How to Play Bingo
You probably learned how to play bingo as a child, but the excitement of being the first one to yell “Bingo!” doesn’t end in grade school. Newer trends like electronic bingo and online bingo open the game to new audiences, while some still prefer a traditional bingo hall with paper cards and daubers.
Some believe the key to winning at bingo lies in luck and superstition, while others believe the secret to success is found in advanced bingo strategies and “playing the odds.” Whatever your strategy, you’ll need to know our basic rules and etiquette.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you want to know about bingo, like:
While bingo became popular in the United States early in the twentieth century, the roots of the game stretch back to the year 1530. That’s when a state-run lottery called “Lo Gioco del Lotto d’Italia” started in Italy. (Interestingly, even to this day you can still play that lotto every Saturday.) The French picked up lotto in the late 1700s. One version used a playing card with nine columns and three rows, with four free spaces per row.
The caller reached into a bag and picked out wooden chips marked 1 through 90 (1 to 10 for the first column, 11 to 20 for the second, and so forth). The first player to cover one whole row was the winner. These lottery-type bingo games soon became a craze throughout Europe.
Bingo as we know it today was popularized by Edwin S. Lowe, a struggling but enterprising toy salesman from New York. Lowe observed a game called “Beano” at a country carnival in Atlanta, Georgia. The game was called Beano because players used dried beans to mark their cards as the numbers came up. When a player completed a line of numbers, he or she would stop the game by yelling “Beano!,” and that player would win a small prize.
Lowe saw that players were captivated by the game. Lowe himself was so spellbound by this new game that he brought it back home and introduced it to his friends. During one game, a lady got so excited by her win that she blurted out “Bingo!” instead of the accepted cry.
And just like that, bingo was born. “Lowe’s Bingo” became a sweeping success, and by the mid-1930s, bingo games were popping up all over the country, in part because churches and social clubs quickly realized the fund-raising potential.
Today, 48 states (and more than 100 Native American reservations) offer legal bingo on some scale. Games range from small enough to fit in a church basement to big enough to pack a 1,800-seat hall. In this article, we’ll discuss the basic equipment and rules used in bingo, and give you tips on how to improve your strategy. If you are looking for more places with new players, we’ll show you where to look. If you aren’t sure who your challengers will be or what kind of prizes can be at stake, check the overview below.
Bingo players come from all walks of life. There is no stereotypical bingo player. Most like to socialize, which is why they go to bingo, and they may also enjoy other competitive group activities, such as bowling, that combine fun and friends. Most regular players are over the age of 45, surveys show, but bingo is being discovered by young people every day as a new way to socialize. And both men and women enjoy playing the game, whether by themselves or with a spouse or friend. The bottom line? Bingo is fun for everyone.
The usual prize at bingo is cash, from $50 or $100 for a simple bingo at a small hall all the way up to $1 million or more in special high-stakes games on Native American reservations or in casinos. But the prize can also be a car, a trip, or even novelty prizes (in New York, one restaurant gives away margaritas to the lucky winners).
The size of the typical jackpot is based on how much money is coming in. Most halls are required to payout at least 50 to 60 percent of the money they take in. Likewise, the total money they can give out per game or session is often limited by state or local rules. In Georgia, for instance, halls can’t give out more than $1,100 on a single night, though many states are more generous than that. Louisiana, for example, allows $4,500 per session.
A progressive jackpot is a prize that keeps growing from game to game until somebody wins it. The house kicks off a progressive game by “seeding the pot” with an attractive amount of money — say $500 — instead of simply setting the jackpot as a percentage of card sales. To win the progressive, a player must have an extraordinary win, such as a blackout (covering every space on a bingo card) in only 49 balls. If no one wins, the house chips in extra money to sweeten the pot even more. The jackpot may get bumped up by $100 per game over a number of sessions or weeks.
Sometimes a progressive jackpot gets so big that the bingo hall by law has to cap it, and the prize stays at the same level until somebody wins. In some states, such as Michigan, there is no limit to how much money a player can win in progressive bingo.
The popularity of big prizes has allowed bingo to expand into more lucrative games. The most exciting new phenomenon in the bingo world is the spread of high-stakes games. There are literally dozens of halls scrambling to set up games that promise to pay $50,000, $100,000, or even $1 million to some lucky winner. The jackpots are so high that some hall owners take out insurance policies so they won’t go broke!
Some of the super-jackpots are set up to be “step games,” where the game pays different amounts depending on how quickly the winner gets a blackout. For example, a blackout in 49 numbers might pay $50,000, while a blackout in only 45 numbers would earn $100,000. Because it’s very hard to get a blackout in so few calls, it may be weeks or even months before anybody wins it.
