It used to be that as we got closer to the Super Bowl, a friend would take on the responsibility of creating a Super Bowl box pool. That person, usually a football fan, would seek out people to buy one of the 100 boxes that make up the standard box pool grid, 10 rows of 10 individual boxes.
For a dollar, you bought a “box” in the grid and wrote your name in it. After all the boxes were sold, random numbers from 0-9 are drawn and placed at the top of each column (representing one team) and then down the left side (representing the other team), creating coordinates for each box.
The box you own might have coordinates where “4” (from the left side) intersects with “7” (from the top). The last digit of each team’s score in the game is matched to the coordinates, which then dictates which “box” wins the prize. A score of 24-17 means the box with the coordinates of the last digits, “4” and “7” wins.
Knowledge of football isn’t necessary to join a Super Bowl box pool. Since the numbers used to create the coordinates are randomly drawn, and no one knows what the score will be at any given time, it’s a simple game of chance, not unlike picking lottery numbers. Except most people use a quick pick, where a state-run machine picks them for you. The state then also picks the winning numbers. Who thought THAT was a good idea? At least with a box pool, your odds are certainly better.
One hundred boxes at a dollar each creates a pool with $100 in prize money. Most box pools payout four prizes for matching the last digits of the score at the end of each quarter and the final score. Easy, peasy, right?
But something happened to the straightforward, one-dollar Super Bowl box pool over the last few years. Creators of the pools, to make things more enticing, are selling their boxes for more money, increasing the prizes exponentially. They are coming out of the woodwork trying to recruit you to join their pool, not unlike Hari Krishna followers accosting people at the airport. To make things even more confusing, they have come up with very creative additional ways to give out the prize money.
Instead of just four prizes to split the $100 prize money, they are offering additional ways to win the much larger pool of prize money. One might win because their “box” is touching a winning box, or because it’s the reverse score. Suddenly, your long-lost geometry skill set becomes essential.
My friend had the box last year matching the final score, winning about $2,500. He triumphantly bought drinks for everyone at the bar, even posting his good fortune on Facebook. Except, when he came into work on Monday, he found out he didn’t win.
Turns out, the person running the pool had added a twist. To give people more chances of winning, a different set of numbers were picked for each quarter of the game. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t read the fine print, thinking his numbers were for the entire game. Bummer.
I’ve won my share of money in Super Bowl Box pools over the years, but even I am getting intimidated by the number of people running them this year. I’ve done a bunch of them for friends and family at Super Bowl parties, and it’s an excellent way to keep people interested in the game, even if it’s just to win a few bucks.
So, dear readers have no fear. There are still a few days before The Big Game. I’m sure someone you know is still out there recruiting participants in their box pool for a buck or more. After all, you gotta be in it to win it. Let’s see, so far, I have “good’ numbers in my pools. That is if they don’t change before the game is over.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.