In an earlier post, I wrote about the power that a friendly competition like a trivia contest has to keep patrons in your bar and keep them coming back. Another sure-fire trick is to induce them to gamble on some (future) sporting event. It pretty much guarantees that they will return to your establishment to watch the game and (hopefully) collect their winnings.
The most popular form of bar gambling when I worked in Montréal was what we called a “football grid” – although the Internet seems to prefer the term “football squares.” The bartender would divide a large piece of paper, or even better, bristol board, into a 10 × 10 grid, with room on the left and top to fill in numbers later. The visiting team’s name is written on the left and the hosts on the top. Then, the individual squares would be sold to patrons, let’s say $10 each for this example, and they write their name in the square they’ve chosen. It can be any empty square on the grid. Once all the squares are sold, and this is key, only once they are all sold, the numbers 0 through 9 are written on small pieces of paper and drawn one by one from a hat. With witnesses present, the bartender fills in the numbers in the order they are drawn, first down the side, then across the top.
The random selection of numbers is important, as you’ll see.
On game day, the winners are chosen by looking at the last digit of each of the teams’ scores. So if the score is 28 – 17 for the visitors, you find the 8 on the left and the 7 on the top and the person with their name in the intersecting square wins. Because you want there to be more than one winner (more people with sudden disposable income in the room), you usually have a prize for each of the quarters, but building up to a larger one for the final score. In our example (100 squares × $10 = $1,000), it might be broken down like: first quarter, $100; second, $150; third $250; final score, $500. Of course, all the money must be paid out – there is no cut for the house.
The reason the randomness is important, is that certain numerals are much more likely in football scores than others. Without explaining all about the different ways to get points in a football game, just believe me when I say that the best numbers are, in order, 7, 0, 3, 4. So someone with their name in the 7-7 square will feel pretty good with their lot, but the schmo in 5-5 is essentially hooped. If the numbers were put on the grid before the squares were sold, no-one would buy 5-5.