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super-bowl-squares-xlixFor the last two years, I’ve written about Super Bowl squares. Well, it’s that time of year again, so here’s your helpful cheat sheet to win at your Super Bowl party.

Every Super Bowl squares pool is different, but this post is really aimed at readers who play in pools where you can trade or pick squares (surely no pool has a prohibition on this!) I looked at every regular season and postseason game from 2002 to 2013.1 The table below shows the likelihood of each score after each quarter, along with three final columns that show the expected value of a $100 prize pool under three different payout systems. The “10/” column shows the payout in a pool where 10% of the prize money is given out after each of the first three quarters and 70% after the end of the game; the next column is for pools that give out 12.5% of the pool after the first and third quarters, 25% at halftime, and 50% for the score at the end of the game. The final column is for pools that give out 25% of the pot after each quarter — since I think that is the most common pool structure, I’ve sorted the table by that column, but you can sort by any column you like. To make the table fully sortable, I had to remove the percentage symbols, but “19, 6.7, 4.1, 2” should be read as 19.0%, 6.7%, 4.1%, and 2.0%.

RkScore1Q2Q3Q4Q10/12.5/25/
10-0196.74.12$4.39$5.56$7.94
27-012.46.24.83.6$4.87$5.5$6.74
33-08.44.93.63.5$4.15$4.47$5.08
47-77.26.14.42.2$3.31$4.08$5
57-34.94.43.22.4$2.96$3.34$3.75
64-03.53.52.82.2$2.56$2.8$3.03
77-41.53.23.33.3$3.14$3.07$2.83
83-33.23.23.31.4$1.95$2.32$2.77
96-01.42.31.81.4$1.53$1.68$1.73
104-30.82.22.31.5$1.57$1.69$1.72
114-40.31.82.61.7$1.65$1.65$1.58
127-10.21.41.91.7$1.54$1.46$1.3
137-60.51.61.71.3$1.32$1.35$1.29
146-30.41.51.41.5$1.4$1.36$1.21
154-100.61.32.5$1.97$1.6$1.14
161-00.31.31.41.3$1.18$1.16$1.06
173-10111.1$0.99$0.94$0.8
186-4011.10.8$0.79$0.81$0.74
198-000.40.71.1$0.88$0.73$0.55
209-700.60.60.8$0.71$0.65$0.52
218-700.40.90.7$0.65$0.59$0.51
229-00.20.50.50.6$0.56$0.53$0.47
236-600.50.70.6$0.54$0.52$0.46
241-100.310.5$0.47$0.44$0.44
259-30.10.40.50.8$0.66$0.57$0.43
268-300.20.70.8$0.63$0.52$0.4
276-100.40.60.6$0.53$0.48$0.4
288-400.20.50.9$0.72$0.57$0.4
297-50.10.30.40.9$0.69$0.57$0.4
302-00.10.20.50.6$0.54$0.46$0.39
318-1000.31.2$0.85$0.63$0.37
327-20.10.20.50.6$0.49$0.42$0.35
339-400.30.40.7$0.53$0.45$0.34
344-200.20.40.5$0.44$0.38$0.29
355-00.10.20.30.5$0.44$0.38$0.29
369-100.10.30.6$0.48$0.37$0.25
375-400.10.30.5$0.38$0.31$0.23
389-600.20.20.5$0.39$0.32$0.22
395-300.20.20.4$0.3$0.26$0.2
408-600.10.20.4$0.34$0.27$0.19
413-2000.20.4$0.28$0.22$0.16
428-50000.5$0.39$0.28$0.15
438-8000.20.4$0.3$0.23$0.15
445-1000.20.4$0.29$0.22$0.14
452-100.10.10.2$0.19$0.15$0.11
469-2000.10.4$0.26$0.19$0.11
479-900.10.10.2$0.17$0.14$0.09
486-2000.10.2$0.19$0.14$0.09
499-8000.10.2$0.18$0.13$0.09
505-20000.2$0.16$0.12$0.07
516-50000.2$0.16$0.12$0.07
529-50000.2$0.16$0.12$0.07
538-2000.10.2$0.12$0.09$0.06
545-50000.1$0.07$0.05$0.03
552-20000.1$0.05$0.04$0.02

Here’s how to read that. If you have either ‘New England 7, Seattle 0″ or “Seattle 7, New England 0”, then your expected value is 12.4% of the first-quarter pot, 6.2% of the second-quarter pot, and so on. This is a very valuable ticket in all systems, but it’s most valuable where you have a large payout in the fourth quarter. Conversely, the “0-0” ticket is particularly valuable when the first quarter payout is high, as that’s the most common result.

