The season of **football block pools** is upon us. For those few
people who aren’t familiar with the concept, a block pool is a ten-by-ten
matrix of blocks. Individuals buy the one hundred blocks, and then the numbers
0-9 are randomly placed across the top and down the side of the matrix. Then
each team playing is then randomly assigned a side.

The object of the game is to match the last digit of both
team’s scores. If the score at the end of the football game is 54-23 **Eagles**
over **Patriots** (that’s an example, not my prediction) then the person who has
the Eagles 4 - Patriots 3 block wins the pool. Since pools typically pay out
for each quarter, there are usually four winning combinations. Got it?

When the pool is full and the sheets are handed out much
time is spent by me trying to figure out if I have “good” number combinations.
**This is an exercise in rationalization.** If I get 5/8, I start thinking, “that’s
seven TDs (35) on one side and 6 FGs (18) on the other. That could happen.”

The problem is that, despite all my rationalizations, I have
*never* actually won a block pool. **Not one single time.** So last winter, after losing yet another Super Bowl block pool (two of them, actually), I decided to find out which combinations are most likely to pay out. I took the scores at the end of the first three quarters and the final score (which is how most pools pay out in cases of overtime games) of every game for the **2002 & 2003 NFL seasons and post-seasons** and calculated the odds of every possible number combination. That was **2136** total scores. Since I considered a 1-2 combination the same as a 2-1 combination (and 2-3 the same as 3-2, and so on), that came out to 55 possible combinations.

Here are the combinations that have the **best chance of
paying out**, and the odds of the combination coming out for at least one
quarter:

0-7 (14%), 0-3 (10%), 0-0 (9%), 3-7 (7%), 0-4 (7%), 4-7 (6%), 7-7 (5%).

No real surprises. The rest of the combinations had a 3% or
less chance of winning. Those with **close to zero chance of paying out** were:

1-1, 1-2, 1-5, 1-9, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, 2-5, 2-6, 2-7, 2-8, 2-9, 3-5, 4-9, 5-5, 5-6, 5-8, 5-9, 6-6, 6-8, 8-8, 8-9, 9-9.

These combinations paid out in only 110 of the 2136
quarters in the past two years. **2-2 and 9-9 never paid out.**

**Here’s the breakdown by quarter:**

**1st Quarter results:** 0-7 (23%), 0-0 (20%), 0-3
(19%), 3-7 (8%), 0-4 (7%), 7-7 (7%). The rest were 3% or less.

**2nd Quarter results:** 0-7 (14%), 0-3 (10%), 3-7
(9%), 0-4 (8%), 0-0 (7%), 7-7 (6%), 3-4 (4%), 3-6 (4%). The rest were 3% or
less.**3rd Quarter results:** 0-7 (11%), 0-4 (6%), 3-7 (6%),
4-7 (6%), 0-0 (5%), 0-3 (5%), 3-4 (5%), 7-7 (5%), 3-6 (4%). The rest were 3% or
less.

Most block pools pay out the most money for the final score.
**Here are the best combinations for final score:**

4-7 (9%), 0-7 (8%), 0-3 (7%), 0-4 (5%), 1-4 (4%), 3-7 (4%),
the rest were 3% or less.

For all my work, the results really show that no matter how
much you rationalize your numbers, **very few "odd" combinations actually pay out**.
Which means that if your numbers *look* bad, they probably *are* bad.

I only did all this work because, amazingly, I couldn't find this analysis on the web. It seems like everything is already on the web, and yet this wasn't. And yes, I do know how big of a geek I am.

Gotcha. Yeah, right...you lost me at first sight of the graph.

Posted by: Donna | 2005.01.31 at 02:21 PM

Damn when did you do all this? Me, I try to stay away from gambling where I have absolutely no say in the outcome i.e. chance games like football boxes.

Posted by: dragonballyee | 2005.01.31 at 03:50 PM

Not during work! Definitely not during work. No sir-ree. That would be wrong. No Way. Work hours are for work.

And I tend to gamble on things that I have no way of screwing up with too much thinking.

Posted by: Mark | 2005.01.31 at 03:54 PM

I'm glad to see that you mention that you have NEVER actually won any of these things!

Posted by: deega | 2005.01.31 at 04:00 PM

Thank you for doing all this work. I knew that I'd find this on the web and you came through.

Posted by: nevermor72 | 2006.02.05 at 08:52 AM