Everybody is familiar with the old game named Bingo, but not everyone knows its rules. Bingo is the type of a game that you usually learn as a child, but remember that the excitement of yelling out “Bingo!” before anyone else, never goes away. Since then, newer trends like online bingo or electronic bingo took over the traditional bingo game, but there are still some people, who prefer the old traditional bingo with daubers and paper cards. People believe that the key to winning in this game lies in superstition and luck, while other people believe that the secret in winning this game lies in “playing the odds” and advanced bingo strategies. In whichever group you put yourself into, first you have to learn the basic game rules and bingo etiquette.

In the early twentieth century, bingo became quite popular in the United States, but its history goes back to the 1530s. That is when an old state-run lottery, started in Italy. Interestingly enough, even today you are able to play that exact same-old lotto every Sunday, in that state-run lottery. In the late 1700s, the French also picked up the lotto. A struggling toy-salesperson from New York, called Edwin S. Lowe, made the game Bingo more popular. He once noticed a game called Beano, in Georgia, while he was at a country carnival. Since the players used beans to mark their cards, the game got the name Beano. After one of the players completed a whole line of numbers, he would yell “Beano!”, and he would win a small prize. When Lowe saw how captivated people got while playing this game, he decided to introduce the game to his friends. At one round, an excited old lady accidentally blurted out “Bingo!” instead of “Beano!” and just like that, an exciting and fun game was born. The game (Lowe’s Bingo), became a huge success. Legal bingo is today offered by 48 states. There is no stereotype for a bingo player; they come from all over the place. The only thing they all have in common, for sure, is the love for socializing. It is true that most regular players of bingo are over 45, but young people are also discovering this game every day. The bottom line is, Bingo is made for everyone to enjoy.


As you might have guessed, the odds of winning the top prize in bingo rounds are very slim. Then again, it is also quite possible for a person to win the top prize in his first round, since the game is all about luck. When a player wins a super-jackpot, they do not get the check immediately. First, the bingo balls will be gathered and sent to a testing lab to be sure that the player did not cheat, while insurance companies will review security cameras. Progressive jackpots can sometimes get so big, that the law has to cap the bingo hall, and the prize will stay the same until a player wins the game. However, in some states, like Michigan, there is now a maximum limit of money that a player can win in this game. These big prices have allowed bingo to expand all over the world. Another way that bingo halls are able to offer bigger jackpots is by playing satellite bingo. This is a bingo game that is played at halls in a particular area, at the same time. Bingo halls are being linked by a satellite of an outside company (where the name came from). In addition, the prizes in these Satellite bingo games are much bigger than the ones in a regular bingo.

It is important for players to understand the basic rules and tips of the game. Even if you played it before, and you might think you know everything there is to know about this game, you have to ask yourself…how much are you missing? Always remember that, bingo is a game of luck and chance. When playing this game, players have to use cards that consist of five columns that have five squares each, while every square has a number (except the middle one that is put there for a free space). The point is to listen to the numbers that are being called. When one of the numbers is called, the player needs to mark the square. The person who marks all of the squares first, wins a big prize. B, I, N, G, and O are the letters that are labeling the columns. These letters always have a certain range of numbers.


Players have to buy cards, that can be made of cardboard or from a disposable sheet, which has one or more printed card faces. Some old-fashioned halls still like to use the traditional bingo cardboards like the “all-night boards” or, “hard cards,” and they can be marked with tokens, chips or pennies.  Most of the more stylish halls, use sheets of paper or disposable strips that have a set number of faces, like three (known as 3-on) or six (known as 6-on). The process when a player purchases a card is called the “buy in”, which means that a player buys cards up front, for a particular bingo game. The “caller” is a person who takes the numbers from the basket and announces them to the players. Before calling the first ball, it is the caller’s responsibility to announce the pattern of the game. The patterns change from game to game, as there are dozens of different patterns players can choose from. The two most common ones are coverall (or blackout), and straight-line bingo.

Coverall: which is also known as the blackout, is one of the typical jackpot games. The goal of this game is to cover every number on your card from a certain number of calls. For example, in a forty-nine number coverall, within those forty-nine calls a coverall must happen or else the game is going to be over, and nobody will win.

Straight-line bingo: the simplest explanation is that a player will get “bingo” with a 5-number straight line, going from one end to the other end of the card. The line can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. The players will sometimes need only four numbers to be called, when using the straight line, because of the free middle space.

The caller will select each ball randomly, from an electrically operated “bingo machine” (electrically operated blower machine), which is usually used for calling state lotteries or from an ancient manual or mechanically operated cage. The machine has a bug where sometimes it catches more than one ball at a time. The air blows from the machine into a chute, and then the caller takes out a number and announces it to the players. Each ball has a printed letter on it (from 1 to 75), and there are 75 balls in the machine. Every one of those balls is as equal as they can be, considering shape, weight, size, and balance. This gives every bingo ball the exact same chance and opportunity of being pulled out. After a number is called, it can be shown on a television system that has monitors all around the room. Players can keep the track of numbers that are called with a lighted diagram that displays the pattern of the game. There are some old-school halls that still have a nonelectric tote board that is used for the same purpose.

The Daubers: with each called number, players have to scan their cards, and if they find the number that was called, they have to mark it with either a token or a dauber, which is a special pen-like ink stamper. However, the easiest way to mark your card will always be with a dauber. Today, daubers have become an essential tool that modern bingo players use. Using a dauber is simple, you just have to remove the cap and press a foam rubber tip strongly on the square you wish to mark. That will make a round colored smudge. The dauber has a lot of advantages. It is quick, it is permanent, and very easy to see, and it helps you overlook the less important marked squares so you can move on, on the rest of the numbers. Daubers usually contain 21/2 to 21/4 ounces of ink. Ink is offered in many colors including red, blue, magenta, green, teal and purple, of course. Some players buy the whole six-pack colored daubers, and they keep them for each game session. Today, the brighter colors are used, similar to orange. Unlike in the older days, when you would sometimes mess up your paper because of the ink, today the fast dry types of ink is being sold. If you have your equipment in place, you are ready to begin playing.