The super-jackpots are usually winnable during certain sessions. For example, the Thunderbird Entertainment Center in Norman, Oklahoma, has a $100,000 payout game offered six sessions a week — five nights and one afternoon. In order to win this or other super-jackpots, players usually have to get a special pattern within a certain number of calls, and then they may have to play another game of chance, like spinning a wheel or picking an envelope off a prize board.
As you can imagine, the odds of winning are pretty slim, so it may be weeks, months, or years before somebody gets that top prize. Then again, somebody could win it on the first game of the first session on the first day it’s offered. Players who hit a big bingo in a super-jackpot don’t just walk away with a fat check. First, the bingo balls are collected and sent to an independent testing lab to make sure there has been no tampering, and the insurance company reviews a security videotape. The check is usually cut about 48 hours after the win. If the jackpot is less than $100,000, it may be paid out in a single lump sum, but larger jackpots are usually paid out in the form of yearly payments. Satellite bingo is another way bingo halls can offer larger jackpots. This is a linked bingo game played simultaneously at bingo halls in a certain area. An outside company links the bingo halls by satellite (hence the name of the game!). The prizes in satellite bingo games are often much larger than what individual halls could offer. Satellite bingo is only found in certain states, such as Washington, where the top prize in evening games is $50,000.
If you are interested in going home with some of those sweet winnings, it’s important that you understand the basics of the game. In the next section we’ll look at the game equipment and how it’s used.
Knowing the basics is the key to unlocking the excitement of bingo. If you’ve played before, you may think you already know everything . but how much are you missing? The information below will reintroduce you to the bingo equipment and how it’s used.
Bingo is basically a game of chance. Players use cards that feature five columns of five squares each, with every square containing a number (except the middle square, which is designated a “FREE” space). The object is to listen for the numbers that appear on the cards to be called. When one is called, the player marks the square. The first person to complete a predetermined pattern of marked numbers is the winner.
The columns are labeled B, I, N, G, and O. Letters always contain a certain range of numbers, as shown below.
|BINGO CARD BASICS|
|B||1 to 15|
|I||16 to 30|
|N||31 to 45|
|G||46 to 60|
|O||61 to 75|
Bingo players buy cardboard cards or disposable sheets printed with one or more card faces. The type of game cards used varies widely depending on the hall. Some halls still use traditional cardboard “hard cards,” or “all-night boards,” that can be marked with chips, tokens, or pennies. But most halls today use disposable strips or sheets of paper cards containing a set number of faces, such as six (known as a 6-on) or three (a 3-on).
The process of purchasing cards is called the “buy-in,” or, in other words, you pay money up front to buy cards to be used during a specific session. Sometimes the buy-in is for single-face, stand-alone cards, but, more often, the buy-in is for tear-off, disposable sheets of paper containing a number of card faces. Expect to spend anywhere from $1 to $20 for a minimum buy-in.
Some of the more popular calls are:
Legs Eleven for B-11
Sweet Sixteen for I-16
Two Little Ducks (Quack, Quack) for I-22
Any Way You Can Get It for O-69
A person known as the “caller” picks the numbers from a basket or blower and announces them to the players. It’s also the caller’s responsibility to announce the pattern of the game before calling the first ball. There are literally dozens of patterns from which to choose, and the pattern call changes from game to game. The two most common patterns are straight-line bingo and coverall, or blackout.
Straight-line bingo: In the simplest version, a player gets “bingo” with a five-number straight line stretching from one end of the card to the other. The line can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. The straight line may include the free space, in which case the player would only need to have four numbers called.
Coverall: Also called blackout, coverall is a typical jackpot game. The goal is to cover every number on the card within a certain number of calls. In a 49-number coverall, a coverall must occur within 49 calls, or else the game is over and nobody wins.
The caller selects each ball at random, sometimes from an electrically operated blower machine similar to what’s used to call state lotteries, or else from an old-time mechanical or manually operated cage. The blower may have a trap that automatically catches one or more balls at a time while the machine is running. A rush of air blows balls into a chute, then the bingo caller selects the first one and announces the letter/number combination to all of the players.
There are 75 balls in the machine, and each one is printed with a letter from the word “bingo” and a number from 1 to 75. All of the balls are essentially the same size, shape, weight, and balance, so that during the bingo game, each ball has an equal chance of being pulled.
Once a number is called, the ball may be displayed on a closed-circuit television system with monitors around the room. Then, the corresponding light on the big overhead scoreboard is activated. The scoreboard, which may also display a lighted diagram of the pattern in play, is there so players can keep track of numbers already called. Some halls still have an old, nonelectric tote board that serves the same purpose.
After the numbers are announced and put on the scoreboard, you need to know how to mark your cards.
