Bingo is a game of chance played with randomly drawn numbers which players match against numbers that have been pre-printed on 5x5 matrices. The matrices may be printed on paper, card stock or electronically represented and are referred to as cards. Many versions conclude the game when the first person achieves a specified pattern from the drawn numbers. The winner is usually required to call out the word “Bingo!”, which alerts the other players and caller of a possible win. All wins are checked for accuracy before the win is officially confirmed at which time the prize is secured and a new game is begun. In this version of bingo, players compete against one another for the prize or jackpot.
The most common Bingo cards are flat pieces of cardboard or disposable paper which contain 25 squares arranged in five vertical columns and five horizontal rows. Each space in the grid contains a number.
A typical Bingo game utilizes the numbers 1 through 75. The five columns of the card are labeled ‘B’, ‘I’, ‘N’, ‘G’, and ‘O’ from left to right. The center space is usually marked “Free” or “Free Space”, and is considered automatically filled. The range of printed numbers that can appear on the card is normally restricted by column, with the ‘B’ column only containing numbers between 1 and 15 inclusive, the ‘I’ column containing only 16 through 30, ‘N’ containing 31 through 45, ‘G’ containing 46 through 60, and ‘O’ containing 61 through 75.
In U-Pick’Em bingo and other variants of bingo, players are issued three 25 number cards which contain all 75 numbers that may be drawn. Players then mark which numbers they wish to play and then daub those numbers according to the numbers drawn. In addition, double-action cards have two numbers in each square.
In addition to a straight line, many bingo halls may consider other patterns as a valid bingo, usually in special games. For example, the 2x2 square of marked squares in the upper right-hand corner would be considered a “postage stamp”. Another common special game requires players to cover the four corners. There are several other patterns, such as a Roving ‘L’, which requires players to cover all B’s and top or bottom row or all O’s and top or bottom row. Another common pattern is a blackout, covering all 24 numbers and the free space.
The numbers which are called in a game of bingo may be drawn utilizing a number of methods to randomly generate the ball call. With the expansion of computer technology in bingo, electronic random number generators are now common place in most jurisdictions. However, some jurisdictions require mechanical ball draws which may utilize a randomly shuffled deck of bingo calling cards, a mechanical ball blower that mixes ping pong balls with blown air or a cage which is turned to mix small wooden balls. All methods essentially generate a random string of numbers by which players match to their bingo cards.
Single games often have multiple bingos; for example, the players first plays for a single line; after that, play goes on until a full card is called; then, play continues for a consolation full card.
Players often play multiple cards for each game; 30 is not an unusual number. Because of the large numbers of cards played by each player, most halls have the players sit at tables to which they often fasten their cards with adhesive tape. At commercial halls, after calling the number the caller then displays the next number on a television monitor; bingo cannot be called until that number is called aloud, however.
Ready/Waiting/Cased/Set/Down/Chance – When someone only needs one number in order to complete the Bingo pattern, he/she is considered to be Ready, Waiting, Cased, Set, Down or ‘has a chance’.
Breaking the Bubble – The bubble is the minimum number of balls required to complete the Bingo pattern. This is the earliest point any player could have a valid bingo. Example: Winning pattern is 1 hard way bingo, a straight line without the free space. The minimum number of called numbers is 5 although it is not considered Breaking the Bubble until 1 number in each column or 5 numbers in a single column have been called.
Jumping the Gun – One who calls bingo before having a valid bingo. The most common situation is someone calling bingo using the next number in the screen before it has been called.
Wild numbers – Many bingo halls will have certain games with a wild number. Wild numbers allow bingo players to start with multiple called numbers. Typically the first ball drawn is the determining factor.
Standard – All numbers ending with the second digit of the first number. Example: First ball is 22. All numbers ending in a 2 including B2 is considered a called number.
Forwards/backwards – All numbers beginning or ending with the wild number. Example: First ball is 22. All numbers beginning or ending with a 2 is considered a called number. If the first ball ends with an 8, 9 or 0, another number may be drawn as there are no numbers starting with a 8 or 9 and only 9 numbers starting with a zero. Some halls will also redraw a number ending with a 7 as there are only six numbers beginning with a 7.
False Alarm – Term used when one calls bingo but is mistaken. This could be because of mishearing the caller or stamping the wrong number by mistake. One who calls a “falsie” genuinely believes he/she has a bingo. This is also known as a “social error.” Another term used for this is a “bongo.”
Hard Way Bingo – A hard-way bingo is a bingo pattern in a straight line without the use of the free space.
U-Pick’Em bingo – A common form of bingo which allows players to mark the numbers they wish to monitor for a win. While this game closely resembles Keno, a game invented by the Chinese which predates the Han Dynasty, it is recognized as a variant of bingo and is permitted in almost all jurisdictions.
Quick Shot bingo – A game where numbers are pre-drawn and players purchase sealed bingo cards which are then matched against the pre-drawn numbers. If a specified pattern is achieved, then the player usually wins a prize according to a prize table. Some versions are played until a player achieves a top level prize and then new numbers are drawn and the game begins anew. This type of bingo may be played over days, weeks or months depending on the difficulty of achieving a top level prize.
Bonanza bingo – Typically 43 numbers are pre-drawn at the beginning of a bingo session. The numbers pre-drawn can be odd,even or the first 43 numbers that pop out the machine. Players purchase cards and mark out all even,odd or pre-drawn numbers. At a designated time, the caller asks if anyone has bingo. If no one does, the caller then draws one ball at a time until someone shout bingo. This game is sometimes played as a “progressive” game, where the jackpot increases if no one hits bingo before the desired amount of balls are called. If no one has achieved bingo before or on the desired ball count then the game is played again in another session in which the desired ball count increases by one and the jackpot is increased also. The player who hits bingo after the desired ball count does not win the jackpot but does win a consolation prize. If a player does hit bingo in the right amount of numbers then they win all the money in the jackpot. The ball count goes back to 43 after the jackpot is won and the ball count increases by one until the jackpot is won again.
Horse racing bingo – Up to 15 players are randomly issued a number from 1 to 15 which corresponds with the top row of the bingo flashboard. Numbers are then drawn and the first person to have all five numbers in their column be drawn wins. This is a fast paced and exciting form of bingo typically played in fraternal organizations.
Table bingo – With the expansion of Tribal gaming across the US, there are numerous versions of bingo which now emulate the fast action of casino like table games but utilize the principals of bingo where players mark and monitor matrices cards with chips. Casino games like Roulette, Acey Duecy and Money Wheel have bingo counterparts which are permitted to be played under bingo licenses in many parts of the country.
Electronic bingo – The advent of computer technology in bingo has blurred the lines between traditional slot machines and bingo slot machines. To the average person, bingo-based slot machines are physically indistinguishable from an RNG based slot machine typically seen in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. These devices are commonly called Class II machines, because the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act separated bingo, including electronic and mechanical aids, where players play against each other, from Class III slot machines, where player play against the house.
Death bingo – An inverted game where a player that gets a bingo is eliminated and knocked out of the game. The winner being the player that fills out the most spaces on their board as possible before getting a bingo.