A Game Guide to Bingo

BingoBingo is a hugely popular game in both the US and UK. It’s one of the easiest casino games to learn as it doesn’t involve any strategies or skills; it’s all luck!

Today, bingo is played around the world though it’s sometimes mistaken for keno, a similar lottery-style game. One thing many people are startled to discover is that the UK version of the game actually differs from the US version, from the rules to where and how they’re played, but more on that later.

Bingo Basics

Bingo reportedly dates back to 1530 to an Italian lottery called Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia which is still played every Saturday to this day. The game was later introduced to France, where it was called Le Lotto, and to Germany. In the US, the game was called Beano and was frequently featured at county fairs. Back then, a dealer would select numbered discs from a cigar box and players would mark their cards with beans, shouting “beano” if they marked all numbers.

In 1929, New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe discovered Beano and decided to play a game with friends back home. It was during this game that one friend misspoke and shouted the word “Bingo” rather than “Beano”. Lowe decided to name the game bingo and it quickly became popular all over the US.

Meanwhile, the French, German and Italian versions of lotto was brought to the UK around the 18th century. The first modern game was featured at fairs and carnivals in the 1920s, however, it’s unclear where the UK version of the game got its name from.

The bingo games played today are somewhat different from the ones that were played back then. Due to an advancement in technology, bingo has become easier to play.

US Bingo

The aim of US bingo is to cover five squares in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row. This is done by matching the numbers called out or selected during the game, but it’s not as simple as that.

Before each game, every player is given a scorecard which will have 24 randomly selected numbered squares with the word BINGO written along the top. In addition to the 24 squares, a 25th square with the word “free” sits at the middle of a player’s scorecard and is allowed to be marked off by all players.

In bingo, there are 75 different letter-number combinations and these are read aloud throughout the game, corresponding to a square available on a scorecard. For example, all the letters in the N column correspond to N letter-number combinations, such as N-9, N-47 or N-1.

Bingo Cards

A caller, or random number generator if you’re playing online, will announce letter-number combinations and players will do one of two actions: If the player has the called letter-number combination, such as G-10, they will mark it on their screen or scorecard. However, if the player doesn’t have the called letter-number combination, they will do nothing.

Letter-number combinations will continue to be called out until a player shouts “Bingo” after covering five squares in a row on their scorecard. There is no limit to the amount of letter-number combinations being read out, as the caller or computer will continue until a winner is announced.

Bingo is normally played in sessions with several rounds played across a few hours. While the first round normally involves marking numbers in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row, other rounds may designate a different pattern, such as a house, fish or diamond, which may complicate the game a little.

UK Bingo

The main difference between UK and US bingo is that the UK version features 90-balls compared to the 75 in the US version. In addition to the number of balls used in the game, the UK scorecard is also different.

A typical ticket for UK bingo features 27 numbered spaces and is arranged into three rows and nine columns which each contain three numbers. The first column contains three numbers between one and nine, the second features numbers between 10 and 19, and so on.

Bingo Marker

The UK version is played at a much faster pace than the US and is played for one line across, then two lines across and then all three, which is referred to as a full house.

Bingo Halls & Casinos

Another major difference between the two versions is that US bingo is generally played at casinos in Nevada or at designated bingo halls owned by Native Americans.

In the UK, however, bingo is played at privately owned bingo halls across the country and the games are regarded more as social gatherings than gambling.

While bingo halls were incredibly popular throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, the number of halls and clubs quickly dropped from 2005. According to reports, the number of halls dropped from nearly 600 in 2005 to under 400 in January 2014 and their closure was blamed on high taxes, the smoking ban and the rise of online gambling.

Bingo Variations

Along with the two versions of bingo described above, there are numerous other bingo variations that can be played online. Each variation features different rules, so it’s important to know which bingo variation you’re playing before you start.

30 Ball Bingo, also known as speed bingo, is a game featured on some online sites. This version uses 30 bingo balls and scorecards feature nine numbers in a three by three square grid. The rules are generally the same, though players are required to fill the entire grid to win. The game has become a favourite for online players due to its speed.

80 Ball Bingo is another popular variation which was created specifically for online gaming. This version sees players marking numbers on a four by four square grid with a total of 16 numbers. Like 75 ball bingo, the first column features numbers between one and 20, the second features numbers between 21 and 40 and so on. The winner is the first player to mark off their numbers in the required pattern, which depends on the casino players are playing with.

90 Ball Bingo is also highly popular with online gamers. This version of the game features a scorecard with 15 numbers split across three rows and is played in three rounds. During the first round, a player wins by marking off a horizontal line. A player wins the second round by marking off two horizontal lines and a player wins the third round by marking off all their numbers.

Bingo Terminology

Any Way: A term used to describe a bingo pattern.

Bingo Scorecard: The card used to mark a player’s called out numbers, the number of squares on the scorecard depends on the variation of bingo being played.

Caller: The person calling out the numbers as their being drawn.

Callers Choice: A bingo game in which the caller decides on what the winning pattern will be for the current game.

Calls: The ball numbers being called out.

Cash Ball: A term used to describe a progressive jackpot.

Coverall/Blackout: When a player manages to form a pattern on their scorecard.

Dauber: The name of a marker normally used during bingo games.

Four Corners: A pattern made out of the four numbers located in the corners of the scorecard.

Free Space: The centre square in US bingo which is free and available to everyone, all players mark it off when they begin playing.

House: The bingo hall, club or casino site.

Jackpot: A huge prize up for grabs.

Multiple Winners: When two or more players win with the same numbers, if this happens the prize is divided equally between the players.

Pattern: The shape a player must create by using the numbers called out.

Payout: The money paid out to winners.

Wild Number: A number that is given freely to players.