As each number is called, players scan their cards, and if they have the number, they mark it with a token or a dauber (a special penlike ink stamper). The easiest way to mark a disposable paper card is to use a dauber. Daubers have become an essential tool of the modern bingo player. To use the dauber, players simply remove the cap and press the wide, foam-rubber tip firmly on the square containing the called number, producing a large, round color smudge. The advantages of the dauber are that it’s quick, permanent (nobody bumping the table is going to send your chips flying), and easy to see, so you can ignore marked boxes and concentrate on the rest of the card.
Dauber trends: For dauber ink, it’s purple — that’s according to BK Entertainment, a bingo supply company that sells more than 40 billion bingo cards a year. Daubers typically contain 21/2 to 4 ounces of ink, which is offered in a variety of colors, including blue, red, green, magenta, teal, and, of course, purple. That’s enough colors for a six-pack, which some players in fact do keep with them — one for each game in a session. The trend is now toward bolder, richer colors, such as bright orange. New fast-dry inks are available to keep players from messing up their hands and shirtsleeves. Wondering what to get your favorite bingo aficionado? Dauber four-packs make a thoughtful present!
When you have your equipment in place, you are almost ready to play. In the next section, we’ll look at the basic rules and etiquette to prepare you for almost any bingo game.
What happens when somebody gets the bingo card pattern? The customary way to announce that you’ve won is simply to yell “Bingo!” loud enough for the caller to hear. Once bingo is called, an assistant (sometimes called a floor walker) will come to the table right away to verify the bingo.
The floor walker will call out the winning numbers for the caller to verify or, in fancier setups, will simply call out an identification number on the card, which the caller punches into a computer that automatically verifies or rejects the bingo. Depending on where you play, the winning bingo card may be posted for the remainder of the night so other players can inspect it. Disputes are not that common — either you bingo or you don’t — but when discrepancies pop up, the bingo manager usually has the final say.
If two people call bingo on the same number, the jackpot is split evenly between them. Likewise, if three people call it, the house divides the pot three ways.
Common Rules Since no two bingo halls operate exactly the same way, it’s a good idea to read the posted rules thoroughly before the session begins. Be sure to look for special handouts; any extra printed rules for the night supersede what is posted.
Whatever you do, don’t try to alter a bingo card! It’s not worth it, and no experienced bingo manager or caller will fall for it. Many, if not most, halls will be happy to make an example of anyone caught cheating, prosecuting to the full extent of the law. Play it safe by following the rules and being honest. Below are some common rules you may encounter:
- In most halls, players must be 18 years of age or older.
- Some halls prohibit alcoholic beverages, while others will sell beer along with soft drinks. Outside food and drinks are usually frowned upon, since most establishments want you to buy their hot dogs, chips, and soda.
- During special high-stakes games, management may prohibit players from entering and leaving the hall.
- Reserving specific cards may not be allowed.
- Typically, people are not allowed to sit and watch while friends or relatives play; each seated person may be required to have their own buy-in. Some halls may require seated players to have an attendance ticket in plain view while they play.
- If a player has bingo, it’s up to him or her to stop play before the next number is called by announcing “bingo!” loud enough for the caller to hear. It’s important to know that bingo must be claimed on the most-recent number called. If the caller has already started announcing the next ball, it’s too late to call bingo. Likewise, as soon as the caller closes the game and drops the balls for the next game, any missed bingos become invalid.
One practical point: Bring a photo ID in case you hit the big one. For large jackpots, players might have to produce a Social Security card as well and fill out earnings and tax reporting forms on the spot. Also, the hall may reserve the right to publicize winners or winning cards.
Bingo Etiquette Bingo players are a friendly lot who will be more than glad to talk you through any bingo problems you might have. But don’t forget that you’re on their turf. Miss Manners doesn’t have much to say about bingo specifically, so here are some tips to follow to avoid stepping on any toes as you make your way through the bingo hall.
Pipe down. The most important of all unwritten rules. You’ll notice that regular players pipe down instantly as soon as the caller gets down to business.
Watch out for lucky seats . Some players are very particular about where they sit. If you grab a seat that happens to be a lucky one, you might be asked to move. It’s a good idea to go along with the request.
Don’t be a parrot. Some people have a habit of repeating numbers as they are called. This might help them concentrate, but it can be very distracting for other players. Try to keep talking and extra noise to an absolute minimum while numbers are being called.
Keep kids quiet. Most people will understand if you have to bring the kids, but they won’t tolerate rambunctious youngsters running around and yelling while they are trying to concentrate. Bring an activity or three to keep your children occupied while you play. Sometimes, the hall may offer “fun” bingo cards to keep the kiddies occupied.
