How to play Super Bowl odds: Historical trends, the numbers you want — and the ones you don’t

How to play Super Bowl odds: Historical trends, the numbers you want — and the ones you don’t

The Athletic has live coverage from Las Vegas of the 2024 Super Bowl, featuring the 49ers vs. Chiefs, and the Super Bowl halftime show with Usher.

There are plenty of traditional and unorthodox bets you can place on any Super Bowl, but there’s nothing like good old-fashioned square pool. There’s something magical about crunching “your” numbers while imagining complicated scenarios that will make you money.

“I need the 49ers to score a touchdown here, then the Chiefs to score a field goal, and then nobody scores for the rest of the quarter. Easy.”

It’s also a good way to turn a game you don’t have a rooting interest in into something you’re invested in. This is usually true of betting in general, but there is something carefree and almost innocent about squares. There’s no buyer’s remorse because you failed to pick your numbers (outside of games at a sportsbook where all the odds are deliberately stacked against you). And because you can’t pick your own numbers, no skill or knowledge is required. Do you want to play? You have as good a shot as anyone – until the squares are set.


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A friend texted me from a watch party for the Michigan-Alabama College Football Playoff semifinal. She posted the halftime score — Michigan 3, Alabama 0 — and was excited. Then the third quarter rolls around and nobody scores, meaning the square hits twice. She was there supporting a Michigan fan friend and had no interest in the game, but suddenly she was having a blast. That’s the beauty of squares.

Of course, all it takes is one big play to upset the necessary script and change the numbers. But which squares are the best? which ones do you want? Which of them are not worth the table where they are written?

How do Super Bowl pitches work?

The game requires a 10 by 10 grid with numbers 0-9 on both axes, forming 100 squares that connect to those numbers. 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 number of 49s is a three and the number of Chiefs is a zero, your square wins if the 49s result ends in a three and the Chiefs result ends in a zero (for example 49s 3, Chiefs 0… or 49ers 33, Chiefs 20). Payments are at the end of each quarter, with the final score (and usually the first half) paying the most. Some groups also pay something for the opposite end result (meaning a 49 23, Chiefs 20 result would pay for both 49s 3, Chiefs 0 and 49s 0, Chiefs 3).

After recording each quarter’s scores for all 57 Super Bowls, some notable trends emerged; most were not surprising, but the results are still fascinating.

The last figures of the first quarter

The final figure 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 less variety in the results results, which makes sense. There is less time for something strange to happen and create an unusual result.
  • Of the 114 results of the first quarter (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 that can give you at least one shot, you probably want a zero.
  • Both teams failed to score in the first quarter nine times (15.8 percent) in Super Bowl history. In total, 0-0 has occurred 14 times (24.6 percent) after the first quarter, making it the most common result after each quarter. Even in recent years, three of the first nine Super Bowl quarters have been scoreless and 0-0 has been scored four times in that span, thanks to a 10-0 Denver lead after one quarter in Super Bowl 50. However , the final score, has never ended in 0-0.
  • 3-0 (or 0-3, depending on which side) has come 10 times after the first quarter.
  • Zero, three or seven are the final numbers 102 times out of a possible 114 times (89.5 percent) at the end of the first quarter. These are the best numbers you can have, but this is especially true in early games.
  • No team has ever finished a first quarter with 1, 2, or 5. To one, it might seem like a good final number because 21 and 31 are normal football scores, but it takes longer for those scores to materialize. It doesn’t often start out until the end result. If you draw one, be patient. If you draw a two or a five, you’re in trouble. These are the least frequent numbers in all four quarters.

The last numbers of the first half

The final figure 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 four main numbers, but there is a bit more variety and each number comes up at least once.
  • Six comes across as a pretty good number here, and that remains true in the second half. Pick-sixes don’t come up often in the first quarter, despite two field goals seeming like a perfectly plausible scenario, but they’re relatively frequent after that.

The last figures of the third quarter

The final figure instances

7

24

0

22

3

14

6

13

4

12

1

8

9

8

8

6

5

4

2

3

  • There is a wider variance after halftime with every number hitting at least three times late in the third quarter.
  • Seven is a good number to have at any time, but it is the best number to have after the first half. Seven is the most frequent number after both the third quarter and the final scores, a combined 44 times (19.3 percent).

Final result figures

The final figure instances

7

20

0

16

1

16

4

14

3

12

6

10

9

9

8

7

5

6

2

4

  • It is one, which comes in as the third most frequent final digit in the final results.
  • Six numbers come up at least 10 times, which shows the variety in the final results. Some numbers are better than others, but there is no necessary combination.
  • As one becomes more likely as the game progresses, zero and three gradually drop. Three makes sense because while three and 13 are common football scores, 23 and 33 are less common.

All neighborhoods combined

The final figure 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 one 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, meaning if you score in one quarter, you have a good chance of scoring in the next quarter (both teams would score in a quarter or the quarter is 10-0 and 10-10 would make you a repeat winner ).

The topic is that zero, seven and three are the best numbers. Four is a solid fourth best number. One has value as a good chance for the final result, but not very likely in the first half. If you weight the bottom line slightly more because bottom line payouts are usually higher than quarter results, one is a good number of general value to get. If you get a number with any combination of zero, one, three, four and seven, you have a good chance.

GO DEEPER

Inside the 49ers-Chiefs Super Bowl: What to watch when KC has the ball

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

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