Football squares is the most popular way Americans gamble on the Super Bowl.
For the uninitiated, football squares is a grid of 10-by-10 boxes on a sheet of paper or a computer screen. Participants pay a certain amount per square and put their names or initials in random squares without knowing which numbers they’ll get for each team. The teams are often shown with one at the top of the page and one on the side. When the grid is filled out, the organizer of the pool randomly selects the numbers — 0 through 9 — for each team and puts them on the grid.
Most pools will have a prize for the score at the end of each quarter, often with a bigger prize for the final score. Winners are determined by lining up the last digit of the score of the team listed on the top of the sheet and the last digit of the score of the team listed on the side of the sheet.
A $1-per-square pool would have a $100 prize pool and might award $25 per quarter or could offer $20 to the winner of the first, second and third quarters with $40 for the final score.
The first job of the person running the pool is to determine how much his group is willing to invest per square. A $1-per-square game might be suitable for a party or small office of recreational football fans. But many offices can do a $5 or $10 pool, and tons of office pools charge $100 or more per square.
Even before the expansion of legal sports betting in the U.S., football squares had been very popular and law enforcement had mostly ignored the game. That’s because while they’re technically illegal because they involve consideration (entry fee), a prize and chance, the feds tend to go after only those who run large pools if they take a cut. If that’s the case, they’re considered to be booking the bets — or running a gambling enterprise. We’ve seen many high-profile cases of people arrested for running football squares, though not the participants.
No strategy is involved, as you’re just hoping to get numbers that give you a better chance of hitting. These include 0 (because it hits if your team is scoreless in the first quarter or lands back on 10, 20, 30 and such the rest of the game), 3 (as 3, 13 and 23 are common for NFL teams) and 7 (7, 17, and 27). The numbers you hope to avoid are 2, 5 and 9. But, hey, anything can happen.