Don’t take out your frustrations on the caller. Occasionally, players on a losing streak have been known to express their displeasure by yelling “change the caller” or making other derisive or sarcastic comments the caller can hear. Chill out! The caller can’t control destiny. If there is a genuine caller problem, try saying, “Louder, please” or “Slow down, please” loudly but politely. If that doesn’t work, take the problem to the bingo manager.
Think before you call bingo. Calling bingo stops the flow of the game. If it’s a false bingo, regular players might get exasperated with you, particularly if they’ve already started crumpling up the last game’s paper sheets in frustration.
Only smoke in the designated areas. Smoking and bingo are inseparable in the minds of many enthusiasts, and in fact, bingo halls may be the last indoor establishments in America that welcome smokers. But for some players, cigarette smoke can ruin enjoyment of the game or even make them feel sick, especially in a poorly ventilated hall. Try to respect the nonsmoker’s space.
First-time and infrequent bingo players can get in sinc with a game quickly by following the playing tips of seasoned players mentioned in the next section.
It’s time to learn what seasoned bingo professionals already know . The game is steeped in ritual, rules, and special game variations. A first-timer is bound to get bewildered without some sort of guidance. The following are a variety of pointers that will help you get in the groove quickly. Arrive early. It’s common practice for regular players to arrive at the hall one or two hours before the session begins. This gives them ample time to get their favorite seat, prepare their cards (by fastening them down or predaubing spaces not needed for the pattern), grab a snack, set up their good-luck trinkets, play some pull-tabs, or gossip and play gin rummy with other regulars. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn more about the best or worst games in town. As you meet people, you’ll get to hear war stories and find out about the popular places in town to play bingo. Take what you hear with a grain of salt, though. People might make broad statements about a certain hall just because they went one time and lost. Or they might say, “I love that hall — I won six times!” However, it’s wise to also ask that person just how much they have lost there! Be prepared . Bring tape or a glue stick. Slippery tables can be a pain when you’re trying to concentrate on your cards. A roll of adhesive tape should solve that. Likewise, a glue stick might be a good investment. Sit close to the caller. The faster you get information, the better. By sitting near the caller, you may be able to sneak a peek at the next ball as it pops out of the chute. This is a totally acceptable practice, so feel free to take advantage of it. However, be aware that you can’t call bingo until after the number is announced by the caller. Stay alert . Stay on your toes, because if you cover the pattern on B-7 but don’t yell “bingo” before the next number is called, you lose. For somebody who has spent all night at the tables, it’s a personal tragedy to “sleep a bingo.” (Somebody who hollers “bingo” after the next number has been called is known as a sleeper.) Keep your wits about you. Some bingo halls serve alcoholic drinks along with the usual assortment of snacks and refreshments. Enjoy in moderation, if that’s what you like, but always remember that alcohol can impair your judgment. Don’t rely on your bingo judgment to be the best under the influence of alcohol. You don’t want to wake up the next morning wondering what happened to that paycheck you just cashed! Speak up. Don’t be afraid to call the caller. If it seems like the caller is whizzing through the numbers, you may be playing too many cards. But the caller could be new, or he or she may simply be tired and hoping to get the game done quickly. If you know you can play six faces comfortably but you’re having trouble keeping up, don’t be afraid to speak up. Know the rules. If someone gets a bingo unfairly (for example, they don’t call bingo loud enough for the caller to stop the game but they are awarded the pot anyway), citing the rules may mean the difference between you having a chance to win and the game ending right there. Get some exercise. A lot of people say exercise makes them sharper and better able to concentrate. Exercise also combats the dreaded “seat spread” caused by excessive bingo snack consumption. Be warned, however, that a brisk walk around the parking lot probably won’t cut it. Researchers in Victoria, Australia, found that six minutes of aerobic exercise had no effect on how mentally sharp bingo players were compared with their pre-exercise scores.
How to Hone Your Mental Skills
A big surprise to bingo beginners is how often they have to slap their forehead because they missed a chance to fill in a square on one of their cards. For bingo “professionals,” however, missed calls are kept to a minimum thanks to a combination of concentration and mental skills that become second nature from repeated play. Below are a few tips to try out. Ignore the numbers on the left side of the square. By reading the numbers on the card backward, you may save a little time. For example, if the number called is B-12, scan the right-hand side of the B column for 2’s. When you see one, glance to the left for a 1. Pay attention to the pattern. It can be tricky to keep up with the caller while remembering to check for the pattern. It’s not unusual at all for a beginner to get bingo and not realize it, simply because their card is so daubed up that they don’t even see the pattern. Predaub all the squares you don’t need. Don’t forget that in certain games, many of the spaces don’t matter. If the game pattern is picture frame (all the squares along the four edges of the card), try predaubing all the inside numbers to help you mentally block out the rest of the card and concentrate on the important spaces. That can mean a lot of daubing in a 12-card game of little diamond (the four squares immediately up, down, left, and right of the free space), but the slight edge you gain from predaubing might allow you to comfortably track additional sheets.
