize is hitting the “reverse” score. This can be used for both standard and multi-number pools. It usually only comes into play for the final score, but can be used any time.

The “reverse” score is exactly what it sounds like. Let’s say the final score for this year’s game is San Francisco 24, Kansas City 20. In that case, SF-4 and KC-0 takes the grand prize, but the reverse score of SF-0/KC-4 also is a winner.

Always be sure to check with the pool organizer for rules. The higher the entry fee, the more likely you should also be to make certain the numbers are truly being drawn at random.

Squares pools are moving beyond just football and into the world of college basketball where this game is played with the national championship.

The winners are usually only for the halftime and final score. However, some NCAA championship game pools will pay for the score combination after every MINUTE of the game. (ie. score with 19:00 left in first half, score with 18:00 left in first half, etc.).

Regardless, it’s a great way to make the big game extra fun and, potentially, make you very happy about the final score — even if your team doesn’t come out on top.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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