What Is Bingo?

Bingo is one of the most popular gambling games played around the world. It is a game of chance, similar to lottery games. Bingo has a long history as a much-loved pastime in the US. It is often played just for fun. With the addition of prizes, however, things can definitely get more exciting.

Traditionally, bingo was played in a hall, or a similar venue, with a number of participants all competing to win. In order to do so, they would have to be the first player to make a pattern on their bingo card. This was usually achieved by crossing out numbers on their card once balls had been drawn out by an announcer. This made bingo a game which was just as popular for the social aspect as it was for the chance to win prizes. Players would regularly meet up to play in the evening or on weekends as a way to have fun while passing time.

In the modern age, more and more bingo enthusiasts have been drawn to playing the game online. There are a number of websites and online casinos providing numerous versions of Bingo. In the US, 75-ball bingo is the standard, while in the UK and most parts of Europe, 90-ball bingo is the most frequently played.

The game itself is not hard to get the hang of. The rules of bingo are very straightforward, making it an enjoyable way to spend time and socialize with friends and spouses. The added bonus of winning community pots and prizes is obviously what keeps many coming back for more!

History of Bingo

You might be surprised to learn that bingo has been around a long time. We’re not talking the 1960s or ‘70s here. No, we mean way before bell-bottoms, disco balls, the “Summer of Love,” and Bob Dylan.

In fact, bingo can be traced back to 16th century Italy. More specifically, to a game known as “Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia.” This game was essentially the Italian lottery, prior to the break-up of the country by the Hapsburgs and Napoleon’s empire. Quite remarkably, the game has been held every week since the first draw and still operates to this day. Today, the Italian government estimates the lottery to be worth around $75 million to the annual budget of the country.

It did not take long for the French to go wild for a similar game. Le Lotto was an imitation of the game in Italy and had become increasingly popular with Parisian socialites. This game required players to use a card which featured three horizontal rows and nine vertical ones. There were 90 numbers in total. There were 90 numbers which were carved into wood and placed into a bag, which were then drawn by a caller.

The game radically progressed over the next couple hundred years, with similar games used to teach children numeracy skills. Bingo caught on in many other countries across Europe and was also beginning to catch on in North America.

Bingo in the US

By the 1920s, bingo was being played in carnivals throughout the US. The man responsible for creating the game as we know it today was Hugh J. Ward. In the early 1930s, Ward copyrighted bingo and published a rule book on the game shortly after. The owner of a small toy company, Edwin S. Lowe, was responsible for really taking it one step further. Following a chance encounter at a country carnival in Florida, Lowe would become acquainted with a lottery game known as “Beano.”

Clearly fascinated, Lowe watched on as players sat at a table with cards and beans in front of them. There was a caller who extracted wooden disks with numbers on them from a box, announcing them to the players. The players studied their cards after each call, hopeful that they had the numbers called. If they did, they would place a bean over that particular number. Once a player completed a line, they would shout “Beano!” thus winning the game and claiming their prize.

Lowe knew that he was onto a winner, so purchased cardboard, beans, and a numbering stamp. Lowe invited friends to his apartment to play the game, and it was an instant success. During one game, a female friend became so excited at the prospect of winning that when she had the final number, she erroneously called out “Bingo!” instead of “Beano!”

From here, Lowe popularized the game with Americans. The formerly struggling toy salesman would find massive success with bingo as a result. By the 1940s, the game was hugely popular and would continue to enjoy considerable success for decades after.

Equipment Used in Bingo

As previously mentioned, 75-ball bingo is the most popular version in the US. For the purpose of these examples, we will focus on this variant. In order to play bingo, players need standard equipment. In traditional bingo – or a game played without the assistance of technology – there are four main standard pieces of equipment used.

Bingo Scorecards

Scorecards are used to cross off the numbers drawn by the caller as they are announced. They feature 25 squares which contain random numbers. The center space of a card can contain a star shape, which is known as “free space.” Sometimes this center square is simply marked “free.” This space is automatically filled, where it is used.

Bingo Balls

There are 75 balls in total. The balls – which are light and almost like ping-pong balls – are color-coded according to sets, with a number typically displayed on four sides of the ball. The numbers should be clearly marked on each ball.

Ball Blower/Drum

This is the drum which contains all 75 balls. There is a ball blower, which keeps the balls moving around, helping to maintain the random nature of choosing winning balls. Alternatively, there may be a ball cage, which comes with a lever to turn the balls over before they are drawn.

Pens or Markers

Players use highlighter marker pens in order to cross out their numbers while keeping them legible to prove that they have won. In some cases, bingo chips can be used to cover the numbers on the card which have been drawn.

How to Play Bingo

You will be very happy to know that bingo is a very easy game to play. It is so easy that even your grandma could play it and win… 75-ball bingo is the version of the game which is the easiest to play, too.

The first step is to find a venue to play the game. If you are playing at a bingo hall, you will need your cards and a pen to mark off any matching balls. The cards you purchase will all contain 25 squares consisting of five columns and five rows. Each individual column is marked with a random number from 1 to 75 which matches the balls involved. The center square is a “free” square, which is automatically marked.