Eventually, as you develop the mental skills that come with repeated play, you may find you don’t get any benefit from predaubing. You may be able to simply visualize the pattern as your eyes dart from card to card. Rely on backup. If you’re still having trouble keeping up with complicated patterns, consider bringing a yellow highlighter to mark the daubable spaces.
Now that you know some basic rules and how to keep up with seasoned players, where can you play bingo? Let’s find out in the last section.
There are literally thousands of places to play bingo, from community churches and schools to casinos and Native American mega-halls. The best way to find a bingo is to crack open the yellow pages and look under the listings for “Bingo,” “Bingo Halls,” and “Halls & Auditoriums.” If that doesn’t work, try the Bingo Bugle’s Local Game Finder at www.bingobugle.com to see if any games are listed in your area.
You may also want to check out the bingo search engines on the Internet, which list selected bingo halls by state. And, the Aruba Publishing Bingo Directory ( www.bingo-directory.com , 888-246-4650) is a travel guide listing more than 7,000 halls, with listings verified every six months. Below is just a sampling of places to play across the United States. It is by no means complete, and it is not a “best” bingo hall listing — it is a sampling of good, well-respected halls. Be sure to call to get the most up-to-date schedules and specials.
Mohawk Bingo Palace
202 State Route 37, P. O. Box 720
Akwesasne, NY 13655
Mohawk caters to regulars in New York and across the border in Canada, featuring regular daily bingo, high-stakes bingo, and video bingo machines in the Crystal Game Room. Semi-regular features include a 7 p.m. “Odd Ball” game on Sunday — bingo on an odd number wins $750, bingo on an even number $500 (packages $25 and $30). Seasonal special events, such as a recent bingo marathon of 50 games including 32 regular games paying $1,000 each (packages $79 and $99). Senior bingo held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Braille bingo cards available. Foxwoods Resort Casino
39 Norwich-Westerly Road
Mashantucket, CT 06338
Bingo is just part of the mix at Foxwoods, which has five separate casinos, 41 restaurants and shops, and more than 1,400 rooms. When not playing golf or checking out the headline entertainers, guests can play bingo in a large hall, participate in tournaments, or try video bingo. Matinee sessions start at 10:30 a.m., evening sessions at 6:30 p.m. Southeast Region Napoleon Room Bingo Hall
4631 W. Napoleon Ave.
Metairie, LA 70001
Located just outside New Orleans, Napoleon Room offers daily sessions that include progressive jackpots and “high-roller” speed bingo. Giveaway per session is $4,500, the maximum allowed by law in Louisiana. Buy-in of $10 for daytime speed games and 7 p.m. regular games. The 10 p.m. high-roller game is a $15 buy-in for four cards. Each game has a $1,000 coverall featuring a chance to win a $50,000 progressive jackpot. Gretna Bingo Palace
1900 Franklin Ave.
Gretna, LA 70053
One of five major commercial halls in New Orleans, Gretna Bingo is the source of revenue for eight of the Mardi Gras parades that make the Big Easy famous. A total of 26 sessions a week are held, including late-night sessions beginning at 1 a.m. AmVets Post 10
1001 Winterville Road
Athens, GA 30605
AmVets offers games on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and games starting at 7:30 p.m. Giveaways differ each session. Another good place to play in Athens is the VFW Club 2872 (835 Sunset Drive, 706-546-5978, games at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday). Bingo Madness
7139 S. U.S. Highway 1
Port St. Lucie, FL 34952
This is a friendly bingo hall and arcade within driving distance of Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and West Palm Beach. Bingo is offered all day, seven days a week. Lightning bingo every afternoon and evening. Payouts of more than $6,000 daily. Daily specials, including Good Neighbor Night (player to the left or right of the winner gets a gift) and King & Queen Night (first single male/female winner receives a prize every time “their” number comes up). New customers get a free dauber courtesy of the Bingo Madness staff. Midwest Region Oneida Bingo & Casino
2020/2100 Airport Drive
Green Bay, WI 54313
This northern-Wisconsin high-stakes hall features games daily at 10 a.m. and evenings (6 p.m. weekdays, 5 p.m. weekends). Friday Night Owls session starts at 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday Night Owls sessions start at 9 p.m. The hall seats 850 players per session and includes a smoke-free area. The $250,000 “JumbOneida” 47-ball blackout is played every session (jackpot drops to $2,000 in 49 numbers, $1,500 in 50-55 numbers, and $1,000 thereafter). Lucky Seven pays $500 on the same card. Big Top Bingo
901 25th Street South
Fargo, ND 58103
