Super Bowl Squares Contest
Your math/football trivia for the day? Super Bowl XLVI is the second to require each of the first four Roman numerals (I, V, X, L); the first was Super Bowl XLIV two years ago. [Thanks to Eric Langen for pointing out my previous error.] Personally, I’m looking forward to Super Bowl LXVI, when the first four Roman numerals will occur in decreasing order. A real treat will occur in 3532, when Super Bowl MDLXVI will be played, wherein all six of the Roman numerals will appear in decreasing order. While I’m fairly certain I won’t be around to see that one, I hold out hope that I am reincarnated as a star football player who earns that game’s MVP honors; though it’s far more likely that I will return as a football to be used by adolescents in a backyard game.
Buoyed by the success of the online version of my favorite game, I’ve decided to run another online contest. This one relates to Super Bowl XLVI, and you’re asked to predict the units digit of each team’s score at the end of each quarter when the Patriots and Giants square off on Sunday, February 5.
Probably the most common type of office betting pool is a square football pool, which is often referred to as just The Squares. The pool is played on a 10 × 10 grid, and contestants can buy squares within the grid for a certain amount of money. After all 100 squares have been purchased, the numbers 0‑9 are randomly assigned to each row and column. The numbers for each row represent the units digit of the score for one team, and the numbers for each column represent the units digit of the score for the other team. The winners are the four people whose squares correspond to the units digit of the actual score of the game at the end of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters.
Feel free to use this Excel spreadsheet if you’d like to run your own version of this game. (Though be sure to check all applicable laws, to ensure that you’re not in violation of local or state gaming laws.)
The difference between the typical version of this game and the version I’m running here is that you get to pick which pairs of numbers you want. Consequently, winning isn’t solely a matter of random luck. But there’s a catch — you can pick the most likely number pairs, but chances are other folks will pick those numbers, too, and the winnings are divided among everyone who picked that pair. So, should you pick 0‑0 and divide the pot with a thousand others; or should you pick the highly unlikely 5‑2 and have the winnings all to yourself?
Please note that the game I’m running is for entertainment only. No money is required to play, and there will be no pay-out to the winners. If all goes well this year, perhaps next year there will be a real version that allows you to wager your hard-earned money in such a silly manner — assuming, of course, that I can find a way to skirt the myriad state gaming laws that would prevent me from running such a contest.
In case you’re wondering, “Why are you doing this?” remember that I’m the author of a math joke blog. Why do I do any of the things I do? For fun, mainly, and because I’m a certifed math geek. I like the math psychology of this game, and I’m just interested in the numbers that people will pick.
Here are the official rules:
- Imagine that you have $5, and each square costs $1, so you can buy up to five squares. It’s your money, spend it how you like — if you want to choose the same pair of numbers for all five bets, go ahead, knock yourself out. And what the hell do I care? Enter as often as you like; if you’ve got nothing better to do with your time than repeatedly submit entries for this contest, well, that’s your problem.
- All money bet will be divided equally among the four quarters, so the total amount will be equal to $5n, where n is the number of contestants. (Should a contestant enter fewer than five choices, the last entered choice will be repeated multiple times to get the total to five.)
- If you pick a winning square, you will share the winnings with everyone else who picked the same square. (For example, if 200 people play this game, there will $1,000 in the pot, so the winning amount for each quarter will be $250. If ten people choose 7-3 and it hits for one quarter, each person will receive $25.)
- Enter your five choices as two-digit numbers, where the tens digit represents the Patriots’ score and the units digit represents the Giants’ score. (For instance, if you want Patriots 7, Giants 3, enter 73; but if you want Patriots 0, Giants 7, enter 07.)
That’s it. Access the form via the link below:
My friends Andy and Casey Frushour have been keeping data about which pairs of numbers occur most often. Before making your picks, you might want to check out their analysis of data from six years of NFL games as well as from all 45 Super Bowls.
Bets will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 4, and an image showing the number of times each square was chosen will be posted at:
The complete results for this contest will be posted on Monday, February 6, at the URL below. (But note that this link will return a “404 Error – File not Found” message prior to February 6.)