Can you even have a Super Bowl party if you don’t have Super Bowl betting games? The short answer is no. The longer answer is definitely not.
If you are struggling to come up with ideas, The Action Network is here to help. I’ve been playing Super Bowl party betting games for years, and I’d like to share some of my favorites.
Before we get to the list, remember: Communication is key. Make sure to inform your guests in advance about what betting games you will offer (and the stakes) at your party, so that they will arrive prepared. Nobody wants to spot anybody cash for these activities.
This is the most famous Super Bowl betting game, and it’s one most of you have probably played at a party. If you haven’t, you just need a poster board, a magic marker, a ruler, and basic math skills.
Pro Tip: Buy two poster boards just in case you struggle in that last department. I’ve seen some botched boards in my day. Also, someone will inevitably write their name in too many squares. More on that to come.
Once you have those four things, draw 11 equal squares across the top of the board and 10 more down the left side (eleven including the already completed square in the left corner). Next, draw a 10X10 grid of squares inside of the row and column of squares you just created.
Now, divide 100 by the number of participants to determine how many squares each person gets. Once you have that number, each participant will write their name in that amount of random squares.
Pro Tip: Make sure you wait as long as possible to ensure everyone who wants in can play.
If you can’t divide 100 equally, create a house square and make up your own rule for those squares. We like to carry it over if those numbers hit before the end of the game, and give it to the party host if they hit at the end. You can also offer to sell those additional squares to increase the pot. In the example below, 10 people bought into the pool, which means each writes their name in 10 random boxes.
After you have all of the names filled in, put the numbers 0 through 9 on small pieces of paper into a hat. Have someone pick them out one by one. Write those numbers as they are picked across the top squares in order. Repeat for the squares down the left side of the board. Finally, split the first square in the top left corner with each team’s name.
The rules of the game are simple. If the Patriots win the game 24-20, STUCK would win the pot, since his name is in the square that coincides with the Patriots (4) down the side and the Eagles (0) on top. You can choose to split the pot by quarter, half or just do winner takes all at the end. I hope you avoid the 9!
You need to have a skill-based Super Bowl betting game where the person who gets the most questions right wins the pot. As a result, I like to assign the highest buy-in to this game, but know your audience. You can create your own questions, such as…
- Coin toss? (circle one) Heads or Tails
- Company with first commercial?
- Player to score first touchdown?
- Leading rusher?
- How many times will Trump tweet?
- Gatorade shower color?
Also, mix it up with entertainment and sports if you have a bigger crowd. Or if you don’t want to go through the trouble of creating your own prop pool, then just use our printable sheet.
Pro Tip: I have found using 20-25 questions with varying point values works best. Picking the MVP deserves a higher reward than guessing heads or tails, but it’s up to you.
Pass the Cup
This is the easiest of them all. The rules are simple:
- Everyone puts in a certain dollar amount in a cup.
- Create an order to determine how the cup will be passed.
- Draw a name to determine who starts with the cup.
- The cup passes to the next person on the list every possession change.
- The last one holding the cup takes the pot.
We like to divide this up into quarters to increase the excitement. The person holding the cup at the end of the first and third quarter takes a small amount out. The person at the end of each half gets a bigger payout. Divide it up however you see fit, but be prepared for the late half, meaningless Hail Mary interception cup switch.
Pro Tip: You can also use a football instead of a cup. However, watch out for your token drunk friend who is losing all of his bets.
If you want to make the game even more interesting, you can add a rule that every player must hold on to the cup (or ball) at all times when in possession. If someone gets caught putting it down, the cup changes hands. Finally, if someone passes out (or “falls asleep”) while holding the cup, make them watch the rest of the game outside through a window.
MVP Hat Draw
For those who still need more party action, you can also do an MVP draw. Just write down all of the best players’ names on little pieces of paper, put them in a hat, and draw. The person who draws the MVP wins the pot, which keeps the game interesting even in the event of a blowout.
Pro Tip: Have everyone draw 2-3 names. You never know when a Dexter Jackson might surprisingly win MVP.
Having said that, I hope you pick Tom Brady, the only player in NFL history to win four Super Bowl MVPs. Overall, quarterbacks have won the award in 28 (55%) of 51 Super Bowls. But don’t lose hope if you pick a non-quarterback. A Dallas linebacker won in a losing effort in Super Bowl 5. And if things play out like they did in 1978 when two Cowboys defensive lineman won it in the only Super Bowl to have co-MVPs, then I guess everyone gets their money back. Although, I’d think of a more creative way to decide a winner, such as beer pong or poker.
You will need to keep the action going during the never-ending halftime show. After making your play on any second half action, break out the LCR dice. If you have never played before, then go buy a set from the store or order here. Just make sure you tell everyone in advance to bring plenty of dollar bills.
Pro Tip: Get extra dollar bills. Multiple people will inevitably not bring them, so be prepared to change people out.
The extended halftime show will be over before you even know it.
