What Are Super Bowl Squares? How To Play For Super Bowl LVI

Written By Brett Gibbons on February 11, 2022
super bowl squares

What are these Super Bowl squares my office keeps bringing up every year? Super Bowl squares are some of the most popular contests in the US, right up there with March Madness brackets. They’re an accessible way to get a wide range of people involved and technically illegal if not a licensed Super Bowl squares contest (we’ll get to that).

Below, we’ll lay out everything you need to know about Super Bowl squares. How do you play? What are the rules? Can Mike from accounting be federally imprisoned for running a pool? All of that.

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What Are Super Bowl Squares?

Think of them as the lottery rather than betting. A 10×10 sheet of blank squares is made for a pool of individuals. On one axis, you have the AFC and on one axis you have the NFC. Each square will line up in a row with two numbers to be decided later.

Each square has the same price to claim it, and later on when the sheet is filled or all parties are satisfied, numbers are randomly assigned on each axis. Chances are, you picked the square randomly or in some sort of pattern. No matter what sources claim, there’s no real way of bettering your chances based on a pattern or where you place your squares.

Those numbers represent the last digit of the score for each team.

Winners are typically decided at the end of each quarter and a bigger prize for the final score at the end of the game.

How Do You Win?

Let’s say your square lines up with 3 on the AFC axis and 7 on the NFC axis.

Take the numbers above: at the end of the first quarter, if the score is Rams 7, Bengals 3, you win. Whoever is running the pool will set payouts, typically with quarters offering a smaller payout. Halftime will generally offer a higher payout (at least in large contests), and the “full time” score (at the end of regulation or overtime, when the game is finally decided) typically being the grand prize.

If the final score is Rams 27, Bengals 13, you also win. If the final score is Bengals 33, Rams 17, you win; and so on and so forth. As long as the last digit lines up with your squares, you win.

However, let’s say the Bengals lead at the end of the first quarter 7-3. Since 7 represents your AFC axis, this is not a winning combination (and hilariously frustrating to pull that).

Is There Strategy Behind Super Bowl Squares?

As mentioned, think of squares as the lottery rather than betting. Is there strategy behind the lottery? There’s about as much validity behind squares and lottery “strategy” as there is strategy in penny slots. Since the numbers are randomized, it’s hard to pin down how you’re going to do in advance.

However, there are certain ways you can pick your squares that may increase your chances. “May” in being you take a risk that may or may not pay off.

For example, clustering your squares near each other could pay off if one your axes offers a common scoring number (see below). So, if you pull a 3 on the AFC axis and you clustered your squares on that row (say you get 0, 1, and 7 on the NFC axis), you now have a chance of hitting if the score is Rams 7, Bengals 3; Bengals 3, Rams 0; or Rams 21, Bengals 3 (or any of the derivatives) at the end of each quarter.

But what if that AFC number is 5 or if the Bengals don’t end a quarter with a 3, 13, etc.? Then your strategy is out the window.

This is true with spacing your picks out, in a certain pattern, etc. The “strategy” either pays off handsomely, or it falls through immediately.

What Are Considered “Good Numbers”?

Consider common NFL scoring plays: Multiples of seven for touchdowns (7, 14, 21, 28, etc.) and three for field goals (3, 6, 9, etc.) may offer a higher chance of winning. After all, a 7-3 first quarter score is fairly common versus, say, 8-2.

You may have noticed that a lot of numbers are covered under those multiples– 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9– so really the playing field is leveled. It’s easier to consider “bad numbers” like 2 and 5, but even those numbers are fairly well represented with 35 and 42. Of course, the “best” combinations like 3-7, 7-0, etc. may give you a better chance to win.

Are Squares Illegal?

Technically, a squares contest is an illegal lottery hosted by an individual. You pay for a “ticket(s)” (square/s) and numbers are randomized. So if Mike from accounting is hosting a pool, he’s– under law– hosting a private lottery.

There’s also various other laws (Interstate Wire Act of 1961) making wagering across state lines a federal crime (yes, seriously). At the very least, it violates laws in states where gambling and/or sports betting is illegal.

DO NOT use PayPal or Venmo to collect entry fees for Super Bowl squares either. 

With that in mind, though, we highly recommend participating in online squares contests that are regulated.

How Can I Play Squares Legally?

Rocket Mortgage and DraftKings Sportsbooks offer annual, FREE Super Bowl squares contests. They’re licensed organizations that give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes. Check out TheLines’ article on free Super Bowl squares you can play this year for more information on how you can play those.

Caesars Sportsbook is also offering a squares contest this year. It’s not a free contest, but it is legally hosted. 21+ or older to play and available in states with legal sports betting only.

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Written by
Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

View all posts by Brett Gibbons