Big Top Bingo proceeds support Fargo’s Plains Art Museum. Sessions include brunch, matinee, afternoon, evening, moonlight, and red-eye, with typical blackout jackpots from $500 to $1,800. Evening sessions start with early-bird games at 6:10 p.m.; regular games start at 7 p.m. Stop-and-daub sessions Monday through Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. (a straight bingo within 10 numbers wins $200). India Shrine Bingo
India Shrine Temple
3601 NW 36th St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73112
Bingo every Thursday at 6 p.m. Mini-games are followed by regular sessions at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds go to the India Temple Transportation Fund (pays for transporting children to Shrine Hospitals). Session packs are $5 and $8; special games are $1 each or three for $2. Progressive jackpots up to $1,199. Northwest/Alaska Region Coeur d’Alene Tribal Bingo/Casino
Worley, ID 83876
Besides boxing and concerts, the Coeur d’Alene Casino hosts $30,000 bingo sessions and more than 400 video pull-tab machines. Free shuttles from Spokane, Washington, 30 minutes away. Bingo hours are from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Shoshone-Bannock Gaming
I-15 Exit 80, Simplot Road
Fort Hall, ID 83203
This casino/bingo hall is located one hundred miles from Yellowstone Park. Wednesday and Thursday’s budget bingo sessions start at 6:00 p.m. and have a $10 buy-in. On Saturdays the Early Bird session starts at 5:30 p.m. Regular bingo starts at 7:00 p.m. with a $30 buy-in. Night Owl bingo, which starts at 10:30 p.m., has a $6 buy-in. On Sundays, there’s a $10 buy-in for the 12:30 p.m. Early Bird session. Regular bingo starts at 2:00 p.m. with a $20 buy-in. There’s also bingo on Fridays, but not on Mondays or Tuesdays. Southwest Region San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino
777 San Manuel Blvd.
Highland, CA 92346
San Manuel Bingo claims to have given away more than $1 billion in prizes since 1986, including a few jackpots in the five- and six-digit range. The massive 2,500-seat bingo hall, which has an enclosed nonsmoking section, offers sessions daily starting at 2:30 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends. Daily specials. On Tuesday, for example, it’s Triple Action Bingo with a $15 single buy-in that includes two 6-ons with three payouts for all 15 regular games, with a top payline of $1,500. Closed on Thursdays. SCC Florin Road Bingo
2350 Florin Road
Sacramento, CA 95822
Maximum payout of $250 on all games. Evening sessions starting at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.) Friday through Wednesday (closed Thursday), with late-morning sessions on Wednesday and Sunday and late-night sessions on weekends. The late-night Saturday session is Bullet Bingo, a fast-paced three-number bingo game worth $25 to $250 or the progressive jackpot. The cool Web site lets players submit their own patterns they want to see played in the hall. Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall
5111 Boulder Highway
Las Vegas, NV 89122
Sam’s Town, one of at least 18 places to play bingo in Las Vegas, holds 10 paper card/dauber sessions daily on the second floor. The first session starts at 9:00 a.m. and the last at 11 p.m. The Hot Ball progressive jackpot starts at $250 and increases with each session until won.
You didn’t think bingo was this involved, did you? Well, now that you know about the basics of the game, you are prepared to try for whatever jackpot you have your eye on. And you don’t have to be limited to neighborhood games.
Many of the patterns listed below can be designated “crazy,” as in crazy snake. That simply means the snake pattern can be pointing any direction on the card. Thus, a T pattern can only be won straight up and down (just the way a capital T is written), but a crazy T can be won on its side or even upside down. Likewise, any pattern designated “the hard way” simply means the free space cannot be used in the winning pattern. To keep the game interesting, most halls will change the patterns frequently. Some of the patterns can get pretty creative; the biggest problem with this is that trying to find a complex pattern on a dozen cards at once is an acquired skill. If the pattern is complicated, don’t worry — it’s likely to be printed in a program or displayed on a lighted electronic board overhead, and it certainly will be explained by the caller prior to the game. But that still doesn’t make it any easier for an inexperienced player to pick out the pattern when there are blotches all over their card. It’s very important that you pay close attention to your cards in complicated games, or else you may reach bingo and not even realize it until it’s too late. This happens all the time! One way to keep things simple is to break down a pattern into its elements. The following are descriptions of popular patterns grouped by similarities. In some cases, you’ll find suggestions for how you might think of the patterns in order to simplify things while scanning your cards. Pay attention to special rules (for example, the two lines in double regular bingo need not run parallel to each other).