The pool I’ve been at the last few years didn’t use the final digit of each team’s score, but the final digit of the sum of the digits in each team’s score. So a 17 becomes an 8, a 22 would be a 4, and a 38 would be a 1. This is a fairer format, in my opinion. Here’s how that payout looks:

RkScore1Q2Q3Q4Q10/12.5/25/
17-010.5%1.4%1%1.2%$2.14$2.39$3.52
20-012%1%0.6%0.2%$1.53$1.95$3.46
37-77.1%2%1.8%0.9%$1.72$2.07$2.95
43-07.5%1.3%1%1.1%$1.78$1.97$2.75
57-35%2.5%1.4%1.1%$1.67$1.99$2.52
63-33.2%2.8%1.8%0.7%$1.28$1.68$2.12
71-03.4%1.2%0.8%0.5%$0.91$1.11$1.51
87-11.4%2.3%1.2%0.9%$1.1$1.33$1.43
95-03.4%0.8%0.7%0.7%$1.02$1.09$1.42
103-10.8%2.6%1.4%0.8%$1.05$1.32$1.4
117-51.5%1.7%1.1%1.2%$1.26$1.34$1.37
125-30.9%1.7%1.3%1.3%$1.27$1.32$1.28
136-30.4%1.8%1.6%1.3%$1.28$1.34$1.26
147-40.1%1.4%1.5%1.8%$1.6$1.48$1.23
158-70.1%1.9%1.3%1.2%$1.19$1.27$1.14
167-60.5%1.5%1.4%1.1%$1.08$1.13$1.1
178-10%1.4%1.7%1.3%$1.23$1.22$1.1
186-01.3%1.4%0.8%0.8%$0.94$1.03$1.1
198-30.1%1.8%1.6%0.9%$0.96$1.1$1.09
201-10.1%2.1%1.3%0.6%$0.76$0.99$1.02
216-10.1%1.4%1.4%1%$1.01$1.06$0.99
228-50%1.1%1.3%1.5%$1.28$1.19$0.98
234-10%1.1%1.4%1.4%$1.2$1.12$0.96
245-10.2%1.7%1%1%$0.97$1.05$0.94
254-30%1.2%1.4%1%$0.98$1$0.92
268-60%0.7%1.3%1.5%$1.23$1.09$0.89
278-00.5%1.3%0.9%0.7%$0.75$0.84$0.85
286-50%0.9%1.4%1.1%$1.02$0.96$0.85
294-00.2%0.9%0.9%1.3%$1.13$1.03$0.85
305-40%0.7%1.3%1.2%$1.06$0.95$0.8
315-50.3%1.4%1%0.5%$0.62$0.76$0.8
326-40%0.6%1.2%1.2%$1.02$0.91$0.76
338-40%0.4%1.1%1.3%$1.09$0.9$0.7
348-80%0.8%1.4%0.6%$0.61$0.65$0.69
354-40%0.4%1.5%0.8%$0.76$0.69$0.67
369-30.1%0.5%0.8%1.2%$0.98$0.83$0.64
376-60%0.7%1.2%0.6%$0.61$0.63$0.63
385-20%0.3%0.6%1.6%$1.2$0.94$0.62
399-70%0.6%0.8%1%$0.86$0.76$0.61
409-60%0.2%0.6%1.5%$1.15$0.9$0.59
417-20.1%0.6%0.9%0.8%$0.72$0.67$0.59
428-20%0.2%0.8%1.3%$0.99$0.78$0.57
433-20%0.6%0.9%0.8%$0.7$0.65$0.56
442-10%0.5%0.9%0.7%$0.61$0.57$0.52
459-80%0.2%0.5%1.1%$0.81$0.64$0.44
466-20%0.3%0.6%0.8%$0.64$0.54$0.42
479-00.2%0.3%0.4%0.7%$0.61$0.52$0.41
489-40%0.1%0.5%1%$0.78$0.6$0.4
499-10%0.3%0.6%0.6%$0.53$0.46$0.39
509-50%0.2%0.5%0.7%$0.58$0.48$0.36
512-00.1%0.5%0.2%0.5%$0.47$0.44$0.35
524-20%0.1%0.5%0.7%$0.58$0.45$0.32
539-20%0.1%0.3%0.7%$0.53$0.4$0.26
542-20%0%0.3%0.1%$0.08$0.08$0.1
559-90%0.1%0.1%0.2%$0.17$0.13$0.09

This changes things slightly, mostly by shrinking the differences between the numbers (a good thing, because it means the pool is less determined by the random assignment of squares and more determined by the random actions that happen as the game unfolds). Note that 0-0 was the top combination in the first table in the 25/25/25/25 system, but it is less than half as valuable in the “add the digits” scheme. And in fact, since games almost never end in 0-0 (when combining the digits), that ticket is barely better than average if most of your pot goes to the score at the end of the game. Some tickets that make big jumps in the “add the digits” scheme are 1-0, 5-0, 3-1, 7-5, and 5-3.

So, depending on your pool’s scoring system, these two tables should have the info you need to dominate the secondary market at your Super Bowl party. And let me close with a bit of trivia if you want to make fun of the sucker that landed the 2-2 ticket, especially in pools that give most of the pot to the fourth quarter score. No matter which game you play, only two games from 2002 to 2014 would have made the 2-2 ticket a winner in the fourth quarter. In 2004, the Bills beat Miami 42-32, a score matched by the Buccaneers over the Raiders last year. Meanwhile, in the ‘sum of the digits’ game, 2-2 would have only been a winner when the Chargers beat the Broncos 48-20 in 2006; two years later, the Eagles beat the Cardinals by the same score. Remember, after winning, the next-best thing is making fun of the sucker who lands 2-2.

  1. Yes, this means your author was too lazy to update things for the 2014 season, because frankly, the extra work isn’t worth it. []