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You’re doing Super Bowl squares wrong. A guide to the best way to bet in a squares pool

Why play the lottery when we can add a bit of game theory and fun to an American tradition?

Super Bowl squares are a scam that rewards ignorance. It is the lottery of sports betting, and there’s no way to ruin your fun at a Super Bowl party than drawing “Rams 9, Bengals 2” mere moments before kickoff.

But what if there were a better way to play squares? One that required a bit of skill, strategy, game theory, and the chance to exploit your friends, family, co-workers, and underage relatives for as much profit as you can grind out?

Welcome to Squares Plus, a way to make the game more fair, fun, strategic ... and give you a better chance to take home some of the cash.

How to play Squares Plus

  • Make everyone buy squares in pairs, and have the last-digit score numbers already on the scorecard.
  • Have everyone draw a number initial their squares, or buy their squares whenever they choose to head to the board and put down their money. And since squares are bought in pairs, set it like a snake draft: Whomever goes 1st, also goes 100th. 2nd+99th, 3rd+98th, etc.

Now why would we do this? To take the luck out of things!

But something you should know that the less-mathematically-inclined people in your life might not is that the preferred order for your numbers is the following: 0-7-3-4-6-1-8-9-2-5.

That’s based on data from 1994-2014, and though the new extra point distance might have changed the weights, it’s likely not by too much. This makes 0-0 the most valuable square on the board, and 2-2 the least. We don’t see a lot of 35-25 final scores in the NFL. In fact there’s only been three of them according to Scorigami. There’s also just five 35-15’s, and unsurprisingly zero 35-5’s.

And remember part of the reason why the 2-2 or 5-5 squares are drawing so dead: You’re never winning after the first quarter, and that is 25% of the prize right there!

But let’s say you can’t convince anyone to go along with your hair-brained Squares Plus scheme. Here’s another way to make it more fun and profitable: Start trading and buying some squares!

0-0 has an expected value that is 1617% greater than that of 5-5, and is 822% EV over the other 99 squares in the field. If it’s $10 a square for a $1000 pool, you’re mathematically OK to offer the 0-0 square owner as much as $70 and in the long run you’ll still show a profit. We’d suggest starting at $20 (it’s hard to walk away from an easy $10 win!) and start negotiating from there.

The 7-7 square is 481% better average, so you can give that person up to $35 for their rights and you’d be ok too. But start at $15 and see what they say. Maybe be willing to trade them that Rams 9, Bengals 2 you got stuck with so they at least have a sweat as well.

And if your eight-year old nephew just happens to draw 0-0 and bites on the first offer you give? Well that’s just a bit of Darwin. You’re just being a good role model and preparing them for some life lessons they need for later.