Off-Base Percentage: What are the Odds in Super Bowl Squares?

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Off-Base Percentage is a weekly post about the lighter side of sports. Whether it occurs on the field, in the locker room, or in the media, if it is a little ‘off-base’ then it is fair game. If you are looking for analysis of a player, team, or sport it won’t be found in this post. This is for the sports fan that wants to take a step back and look at sports from a ‘different’ angle. Enjoy.

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Sample Blank Board.

Every year we crown another Super Bowl champion. And every year there is always at least one person in the office setting up a Super Bowl Squares board taking money for each square. If you have never played the game it is simple. It starts with a blank 10×10 checkerboard. It costs money to buy a square and there is usually the opportunity to buy more than one square. Once the last square is filled up it is time to pick the numbers at random and fill in the the top and bottom as you pick them. The top rows are for one team’s score and the side columns are for their opponent’s score. At the end of each quarter the last digit of each team’s score corresponds to one specific square. Whoever bought the square wins a portion of the pot. That process happens three more times.

Well, me being the type that enjoys any type of competition regardless of skill or in this case luck, I always find myself getting into a couple of boards. I have had some decent luck in the past, but this year was not my year. My numbers were 9 for the Ravens and 8 for the 49ers and 4 for the Ravens and 2 for the 49ers. Right away I felt my chances were bleak. Though, I came dangerously close to snagging the fourth quarter pot I came away empty-handed.

That got me thinking, ” Which numbers are the best to have considering the odds?” From a mathematical point of view each square has an equal 1% chance. However, when it involves a game full of three, six, and seven-point scoring plays the odds lean heavily on those numbers–and zero as well. This led to another one of my statistical analyses. And what better test subject than the reigning Super Bowl Champions, Baltimore Ravens’ 2012 season. For the sake of uniformity I did not take into account the three overtime periods the Ravens played throughout the regular and postseason. But after twenty games (or eighty quarters) the statistics did not lie.

The most common digit for a Baltimore Ravens score was pretty close. Seventeen out of eighty (21.25%) scores ended with a zero while the numbers three and seven each showed up exactly twenty percent of the time. The number four was not far off at 16.25%. So, over sixty percent of the time if you had a Ravens score ending with a zero, three, or seven you were already halfway to pay-dirt. The opponent, like most could assume, had a similar trend. The number four showed up 17.5% of the time and three was the last digit nineteen out of eighty times (23.75%). Zero was again the most common number showing up 26.25% of the time. The least likely numbers for the opponent were the number two and eight. Well, what do you know? Those were the two numbers I drew this year. Those two combined to show up twice in eighty quarters (2.5%). The Baltimore Ravens actually had two numbers never show up at the end of their score–two and six (weird,huh?). Thankfully I did not have either of those for the Super Bowl.

So although a computer would tell you that you had a one percent chance in every square, the numbers tell a different story. If you had the number zero for both scores throughout the season you would have won 5.5% of the time. That is a 550% increase of odds! My numbers, on the other hand, had a .04% and a .2% chance respectively. I would rather save some money and buy one lottery ticket. If I would have known I had a total of less than a quarter percent of a chance to win some money on Sunday I would have gone to sleep earlier. But, if I learned anything from this it is that I can get a little over-competitive during a game of luck and that zero may not be a number in mathematics, but it pays dividends in football squares.

Do you play Super Bowl Squares? Will you now? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.

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