How to play Super Bowl squares: Historical trends, the numbers you want — and the ones you don’t – The Athletic

By Dan SantaromitaFeb 11, 2024

The Chiefs beat the 49ers in overtime to win Super Bowl LVIII. 

There are tons of traditional, and unorthodox, bets you can place every Super Bowl, but there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned squares pool. There’s something magical about rooting for “your” numbers while imagining convoluted scenarios that would get you to cash in.

“I need the 49ers to score a touchdown here, then have the Chiefs score a field goal and then no one score for the rest of the quarter. Easy.”

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It’s also a good way to turn a game in which you don’t have a rooting interest into something you’re invested in. That’s usually true of betting in general, but there’s something carefree and almost innocent about squares. There’s no buyer’s remorse because you didn’t get to pick your numbers (outside of playing squares at a sportsbook where all the odds are intentionally against you). And because you can’t pick your numbers, there’s no skill or knowledge required. You want to play? You have as good of a shot as anyone else — until the squares are assigned.

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A friend texted me from a watch party for the Michigan-Alabama College Football Playoff semifinal. She hit the halftime score — Michigan 3, Alabama 0 — and was excited. Then the third quarter goes by and no one scores, meaning the square hit twice. She was there supporting a Michigan fan friend and had no interest in the game, but suddenly was having a blast. That’s the beauty of squares.

Of course, all it takes is one big play to ruin the needed scenario and change the numbers. But what squares are the good ones? Which ones do you want? Which ones aren’t worth the posterboard they were written on?

How do Super Bowl squares work?

The game requires a 10-by-10 grid with digits 0-9 on both axes, forming 100 squares correlating to those digits. Using this year’s Super Bowl as an example, the 49ers would be on one axis and the Chiefs would be on the other. If the 49ers number is a three and the Chiefs number is a zero, your square wins if the 49ers’ score ends in a three and the Chiefs’ score ends in a zero (for example 49ers 3, Chiefs 0… or 49ers 33, Chiefs 20). Payouts are at the end of each quarter, with the final score (and usually halftime) paying more. Some pools also pay something for the reverse final score (meaning a 49ers 23, Chiefs 20 score would pay for both 49ers 3, Chiefs 0 and 49ers 0, Chiefs 3).

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After recording every quarter score for all 57 Super Bowls, some obvious trends emerged; most were unsurprising, but the results are still fascinating.

First quarter ending digits

Ending digit Instances
0 52
3 26
7 24
4 7
6 2
9 2
8 1
1 0
2 0
5 0
  • The first quarter has the least variety in the score outputs, which makes sense. There’s less time for something weird to happen and create an unusual score.
  • Of the 114 first-quarter scores (57 games times two teams), a team has been scoreless after the first quarter 44 times (38.6 percent), so if you want a square likely to give you at least one hit, you probably want a zero.
  • Both teams failed to score in the first quarter nine times (15.8 percent) in Super Bowl history. In all, 0-0 has hit 14 times (24.6 percent) after the first quarter, which makes it the most common score after any quarter. Even in recent years, three of the last nine Super Bowl first quarters have been scoreless and 0-0 has hit four times in that span thanks to a 10-0 Denver lead after a quarter in Super Bowl 50. The final score, however, has never ended in 0-0.
  • 3-0 (or 0-3, depending on which side) has come in 10 times after the first quarter.
  • Zero, three or seven are the ending digit 102 times out of a possible 114 times (89.5 percent) at the end of the first quarter. Those are the best numbers you can have, but that’s especially true early in games.
  • No team has ever ended a first quarter with a 1, 2 or 5. One may seem like a decent ending digit because 21 and 31 are normal football scores, but it takes longer for those scores to materialize. One doesn’t start coming up often until the final score. If you draw one, have patience. If you draw a two or a five, you’re in trouble. Those are the least frequent numbers across all four quarters.

Halftime ending digits

Ending digit Instances
0 33
3 21
7 18
4 13
6 11
1 6
2 5
8 3
9 3
5 1
  • Zero, three, seven and four are still the top four numbers, but there’s a bit more variety and every number comes up at least once.
  • Six emerges as a pretty decent number here, and that remains true in the second half. Sixes don’t come up in the first quarter often, despite two field goals seeming like a totally plausible scenario, but they are relatively frequent after that.

Third quarter ending digits

Ending digit Instances
7 24
0 22
3 14
6 13
4 12
1 8
9 8
8 6
5 4
2 3
  • There’s a wider variance after halftime with every number hitting at least three times at the end of the third quarter.
  • Seven is a good number to have at any point, but it’s the best number to have after halftime. Seven is the most frequent number after both the third quarter and for final scores, coming in a combined 44 times (19.3 percent).

Final score ending digits

Ending digit Instances
7 20
0 16
1 16
4 14
3 12
6 10
9 9
8 7
5 6
2 4
  • There’s one, coming in as the third-most frequent ending digit in final scores.
  • Six numbers come up at least 10 times, which shows the variety in final scores. Some numbers are better than others, but there is no must-have combination.
  • While one becomes more likely as the game continues, zero and three gradually drop. Three makes sense because while three and 13 are common football scores, 23 and 33 are less common.

All quarters combined

Ending digit Instances
0 123
7 86
3 73
4 46
6 36
1 30
9 22
8 17
2 12
5 11

A team has gone scoreless in a quarter 141 times in Super Bowl history out of a possible 456 times (57 games times two teams times four quarters). That’s 30.9 percent of the time, which means if you hit in one quarter, you have a decent chance of hitting in the next one (both teams going scoreless in a quarter or 10-0 and 10-10 quarters would make you a repeat winner).

The theme is that zero, seven and three are the best digits. Four is a solid fourth-best number. One has some value as a good final score chance, but isn’t very likely in the first half. If you weigh the final score a bit more because final score payouts are typically higher than the quarter scores, one is a good overall value number to get. If you get a number with any combination of zero, one, three, four and seven you have a good chance.

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(Photo credits: Philip Pacheco / Getty Images, Michael Zagaris / Getty Images, David Eulitt / Getty Images)

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Dan Santaromita is a senior editor for sports betting at The Athletic. Dan previously wrote for NBC Sports Chicago and ProSoccerUSA. He is a University of Missouri graduate who resides in Chicago. Follow Dan on Twitter @TheDanSanto

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