BINGO! Marking numbers down on a card under the letters B-I-N-G-O is one of the most popular gambling games in the United States and abroad.
As many as two million people spend up to $3 billion dollars a year playing this numbers game. It’s possible that Bingo may even usurp baseball as America’s favorite pastime one day.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to play Bingo, calculate the odds of winning, and how much it costs to play.
We’ll also cover what you’ll see at your first session if you decide you’d like to try your hand at this extremely fun and exciting game. We’ll even discuss the moments you can use to gain an advantage, and possibly help you win a nice bit of prize money!
First legalized in the 1950s in New Jersey and New York, Bingo was used during the Great Depression as a fundraiser for churches to help the needy. The stream of income from even a small percentage of each game’s revenues proved so lucrative, many states soon began to follow suit.
Today, Bingo can be found almost anywhere, from churches and synagogues to local non-profit organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars to Native American reservations and casinos.
There are even specialized Bingo halls in operation in most cities! Bingo is also relatively inexpensive to play, costing only $5 to $35 for a night of fun. It may cost you a little more, however, if you decide to buy multiple cards or participate in bonus games.
Sometimes the top prize for a game of Bingo can be as high as $10,000, but it may cost a little more money to play for such a high prize. There are even a few progressive Bingo games run by casinos and Bingo halls.
These progressive jackpots, usually the final session prize, increase in size by a few hundred dollars each time the game is played but yields no winner. A small investment could lead to a major windfall!
Bingo uses a game card and a field of 75 numbers. Each game card has a single free space and 24 different numbers printed on it. No two game cards are exactly alike, even though there may be more than one winner in a single Bingo game. Though Bingo is derived from lotteries, there’s one distinct difference—Bingo numbers are called out until someone definitely wins!
Bingo sessions can last a few hours and usually consist of 10 to 15 individual games. Each game makes use of a caller, who selects a number from the field of 75 (1 through 75). Any player that has the called number on their card marks it off. Before the start, the caller will identify the winning game card pattern for that particular game, with each game of the session requiring a unique pattern.
You have the option of purchasing additional game packs, which will allow you to use more than one card during a single game of Bingo. Though the price may vary, it’s typical each additional game in the pack will cost $1.
This means a pack of 10 additional cards (1 extra card each for 10 games), will cost an additional $10. Though additional cards can make the game more exciting, there’s no distinct advantage that comes with them.
Once a player has completed the required winning pattern using the numbers that have been called, they are the winner. The card will then be verified by a checker, making sure it’s the correct pattern and that the numbers used in the card have indeed been called during the game.
If numbers and pattern are correct, the winner is declared and the game is closed. The prize is split evenly if there is more than one winner.
Bingo cards may either be hard-plastic permanent or paper throwaway cards. For throwaway cards, the pre-printed numbers on each card are different, and each game uses a separate card. A Bingo hall that uses the hard plastic cards requires you to use the same card, and numbers, for each game.
These permanent, reusable cards are called shutters because each preprinted number has a small shutter over it. To mark a number, the player closes the small shutter window over it.
Paper throwaway cards can’t be reused because to mark a number on them a player must use a crayon or ink Bingo marker. Because the marks cannot be removed, each game requires a new throwaway card.
Though there are two types of cards (throwaway and permanent), the cards are always set up in the same manner.
Each column is headed by a letter in the word Bingo. This groups the numbers together and indicates the range of numbers that can appear in the column.
It’s important to remember which numbers belong under which letters, especially when the game gets going!
Highlight the numbers as they’re called
Each possible letter-number combination—B-1 to O-75—is printed on each of 75 Bingo balls. The balls are kept safe in a glass blower or ball cage.
Both forms of protection allow the balls to be spun, which helps to ensure that each pick is as random as possible.
When the caller selects a ball, they will announce the letter-number combination listed on it, and the number will be flashed on the electric boards around the hall so that every player knows what has been selected. The selected balls are then placed on a separate rack so that they may not be called again during the current game.
Here’s an interesting fact: Since Bingo cards are made up of 75 numbers, it’s possible to print variations of cards than the national U.S. debt (now several trillion dollars) without repeating a combination. Manufacturers generally print Bingo cards in sets of 3,000, so it’s not very likely that you’ll find identical cards at any playing session.
The caller will select a pattern, or theme, for the game before it begins. Callers can create some truly imaginative patterns out of a Bingo card! The simplest pattern usually involves filling in the only the four corners of the card.
Another simple one requires filling only a single row at the top or bottom. Some patterns form letters—T, X, I, Z or Y. Sometimes, a caller may even require you to spell a word, like “hi” (called the “little hi”) or “HI” (called the “big hi”).
The final game of the session is usually the most difficult pattern of the night, known as the coverall. The coverall allows only 48 or 50 numbers to be called, but all 24 numbers on a card must be marked.
This theme can be incredibly difficult to win. Sometimes no one does, so the caller will continue to call out numbers until someone is able to announce “Bingo!” and win a consolation prize. Patterns keep the game fun, but a difficult pattern and multiple cards in a single game can also be a recipe for disaster!
When playing patterns, it can be a good idea to lightly mark the pattern on your Bingo cards with a colored marker different from the color you use to mark called numbers. You can also draw a line lightly on the pattern to help you keep track. Whatever works!
Bingo is definitely not the easy game it appears to be. Let’s take a look at the odds of completing a coverall card with only 50 or fewer numbers called:
You’ve got better chances of completing a coverall with more numbers called, of course. The odds are about 1 in 10,359 with 55 or fewer numbers drawn. So consider yourself incredibly lucky if you’ve managed to win a coverall game!
Filling in a 5- or 10-spot pattern is much easier to do before other players. You only have to know how many cards are in play during the game to figure out the odds on this sort of win.
Some people play as many as 10 cards per game in higher payout venues, such as Native American reservations and casino Bingo halls. You should probably use an average of five cards per person when calculating odds.
So, let’s imagine there are 20 players using 5 cards each. In this situation, you have a 1 in 1,000 chance of winning the game. Mathematically, it looks like this: 1/200 x 1/5 = 1/1000.
Your odds only go up to 4 in 1000 if you try to play 4 cards, so it’s up to you if the small margin is worth the money and concentration time. Those extra cards would definitely make the game more exciting, though!
What isn’t computerized these days? Even the old-fashioned game of Bingo has gone digital.
There are now gaming establishments where you have the option of renting a computer for Bingo, especially if you have a little trouble keeping track of two or more game cards. These computers allow you, for a small fee, to play up 12 cards at a time!
Occasionally these computers are called “Video Bingo,” although you’re still playing against other people. These machines keep track of all your game cards for you automatically.
Your only job is selecting on the screen which numbers are called during the game. It will search all your cards for the called numbers, and mark them off accordingly. Isn’t technology grand?
Another exciting bingo innovation is the ability to play bingo games online. Online bingo halls are all over the Internet. These close-knit online bingo communities are often more fun and exciting than live bingo halls. Online bingo is popular for many reasons.