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How can you make this week’s Super Bowl relevant to your curriculum? Whether debating football-related controversies, making predictions, analyzing ads, writing descriptions, understanding data and statistics or learning about head trauma, we have ideas for using The Times and the Learning Network to do it.
How do you teach the Super Bowl? Let us know.
History, Social Studies and Civics
Discover Super Bowl History: Read the original Times article about the first Super Bowl in 1967 — and this one from 2016 about the man who owns the only known recording of its broadcast.
Compare early reporting to an article reporting on a recent Super Bowl, then create an infographic — perhaps a Venn diagram or a timeline — or a video showing how the event has changed over time.
You might use the 2014 video embedded below, “Super Bowl XLVIII, by the Numbers,” as one model for how to put statistics, facts and images together engagingly.
Debate Issues Related to the Game: Head trauma. Domestic violence. Deflategate. Racism. Professional football has provided students many ethical issues to debate over the years.
For instance, Is it immoral to watch the Super Bowl?
Steve Almond poses this question in a 2014 piece for the Magazine. As he explains:
Recently…medical research has confirmed that football can cause catastrophic brain injury — not as a rare and unintended consequence, but as a routine byproduct of how the game is played. That puts us fans in a morally queasy position. We not only tolerate this brutality. We sponsor it, just by watching at home. We’re the reason the N.F.L. will earn $5 billion in television revenue alone next year, three times as much as its runner-up, Major League Baseball.
Or, consider the issues raised in a Nov., 2015 piece, Big Problems, but Little Impact on NFL Bottom Line:
Problems have been stacking up this season on the NFL’s horizon like planes in a holding pattern: investigations, arbitrations, suspensions, lawsuits and plea deals that shamed both an owner and a high-profile star.
It’s been a turbulent season so far by almost any measure — save for the most important one: Business has rarely been better.
Despite smoldering anger over Commissioner Roger Goodell’s bungling of the Ray Rice domestic-violence case, as well as the way some teams responded when their players ran afoul of the law, no one has bailed on the NFL. The sponsors who raised very public concerns two months ago have slipped quietly back into the fold. The politicians and women-rights advocates who expressed outrage have largely fallen silent. And the fans?
The numbers speak for themselves.
What do you think? Has our “worship of the game has blinded us to its pathologies”? What responsibilities do we have as viewers? Has your own interest in professional football changed as a result of any of these issues?
Last year’s Deflategate scandal led to much discussion about sports ethics.
This year, Cam Newton has used the spotlight on him to “discuss our country’s most persistent and vexing problem.” Is criticism of his exuberant style of play rooted in racism?
Below, more football-related questions we’ve asked as part of our Student Opinion feature. After students take a stand, invite them to post comments to our blog:
Learn About Leadership: Use sports to help students think about leadership with our Super Bowl lesson plan from 2001, in which students answered questions like “Why do you think the success of a sports team has such an impact on the city it represents?” and “What is ‘morale’ and what do you think leaders can do to ‘boost’ it?
You can update it with this post, E.L.L. Practice | The Lessons Football Can Teach , about Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who runs a team “in which cursing is frowned upon, a former competitive surfer turned ‘human optimization specialist’ enlightens players in the ‘arc of the journey’ rather than the arc of the pass, and — after one of the most spectacular losses in Super Bowl history — despair is defeated by New Age-style platitudes urging players to be mindful and seek ‘high-quality moments.’ ”
What kind of coaching do you respond to best? Why? What lessons can sports teach us about life in general?
Create Museum Exhibits: Have students reflect on the qualities that make exceptional football players, or athletes of any kind, then design museum exhibits celebrating their achievements, using our lesson plan “The Sporting Life.”
Language Arts, Fine Arts and Media Studies
Critique the Ads: The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for advertising, especially now that television viewers routinely zip through or zap commercials. How is Super Bowl advertising changing because of technology and social media? How is it attempting to appeal to a younger generation, via apps like Snapchat and Instagram?
Do your students realize how much they are marketed to in general? Does the blurring of the line between marketing and entertainment concern them? Do they know how to spot native advertising?
Use our lesson plan, “On the Market: Thinking Critically About Advertising,” to help explore these questions. Or, try our lesson plan on Super Bowl ads to have students analyze and critique the spots that will air on Feb. 7 specifically. They might also answer our Student Opinion question, What Makes a Good Commercial?
Here is a review of the best ads from 2015, many of which students may remember. What kinds of ads will run this year?
Finally, you might consult this lesson plan at MiddleWeb for more ideas on teaching media literacy through Super Bowl ads.
Imagine Powerful P.S.A.s: In 2010, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow made a controversial advertisement for a conservative Christian group that aired during the Super Bowl, and there was much discussion about whether it should run. In 2012 the N.F.L. was the target of more than a dozen lawsuits accusing it of deliberately concealing information about the effects on players of repeated hits to the head, and ran its own ad to address player safety. In 2013 players shared a public service message about A.L.S., commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Ask students what they think about these kinds of issue-based ads and public service announcements. What commercial would they like to see during the Super Bowl this year, given the enormous audience that message would reach?
