Bingo is played in halls. Bingo rules and payouts
and play variations vary from place to place. Bingo brochures detailing
particular games, rules and payouts are usually available at each
Basically, players buy cards with numbers on them in a 5 x 5 grid
corresponding to the five letters in the word B-I-N-G-O. Numbers
such as B-2 or 0-68 are then drawn at random (out of a possible
75 in American Bingo, and 90 in British and Australian Bingo) until one player completes a 'Bingo' pattern, such as a line with five numbers
in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row on one of their cards
and wins the prize. There are many possible patterns to play for. See here examples of bingo patterns (link opens new window).
A bingo Card contains 24 numbered spaces and one free space (blank), with which you play BINGO. The numbers are assigned at random on each card and are arranged in five columns of five numbers each by five rows (5 x 5 = 25 in total including the blank square).
The numbers in the B column are between 1 and 15, in the I column between 16 and 30, in the N column (containing four numbers and the free space) between 31 and 45, in the G column between 46 and 60, and in the O column between 61 and 75.
Players have thousands of unique (unduplicated) cards to choose from. Some manufacturers print unduplicated series of 6,000 cards. There are also series of 9,000 cards available. Hard cards and Flimsy cards have a series number printed on them. For example, card number 1252 will always have the same numbers in the same spaces.
Bingo in the United Kingdom and Australia
In the U.K. Bingo is played mainly in large halls with cash prizes, the larger commercial concerns are linked up with other halls during one particular game in the evening and large cash sums can be won on these.
It is also played in nearly every seaside town in the U.K. on screens in front of the player who pulls a slide across to cover the number called, but, presumably because of our gambling laws, there are no cash prizes, just various items like cuddly toys.
The other times Bingo is played, again for prizes, not cash, is in a myriad of local halls or schools around the country, usually as a fund raiser for various concerns like an old peopleís Day Centre. Here the prizes are donated by shopkeepers and businesses in the town and surrounding area and the atmosphere at these Bingo games is usually very relaxed and a fun evening out where everyone is welcome, even children.
The prizes vary for these games but on average a prize for any one line is worth about £1.00 - £2.50 (depending on who is organising the bingo evening), any 2 lines would be worth about £2 - £5 and a full house (all the numbers on a card) worth £5 - £10. They could be boxes of chocolates, bottles of wine, a grocery hamper, a voucher from a local butcher for meat or a cream tea for two at a local tea-shop or even 2 free passes to a swimming pool. Anything really.
U.K. (and Australian) bingo cards have three lines and nine columns (see picture above) and usually come in "Books"; single or multiple. A single book would contain ten 10 pages (10 cards) each of a different colour: Gold, Lime, Violet, Yellow, Pink, Grey, Orange, Blue, Red and White.
A multiple book has 6 single books. Each page in a multiple book has 6 cards of the same colour. The 6 cards on a page are joined with perforated edges and can be pulled apart. Experienced players will play all 6 books and inexperienced players or young children may only play 1 book, or even a single card.
As well as books, there are also single sheets of bingo cards sold with the 6 sections on (six cards) and these are called "Flyers". Again you can buy just one section or 6 to suit your pocket or your experience. The flyers cost more per game than on the books but the prizes are usually worth a bit more.
In the large towns and cities Bingo is fairly "big business" and people play in deadly earnest, hoping to win that elusive jackpot. In small towns and villages itís much more of a social occasion with amateur callers and a lot lighter atmosphere.
Australia uses the same bingo cards as in the U.K. In Sydney and Melbourne the callers are incredibly fast. In Perth they call a lot slower.
The numbers are announced quickly by the Caller, so you must pay careful attention
to the numbers that are called and mark them quickly and accurately
on your card(s).
The caller keeps calling numbers until one or more players claim
BINGO. Then the game stops and the numbers are verified.
If there is a winner, the prize is awarded and a new bingo
game begins with new cards. If there is more than one winner, the
prize is split among all the winners.
In Las Vegas many variations including Letter X, Six Pack and
Coverall Bingo are offered.
Additionally, some places offer special progressive payouts
as high as $10,000.
Photo (right) courtesy Lancaster Bingo Company
Computers are changing the way we play the bingo game in bingo halls. In the past few years many bingo players have moved to portable, handheld bingo computers or devices that allow them to play multiple cards at the same time with ease.
Electronic bingo devices have a tracking mechanism so players will never miss a bingo, even if they are playing multiple cards.
Players using these devices simply listen for the caller to call the next number and then punch the corresponding key on the machine. The computer automatically scans the electronic bingo cards to see if the number called is there and marks it for all the cards that have that number.
If one of the cards gets a bingo, the player will know and it is up to him or her to alert the caller by shouting BINGO.
Different types of electronic bingo devices are available. One of the more advanced systems features a colour screen showing several bingo cards at a time and with sound effects.
Some handheld devices can hold up to 200 bingo cards per game. However, certain bingo halls may limit the number of cards that can be played at one time.
When playing online, your bingo cards are randomly selected for you. Most online games give you 3 or 4 cards. Other games let you take more.
Every online bingo game has a caller or a display board for the bingo numbers. The game pattern is also displayed. Some games automatically mark the numbers on your card for you.
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