Straight Line Patterns
In one-line bingo, also called regular bingo, a player simply needs to cover five numbers in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. In two lines, or double regular bingo, the lines do not necessarily need to run the same direction. The same is true for triple regular bingo, where it’s possible to win with one horizontal, one vertical, and one diagonal line.
Line Combo Patterns
These patterns can be thought of as special configurations of double and triple bingo. Two horizontal or vertical lines together make up railroad tracks. Asterisk is the two diagonals plus the vertical line down the center; add the horizontal line through the middle for starburst. Bow tie is just four lines: two diagonals, plus a vertical line down each edge.
Take a look. While this might seem like alphabet soup, it’s just more straight-line combos. Remember, if the letter is designated “crazy,” the pattern can be formed right-side up, upside down, or lying on either side.
Lucky Seven Patterns
Lucky seven is a double bingo consisting of the horizontal line along the top edge of the card plus the diagonal line from top right to bottom left, forming — yes, you guessed it — the number seven.
Coverall, Odd-Even, Speedball Patterns
Usually, coverall, also known as blackout, is used for a large, progressive jackpot. Players try to daub off all 24 numbered spaces on a card within a specific number of calls. In a 51-number blackout, for example, a player must cover all 24 spaces in 51 calls. If no one accomplishes this, the game ends and the jackpot rolls over. As mentioned earlier, some jurisdictions prohibit progressive jackpots; in that case, coveralls are played until someone hits bingo, regardless of how many balls are called. In odd-even, a variation of coverall, the caller instructs players to blot out all even (or odd) numbers, and then calls only odd (or even) numbers until someone wins. The caller will usually use the day of the month, a ball drawn from the blower, or some other method to determine whether the game is set at odd or even. Speedball is a fast-paced version of coverall in which the caller rapidly calls out numbers one after the other until one player covers all spaces. The caller may even omit the letters to make it more challenging.
Picture Frame Patterns
A picture frame pattern includes every space along the edge of the card. Broken picture frame is every other space along the edge, starting with the corners. An inside frame is a small box inside what would be the larger picture frame area.
Little diamond is a four-square pattern that includes the squares immediately to the top, bottom, left, and right of the free space. The points of the eight-square big diamond touch the center square of each side.
Postage Stamp/Double Postage Stamp Patterns
In a postage stamp pattern, to win you need to cover four squares in a corner. In single postage stamp, players usually need to have the top right corner covered (so the board looks like an envelope that’s ready to mail). Double postage stamp can include any two corners.
Six-Pack/Block of Eight Patterns
These patterns are groupings similar to that of postage stamp. Six-pack is made up of two rows of three squares, just like a six-pack of soda or beer. Make that two rows of four squares each for block of eight. (Block of nine, as one would expect, is three rows of three squares each.)
Kite (Magic Wand)/Arrow Patterns
These are basically more variations on the postage stamp pattern. Kite is a four-square box in one corner (the kite), plus a diagonal line all the way to the opposite corner (the tail of the kite). A “crazy” kite is one in which the tail points to any of the four corners. Arrow looks a little bit like kite, but it consists of a six-square triangle instead of a four-square box.
American Flag/Castle Patterns
American flag and castle are two horizontal bingo variations. American flag covers the top three lines plus a two-square flagpole at the bottom. The flagpole may be on the left or right. A castle covers the bottom two rows of the bingo card, as well as every other square in the middle row. As you can see, this creates the look of turrets on a castle.
The snake pattern consists of a zigzag line of five squares along the top edge of the card, starting with the second square in the B column. Remember, a crazy snake is the same pattern, but it can start in any of the corners.
Now that you are familiar with potential bingo card patterns, let’s look at how players try to increase the mathematical odds of their numbers being called.
Calculating odds in bingo is theoretically very simple — it’s the number of cards you’re playing divided by the total number of cards in play. So if 100 cards are in play, and you have 4 cards, your chances of winning are 4 in 100, or 4 percent. The trick is being able to count how many cards are in play in a game. You can do a head count and multiply that number by what you think is the average number of cards per person, but this can be easier said than done. However, these odds don’t apply to progressive jackpot games. Remember that in most progressive games, a winner is not guaranteed. So, the odds of winning a progressive jackpot depend more on the difficulty of covering the pattern in the predetermined number of calls. The odds are so steep in some progressive games that it may be weeks or even months before somebody wins.
Which Numbers Come Up Most Often?
