Whether you call it “squares” or a “box pool,” the betting game that takes place every year is a staple of offices and local bars for Super Bowl weekend. COVID, that dastardly villain, has attempted to lay waste to many traditions in the sports world, but I will not let it take my squares. Like everything else in this pandemic era, we simply must adapt and create a new way to enjoy the things that we love.
What the hell are “squares”?
I’m glad you asked. Squares is a betting system where a 10x10 grid is built. You buy as many squares within that grid as you’d like. After squares are purchased, the numbers along the outside of the grid are randomized. Those numbers represent the last digit of the score from each team. The scores that line up with the square you bought are your winning numbers. Most people will have payouts set for each quarter and also for the end of the game. Many sites have printable grids available, like Etsy.com. Here’s a template from FanDuel:
In a “normal year.” you’d just print this out and put it in your office break room, or behind the counter at your local bar. People would walk up and put their name in the squares they want and give their money to whoever is running it. Since we can’t do that this year, we’re going to need some other options.
I’ve been doing a virtual squares game with family and friends for a few years. We run ours on a facebook group, which works okay. The picture of the grid gets posted, with every square numbered. People comment with the squares they want to buy, and once the grid is full, the person running it does a live video to draw the numbers to fill in the outside of the grid. A Facebook group is perfect for the prerequisite trash talking, which as we know is half the fun.
In terms of handling the money, we fortunately live in a time where it’s as simple as Venmo, Zelle, or PayPal to send money to someone, no matter where they are. (Pro tip: Do not mention gambling or bets when sending money through apps.)
Another option, while not sexy, is the gool ol’ Google sheets method. It would be easy enough to create a grid, email a sharing link to your friends, coworkers, or family members, and allow everyone to write their own names in the squares they want to buy. Pretty simple. Sometimes simple is good.
If you want to get fancier, I found a website called Gridiron Games. It’s free to join but does require you to create an account, and I went through the process of putting this site through its paces. It’s super user friendly, takes just a second to sign up, you can send an invite link to whoever is going to be in your pool. Just like the old paper method, people can select and mark their own squares. As a “commissioner” of the event, you also have the option of marking squares as being paid or not, which is very helpful for tracking buy-ins.
There are a number of ways to go about it. No matter how you plan to enjoy your annual squares game, don’t let the need to adjust stop you from playing. After all, trash talking your coworkers/friends/family members is half the fun of Super Bowl Sunday.