The game is started by the caller. Depending on the apparatus used, they will either start the blower on the drum containing the balls or turn the lever on the cage before picking out the first ball. Once this has been determined, the caller will let the players know which ball to mark off their cards.

How to Win

In order to win in bingo, you will need to form a predetermined pattern on your card. You do this by matching the numbers drawn to those on your card. Most commonly, these will be in diagonal lines. If you can complete a diagonal line on your card before any of the other players involved, you will win a small prize.

There are also other ways to win, depending on what has been outlined in the rules prior to the game starting. You could win a prize for putting together line combinations, or even for matching the numbers on each of the four corners on the card.

The biggest prize you can typically win is reserved for the first player who can cross off all of the numbers on their card. This is known as a “full house.” Depending on where you are playing the game, the prizes will vary. It is safe to say that your chances of winning a speedboat or $4 million are slim if you are playing at your local church fundraiser. It is widely accepted that a full house will win the top prize, no matter where you play. You will need luck on your side to win, however!

Popular Versions of Bingo

As briefly touched on above, there are a number of different types of bingo games. Aside from the 75-ball variant, players also enjoy playing 90-ball bingo, 80-ball bingo, and 30-ball bingo (which is also known as “speed bingo”).

90-Ball Bingo

This version is very popular in the UK, Ireland, and many other parts of Europe.

90-ball bingo is characterized by the three rounds which make up a standard game:

  • The first player to complete a horizontal line wins the first round
  • The first player to complete two horizontal lines wins the second round
  • The first player to mark off all the numbers on their card wins the third round

You will notice that the standard 90-ball bingo card looks different than the 75-ball version. There are 15 numbers on each card, which are randomly spread across nine columns, with 5 in each row of three. There are little differences between 75-ball bingo and 90-ball bingo. For the most part, it is the same game.

80-Ball Bingo

80-ball bingo was simply designed for playing online. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that it is very popular among online players. 80-ball bingo cards are structured with 4 columns and 4 rows. There are 16 numbers on each card, with no blank spaces. The cards are arranged with the first column containing numbers from 1-20, the second hosting numbers from 21 to 40, the third 41 to 60, and so on.

In 80-ball bingo, the first player to complete the required pattern will win the game. This can be a horizontal line, four corners, or another pattern which is clearly stated prior to the game starting.

30-Ball Bingo

As you might have gathered, there are significantly fewer numbers in this version. The game is also known by some as speed bingo (no prizes for guessing why).

With just 30 balls in this game, it is popular with players who want a no-nonsense, high-paced game. While not as well-regarded among old-school bingo players, it is certainly a version which is beginning to gain attention.

Playing Bingo Online

Online bingo is a multi-billion-dollar industry across the globe. As such, it is safe to say that it has been a success since the first game was launched online in the mid-1990s. There are a number of discernible differences between playing bingo in a land-based venue and online. The main features of online bingo games are that they typically use random number generator (RNG) software to draw balls and there is a chat function where players can interact with one another.

Many online casinos and bingo sites believe that cultivating the social and community aspect of bingo helps to increase revenue. As such, many of these same operators encourage in-chat prizes and bonuses, which can be a really cool way of getting something for nothing!

Playing Online for the First Time

The first thing you will need to do in order to play online is ensure you have access to a computer, smartphone, or similar device. Then, you need to find an online bingo site or casino. Once you have done your research, you can then choose the right site and register for an account.

Once you have opened an account, choose the bingo game you want to play. When playing bingo online, you will also need your cards. It is up to you how many cards you want to buy for the game, within the limits (which is usually around 96).

Whether you choose one or one hundred, you will need to wait for the next game to start. On your screen, you should see a timer that counts down the minutes and seconds until that particular game starts. You should also see the screen names of other players who will be participating.

Choosing Your Cards

As mentioned above, you will need at least one card to play. While many players tend to choose a number of cards, it makes little sense to go crazy and buy all of the cards. What you will spend on cards is likely to outweigh the prize. Even then, there is no guarantee that you will win!

The price of cards is always marked on the card itself. You should clearly see the price before you buy. When purchasing your cards, you can choose each one individually or allow the software to automatically assign them to you as “lucky dips.” Most bingo sites allow you to choose new cards if you don’t like the look of the ones assigned. It should go without saying that this is before a game starts!

The Gameplay

Depending on the site or casino you are playing on, there might be a function for you to manually cross off your numbers. When playing bingo online, it is more common for the software to do this on your behalf. “Autodab,” as it is sometimes known, is typically the default function. You can speak to the online casino or bingo site’s customer service and support team if you require assistance with this function.

When getting down to the game, it is pretty straightforward. The balls will be drawn by the RNG software. Your card or cards will update accordingly, and if you manage to put together the right pattern, you will win a cash prize!

Most players who have experience playing bingo in brick-and-mortar establishments should be able to pick up the online version with ease. There are often instructions, tutorials, FAQs, and customer support to help if you encounter any problems.

Payouts

Payouts will generally correspond to the cost of a card. If you are playing for low stakes, then you will more than likely win small prizes. Conversely, the higher the cost of a card will usually make the prizes grow as a result. This is only fair, after all.