Play a Student Crossword: Try our Football crossword to see what you know about the game and its players.
Flex Those Descriptive Writing Muscles: “The _________ won the game against the_________.” How do sports reporters reinvent that simple sentence in interesting ways every day?
Use sports writing as a model for descriptive writing with our lesson “Getting in the Game,” then challenge your students to write a lively paragraph (or more!) that reports on some aspect of this year’s Super Bowl.
Map Social Media: Use the 2009 Interactive Map: Twitter Chatter During the Super Bowl to see a United States map that shows the frequency of the words that were tweeted as the Steelers played the Cardinals that year. But 2009 was an eon ago in social-media years. What do you think a map of this year’s contest will look like? Why?
Will you be watching the Super Bowl on a “second screen” this year? How do you think doing so will affect how you react to what you see? Use a tool like Storify to collect and display some of the best reactions to the game, and information you find about the ads, the halftime show or any other aspect of the Super Bowl.
Create Logo Art:Try our design lesson, based on a slideshow of artist-created “alternative logos”, about how Super Bowl art has evolved over time.
Football and the Flu: Why does attending a Super Bowl party give you a higher risk of getting the flu? This Upshot article explains:
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Health Economics, the death rate from the flu is appreciably higher among those whose home team makes it to the Super Bowl.
This seemingly puzzling finding actually makes some sense. The game occurs during the heart of flu season and is the reason for the mingling at Super Bowl parties. And fans with their team in the game are probably more likely to attend one.
For many ideas about teaching about the flu and how to avoid it, visit this lesson plan.
Learn About Football and Head Trauma: Increasingly, head injuries in sports are in the news. With all the research, is football reaching a “turning point”?
We have a lesson plan on brain trauma, but you might also invite students to answer our Student Opinion questions, “Is Tackle Football Too Dangerous For Kids to Play?”. Or try our lesson on sports risks and school policies to have your students do their own field research.
Pose and Answer Sports-Related Science Questions:Do heart attack rates rise during the Super Bowl? Have your students pose sports-related science and health questions and then work in groups to answer them, using this Science Times “Really?” column as a model.
Learn Football Anatomy: Or try our lesson on the anatomy and physiology of the muscular system, the skeletal system and connective tissue and have students research joints in the body.
Is the Super Bowl a Good Bet?
Which team will win Super Bowl 50? By how much? Read this article about “the collective wisdom of gamblers” and its relationship to this year’s game.
In a 2014 piece, Joe Drape wrote:
In Nevada, more bets are placed on the Super Bowl than any other sporting event. Last year, for example, a record of nearly $99 million was bet in Nevada’s sports books. Of that, the books kept $7,206,460.
While even the best quarterbacks fumble and the seemingly invincible teams find ways to lose, the sports books nearly always wind up ahead.
Who decides the numbers and proposition bets for big games like the Super Bowl, and how do they do it? Why do the sports books nearly always end up ahead? What is “square money” and why is it that “the flood of square money that inundates the Super Bowl makes the game one of the easiest lines of the year for oddsmakers”? Why, in a world where algorithms rule and quants are celebrated does putting out a number remain “an old-school endeavor”? Have students read this article to answer these questions and consider if, when and how betting on the Super Bowl is worth it.
Use Data and Statistics to Play Fantasy Football: In our lesson plan, “Put Me In, Coach! Getting in the Quantitative Game with Fantasy Football,” students use statistical analyses and quantitative evaluations to get the edge in fantasy football. By looking at data, measuring match-ups and making projections, students put their analytic skills to the test.
Determine Football “Greatness”: Use sports statistics to create graphs via this lesson, in which students explore both the objective and subjective criteria used to determine the “greatness” of a person or team. Students then compare the statistics and argue the need for other criteria to adequately judge whether a person or team is ‘the best’ in their profession.
And if you want to do more with sports and infographics, you might like our recent list Interpreting the Data: 10 Ways to Teach Math and More Using Infographics.
Update | Jan. 29, 2014: Use Statistics to Construct Arguments: After we posted this lesson on Twitter, Caroline Doughty, a second grade teacher in Alexandria City, Virginia, contacted us to tell us about how she’s teaching the Super Bowl:
This year, I am integrating Super Bowl statistics into my math and writing blocks. In math, we are comparing numbers (touchdowns, yardage, years of experience) and adding together scores. After analyzing the statistics, students are creating arguments for who they think will win and providing evidence to back up their opinions. Then, students will try to persuade others. Lastly, each student will vote on who they think will win and we will graph the results.
I try to incorporate sports into my instruction as much as I can. Especially in math, it provides real life data to work with and the kids love it.
This resource may be used to address the academic standards listed below.
Common Core E.L.A. Anchor Standards
1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
Speaking and Listening
1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.