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Football novices: jump in the pool


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2001

TAMPA -- There are parlays and straight bets, teasers and exotic bets, bookies, Vegas and offshore gambling houses on the Internet, but arguably the easiest and most popular form on Super Bowl Sunday is the "pool." It's simple because it's what you make it. Ten people at your party? Everyone throws in a token (playing for money is, of course, illegal) and picks the winner and total points, or game MVP. Get it right, win the pool.

Or pick a different pool: First one to score? First shot of a celebrity? First penalty? First reference to "redemption?" And after that first comes and goes, how about another ante and a new pool?

The possibilities are endless. But arguably the most popular Super Bowl pool game, in offices and parties, is "squares." Each player gets a spot or spots on a grid. The object is to have your spot on the grid match the last digit of each team's score.

It's pure chance and involves no football knowledge, making it attractive for those tuning in to their first football game this season or just not interested in the matchup. (Who wants to skip the Super Bowl party, though?) Squares will make you watch. Squares will make you care. And if you're lucky, squares will win you bragging rights.

Here's how it works:

Make an 11-by-11 grid.

Leave the first column and the first row blank. (Fill in numbers after players have claimed the rest of the grid.)

Assign the top to one team, say the Ravens in this case, and the left side to the other, the Giants.

Players claim the 100 squares not set aside for numbers on a first-come, first-served basis. Place each player's name or initials in each square for identification. All of the squares must be claimed. Depending on how you want to structure your game, each player can have the same number of squares, or you can have players who risk more tokens receive more squares.

Get a witness or two and put slips of paper with the numbers 0-9 written on them in a box or bag and mix them up. Pull them out one at a time, filling in the grid as you go, first along the top, then reshuffle and repeat along the side.

You can have a winner each quarter.

To determine the winner of any quarter, take the score at the end and use only the final digit for each team. Then, plot that on the grid. For example, if the score is Baltimore 7, New York 3, you would go down the 7 column and across the 3 row. The name in that square is the winner for that quarter.

The final score includes OT. Make that clear. So if someone matches the score after the fourth quarter and the score is tied, no dice.


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