There are progressive jackpots and community prizes which can be won in some games. This will come down to the online site and their particular rules regarding payouts and prizes. In the age of information, you should not find it difficult to see what sites are offering big payouts and potentially life-changing amounts of cash.

Bingo Odds

If you are unsure of how to work out odds in bingo, you’ll be happy to learn that, at least in theory, it is pretty easy to do. Putting it into practice is slightly more difficult. The way to work out odds in bingo is to count how many cards are in the game. As these numbers are not divulged by online casino sites, you may just give up then and there.

In land-based bingo halls or venues, you could always count the number of participants and work out the average amount of cards, but can you really be bothered to do this? Bingo is supposed to be fun with minimal effort.

If you want to know how to calculate the odds, it works like this:

Take the total amount of cards in play, and divide this number by the number of cards you have in a game. These are the odds. So, if there are 100 cards in a game, and you have bought 8 of these, then your chances of winning are 8 in 100. This works out to an 8% chance.

Playing Smart

There are two main methods players can adopt in order to help them increase their chances of a win.

Playing at “Low Peak” Times

The prizes in bingo do not majorly increase or decrease depending on the number of players. As such, playing at times when you will have fewer competitors could be an excellent way to increase your chances of wins.

If playing in brick-and-mortar venues and halls, target games which are played during weekdays or at odd hours. This isn’t advice to call in sick to your boss or completely neglect your duties as a functioning adult, but to do this when and where possible. If playing online, you might find that the games in the early hours of the morning will not be as busy!

Buying Multiple Cards

Logically, the more cards you have, the better chance you have of winning. This is perhaps the most common way for players to enhance their chances of winning. Of course, buying numerous cards to win a prize which is significantly less than the combined cost of the cards makes little sense!

If you are playing games where the cost of a card is pretty high, maybe you would be better suited to selecting a number of cards for the same price in a lower-stakes game. For example, rather than buying a $5 card, you could buy five $1 cards.

Bingo Strategies

Bingo is a game of pure chance. It is important to remember that – while strategies appear to be the answer to some – there is no proven way to consistently increase your chances of winning.

Nevertheless, some players enjoy the added excitement a strategy can deliver. If luck coincides with wins, there may be some reason to believe that they do actually work! The first unlucky streak encountered may see a player turn their back on such strategies for good, however. There are two popular strategies which players can try when playing bingo. These are described below.

Granville’s System

Granville’s system was the brainchild of Joseph E. Granville, who was an investment writer best known for his “on balance volume” (OBV) investment indicator. This particular strategy is widely used in the world of investing, even to this day.

A mathematical super-brain, Granville then hypothesized a strategy for winning in bingo. The basis of his strategy was to choose numbers on bingo cards with the aim of finding a mathematical equilibrium in the numbers. Granville believed that there was always a balance to the numbers which were drawn.

In order to use this strategy, players must choose a card (or cards) which have:

  • An equal distribution of high and low numbers
  • An equal distribution of odd and even numbers
  • The same amount of numbers that end with 0-9

As we mentioned above, when playing online, most bingo sites and casinos will permit you to exchange your cards before a game starts. In land-based casino halls or bingo sites, you may not be permitted to exchange these cards. Either way, always make sure to check if the option to reject cards is supported.

The Tippett Strategy

This method was the brainchild of the British statistician L.H.C Tippett. In essence, Tippett analyzed statistics and probabilities of the numbers drawn in a series of 75-ball games of bingo. According to his conclusions, Tippett believed that the longer a game takes, the more balls you’ll see drawn closer to the middle number of 38. Conversely, a shorter bingo game will result in numbers closer to 1 and to 75.

To use this strategy, players should:

  • Select cards with numbers closer to 1 and 75 in shorter versions of 75-ball bingo
  • Select bingo cards with numbers closer to 38 for longer versions of 75-ball bingo

You can determine how long or how short a version of bingo is by studying the patterns required to win.

For example, there is a version which is known as “line bingo” where players will mark off 5 squares in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines. With the increased likelihood of winning combinations, the time it takes to find a winner should be sooner. In contrast, games where each number needs to be crossed off to win will take longer.

Conclusion

Bingo has come a long way. In fact, the origins of the game can be traced back hundreds of years, which is fascinating to consider. There are many jokes to be had about just how young the seniors in your local bingo hall were when this game was invented, but we will leave them to you. There is no doubt that this game of chance has captivated humans for a long time. While bingo did suffer something of a decrease in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, the emergence of the internet as a viable gaming platform rapidly brought it back to life.

These days, bingo is everywhere. Much like the current trend of drinking gin, more and more players in their 20s and 30s see bingo as a cool game. This is helped to bring the game to a wider audience, who shun the more complex casino games in favor of this sociable, party game. It also helps that bingo is such an easy game to play. There is little to no skill involved, which is nice for players who might not have the time to invest in learning the rules of other games.

Bingo and its predecessors have lasted through wars, famines, the breakup of countries and subsequent reformations, trends, fashions, and so much more. The fact that it just keeps getting stronger and stronger – even when it appears it is on its way out – makes it a special game in the hearts of its many enthusiasts around the world.

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