Everyone wants to know: “What’s the secret to knowing which balls will come up most often?” The answer is simple. No single ball has a greater chance of appearing in a game than any other ball, provided that the balls are manufactured correctly, that no one is tampering with the balls, and that the blower machine is loaded with a complete set of 75 balls. Think about it. If you flip a coin three times, it may come up heads twice and tails once. For that extremely small slice of time, it’s true that heads is coming up more often. But if you flipped that coin for three hours straight, the laws of probability say that the number of heads and tails counted would be almost identical. Now, let’s suppose that, in a two-hour bingo session, N-31 comes up four times while N-42 is never called. It would appear that everybody who wants to win should collect cards that contain N-31. Hold your horses! Over the course of a dozen sessions, or two dozen sessions, there’s not going to be much difference at all between the number of times N-31 is called versus the number of times N-42 is called. It’s just a coincidence that one was called more than the other for that short period of time.
So What Can You Do to Win?
It can’t hurt to try to tip the mathematical balance in your favor by using the following tips.
Avoid the crowds : Since odds depend on the number of cards in play in a game, a poorly attended game can be a rare treat. There’s less competition for the jackpot, and, legally, bingo halls have to award the prizes they advertise regardless of how many people show up.
Play when bad weather or bad timing keeps crowds away.
Play at off times. If you frequent a hall long enough, you might get a sense for picking the sessions that are quieter than others. Depending on the hall, the quiet times might be midweek, midafternoon, late-night, or holidays when everyone leaves town or is with their family. The question is, do you really want to go to the 1:00 a.m. bingo just so you’ll have a slightly better chance of winning a jackpot? It’s possible you’ll be surrounded by a bunch of bleary-eyed bingo players who are all hoping the same thing, which means — you guessed it — there goes your edge. Another possibility to keep in mind is that the attendance for these games may be low because the jackpots aren’t great. It would be a good idea to do a little research before you settle on a game.
Play multiple cards : The conventional wisdom among bingo players is that you should buy as many cards as you can handle at a time, without breaking the bank. This way, you’ll increase your chances to win. Also, as players get better and more experienced, many like to keep the excitement alive and avoid boredom by keeping themselves busy with many cards. But does playing multiple cards increase your odds of winning? The simple answer is: yes. Say you’re 1 of 100 people playing bingo, and everyone has bought 4 cards each. That’s 400 cards. Looking around, you sense an opportunity: Buy more cards! So you purchase 20 cards, or 5 times as many cards as anyone else. Now there are 420 cards in play. In any given game, you have 20 chances out of 420 to win, or about a 4.8 percent chance. The other players each have only 4 chances out of 420 to win, just under 1 percent. While the math works in your favor in terms of chances, you must be aware that playing multiple cards also gives you the opportunity to lose more money. Remember, you are paying a lot more for a buy-in than the other players. The fact is, every single card in play in every single game has an equal chance of hitting bingo. There’s nothing wrong with playing four or even eight cards, depending on how much money you are willing to risk. A good rule of thumb is to check out how many cards everybody else is playing, and shoot for the average. Then, if adding a few cards makes the game more enjoyable for you, by all means, increase your buy-in for the next game or session. But in the end, don’t play more cards than you can comfortably track at one time.
Choose nonduplicate cards: Since no bingo card features any number more than once, every single card has the same odds of winning a game. Some players, however, try to maximize their chances of winning by choosing cards that don’t duplicate the numbers they already have on other cards. In choosing cards with different numbers, they are hoping at least one of their cards will feature the number called.
Hold your cards over : Some halls let players retain the same cards from session to session. Is this to your benefit? Well, some players think it may be. They think that playing the same cards over and over will increase their chances of winning. This may be because they have won before with that particular set of cards, or it may be just the opposite: They haven’t won yet with that set, and they feel they are “due.” Even if you’ve won quite a bit with a specific set of cards, you should also consider how many times you haven’t won while playing that set. If you play more, it’s likely you’ll rack up more wins — but you’ll also probably lose more, and you may be less likely to acknowledge the losses. Another possible benefit to holding your cards over is that you may become familiar with them, giving you a slight edge when it comes to looking for the numbers.
Stay alert : You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Pay attention! If you don’t hear the numbers that are called, or if you forget what pattern you are trying to cover, you can’t possibly win.
Keep a positive attitude: Good things seem to happen to people who don’t dwell on the bad. No one knows why. Some people even believe they can will events into happening if they just imagine it often enough. So try having a positive attitude. Why not? The worst that can happen is that you’ll enjoy the bingo game more!
Got a lucky bingo rabbit’s foot? In the next section, let’s examine some “alternative” ways that bingo players use to increase their odds.
Compared to bingo beginners, elderly experts had developed a special mental skill for spotting the called numbers and the patterns at the same time. Dr. Krauss found out that the novice player first scans for the number, then looks for the pattern, while seasoned players see the patterns forming as they are daubing the card. That’s an important skill to have, since cards in pl ay get so marked up that beginners may not even see that they have bingo.Bingo is a game of chance. Find out all about the equipment, where to play and, most important, how to improve your playing strategy. ]]>