Do not forget that bingo, like every other game, has its own rules and etiquette. The proper way to announce that you have won is to yell out the word “Bingo!”, and it has to be loud enough for everybody to hear you. As soon as bingo is called, an assistant (usually called the floorwalker), will then come to the right table and verify the bingo. The floorwalker then calls out the winning numbers, just to verify them with the identification numbers on the card, which the caller put into a computer that can automatically verify and reject bingo. Sometimes, the winning bingo card is posted so that the other players can expect it as well, but disputes are very rare, since either you win at bingo or you do not. If, by any chance, two people call out bingo at the same time, the prize will be split equally in two.

Since there are no two exact same bingo halls, you need to read the rules before playing. Be sure to check out special handouts. There are some people who like to try to cheat, by altering a bingo card, but rest assured that no experienced bingo manager would fall for that old trick. Some, if not most of the halls, would be glad to find the cheater and prosecute him to the law. So whatever you do, just play safe, and follow the rules. One thing that the bingo halls all share is that they require you photo ID, in case you hit a bigger jackpot.

Even if bingo halls have different rules, there are some typical common rules you may encounter:

– Typically, a player must be over 18 years old or older.

– Some halls do not let their players have alcoholic beverages, while some sell beers together with soft drinks.

–  While special high-stakes games are being played, managers may forbid players from leaving or entering the hall.

– Reservation of specific cards is not allowed.

– Usually, you are not able to watch your family or friends play; each person must have their own buy-in. Sometimes halls would even require for players to put their attendance cards in a visible place.

– When a player has bingo, he has to yell out “Bingo!” loud and clear, in order to stop the game. If another number was already announced it is late to yell bingo.

It is well known that most, if not all, of the bingo players, are a friendly bunch. They will gladly help you and explain anything you want to know concerning bingo. However, never forget that you are still on their territory, so some boundaries should never be crossed. For example, you need to pipe down. This is the most important rule from all of the unwritten rules. You will notice how regulars always keep quiet as soon as the caller starts announcing numbers. Always watch out for the lucky seats. Bingo players are typically particular about where they are going to sit. You might be asked to move, if you sit in their lucky seat. It is a good idea to listen to them. Never become a parrot-type player. Nobody likes to hear the number called out twice, so do not start repeating every number. Players need to concentrate, and that can be very distracting to some players. You should not bring little children to bingo halls, but if you do please keep them quiet. A lot of players will understand if you just have to bring your kids, but most of them will not tolerate if kids start misbehaving, yelling and running around, while other players try to concentrate. If you are in a situation where you have to bring your kids, then bring along their favorite entertainment, so they can be quiet. Some bingo halls even offer kiddies’ cards to keep children occupied. If you are mad at something, do not take it out on the caller, it is never his fault. Some bingo players, that had a losing streak would call out rude and sarcastic things like “Change the caller”, loud enough so that the caller can hear them. Just, chill out! It is not their fault, they do not choose the numbers they call, they just pick at random. If you have any real problem, you can always yell out “Slow down please!” or “Louder please!” say it loudly but politely. If that does not help, talk to the manager after the game. And last but not least, if you are a smoker, only smoke in the designated areas. For most of the bingo players, bingo and smoking are inseparable, but have in mind that some people do not like smoke and are not smokers, so you can ruin their game.

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A first-timer is probably going to get confused without proper guidance. “Arrive early” is a common practice that regular players have. It is always good to get your desired seat and to prepare your cards before the game starts. Always be prepared. It is not a bad idea to bring a glue stick or tape, since sometimes you might end up on a slippery table, and that can be very annoying when you are trying to concentrate. Try to sit as close as you can to the caller, since the faster you can receive the information the better. When sitting close to the caller, you can sometimes have a sneak peak at the next ball that can be called, and since this is a totally accepted practice, you should take advantage of it. However, do not forget that calling out bingo before the number is actually called, is forbidden. Do not be embarrassed or afraid to speak up to the caller if he is calling the numbers too fast or you have too many cards to follow. Just be polite, because the caller could be new, or he may be tired and just hoping that the game will end quickly. Remember the rules, and do not break them.

Sometimes even the “professional” bingo players miss a number or two, it happens. But, there are some tips that can help you if you have this problem. You should ignore the numbers that are on the left side of the square. If you read the card backwards, you can save time. For example, if the called number is B-12, then look at the right side of the column B for 2’s. After you see one, look beside it to see if it has a one. Beginners sometimes have trouble keeping up with the pattern while playing at the same time. With a little bit of practice, this will not be a problem. Just do not forget to glance from time to time on the board to see the pattern.  For example, if a picture frame is a pattern, try to cover all of the inside numbers to be able to mentally block all the other cards and concentrate on the important squares. Eventually, you will be able to develop mental skills with the amount of games you play. Some players are able to visualize the pattern just by looking at the board. But if you still have trouble keeping up with some complicated patterns, you can always bring a brighter highlighter and mark the dabbable places. Bingo is the type of a game suited for anyone. People tend to think that only grandmas and grandpas play bingo, but that is not true. This game is played throughout the world and is suitable for any age. Since we can all agree there is something quite fun and enjoyable about yelling out “Bingo!”