Rules for Life

Will Your Super Bowl Box Pay Out?

Twenty six million Americans will bet on this year’s Super Bowl, making it the most legally bet on Super Bowl in history. New data from the American Gaming Association says those twenty six million Americans will wager approximately $6.8 billion on the big game, a 15% increase from last year’s game as the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the San Francisco 49ers.

Some of the best payouts come from purchasing Super Bowl boxes, where one hundred combinations of numbers generally yield many lucrative prizes. Boxes, or “Squares” is played on a 10 by 10 grid, with the numbers zero through nine labeled on the first row and column. Bettors are randomly assigned a square until all the squares are filled (some forms of the game let players choose their square).

One axis of the grid represents the last digit of the home team’s score, and the other axis represents the last digit of the away team’s score. At the end of each quarter, the winner is the player who owns the square where the 49ers’ last digit intersects the Chiefs’ last digit. For example, if the score at the end of the third quarter is 23-20 49ers, the winning square is (49ers 3, Chiefs 0). Most “Squares” pools will pay out at the end of each quarter, or for every score change, to give players more chances to win.

Statisticians have embraced the challenge of finding out which square has the best odds of hitting. In 2015, FiveThirtyEight calculated the projected payout for each square based on data from 10 NFL seasons. The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective calculated the same projected payout in 2013, but used 32 years of playoff data and factored in the difference between a favored team and an underdog.

If you watch football often, you don’t need a statistician to tell you which numbers are best, since they are the common numbers you see. The most likely combinations involve zero, three, four, and seven. FiveThirtyEight found that the (0,0) square pays out an attractive $19.70 on a $1 bet after the first quarter, and stays an above-average combination throughout the game. The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective says that (7,0) or (0,7) is your best bet for the final score, especially if you have the favorite as the seven and the underdog as the zero.

The worst squares are the combinations including two, five, or nine. For a team to end up with that score, they would probably need a two-point conversion or a safety.

Zero, zero: Great.

Combinations of zero, three, four, or seven: Good.

Two, five, nine: Place a new bet… maybe try the over in this year’s game!

– Your Big Bro