Bingo Tips and Rules: Expert Guide

Guide to playing bingo.

Our Bingo guide will tell you everything you need to know about this popular game. From the history of bingo to easy instructions on how to play and tips you can use, you will find all the information you need right here.

The Origins of Bingo

The origins of bingo can be traced back to mid-16th century Italy. This lottery-style game was known by the more melodic name Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia or Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia. The game spread across the continent, becoming a favourite of wealthy French noblemen by the 1770s (known as Le Lotto) and being used as an educational tool in Germany by the early 19th century. 

By the 1920s, the game had reached North America. A county fair stall run by Hugh J. Ward featured a game called Beano, which used actual beans to cover numbered squares. Edwin S. Lowe, a New York toy salesman, (also responsible for developing Yahtzee) saw the game at a carnival and recreated it at home to play with family and friends. Renaming it Bingo instead of Beano (numerous versions of this most famous of misheard words exist), he hired Carl Leffler, a Columbia University Maths Professor, to develop the bingo card and reduce the odds of repeating numbers. Leffler developed more than 6,000 distinct bingo cards and was rumoured to have been driven insane by the process.

Throughout the US, the game gained popularity as a way for churches to raise funds while engaging in a version of legal gaming with their parishioners. The first recorded charity bingo games were played in the basement of a Catholic Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1930, and by 1934, an estimated 10,000 bingo games were being played weekly.

In Great Britain, bingo gained huge levels of popularity in the 1960s, after the British Betting and Gaming Act legalised social gaming. Originally known as Housey-Housey, people finishing work would relax and socialise by visiting their local club. Here they could drink, talk, watch entertainment such as singers or comedians and then join in a game of bingo. At the time of this writing, the UK has more than 600 licensed bingo clubs and the National Bingo Game is played every day, except for Christmas.

Six colourful bingo cards.

The Rules of Bingo

Bingo is a game of probability. You begin by purchasing a card to play, which contains a selection of numbers. Numbers then get called at random. When they are present on your card, you eliminate them. The aim is to cross off off a predetermined line, pattern (4 corners, letter X, letter T, etc.), or all the numbers on the card before others do to claim a prize.

Bingo, (also known as 75-Card Bingo and Pattern Bingo), is played on a 5×5 grid with 25 squares (24 numbered squares and one blank square in the middle). The five horizontal columns are identified by a letter, running from left to right, that spells out B-I-N-G-O. Each of the 5 vertical columns will contain a selection of random numbers chosen from the next consecutive 14 numbers; i.e., B has a range of 1 to 15, I ranges from 16 to 30, N ranges from 31 to 45, G ranges from 46 to 60 and O has a range of 61 to 75.

When playing in person, a bingo caller will announce the randomly generated numbers one at a time. These can be generated in different ways, though traditionally they come from a spherical bingo machine that has balls mixed up in a container. If you are playing online, these will be generated by a Random Number Generator (or RNG) and instead of someone calling them out, they will appear onscreen. 

When playing in a physical location, you should be aware of bingo parlance. Many callers use descriptive words and phrases to add to the fun of the game and to improve clarity. Britain lays claim to inventing “Bingo Lingo”, or the slang, rhymes, puns and phrases that correspond to each number. For example, the number 8 is known as ‘Garden Gate’ and 85 is ‘Staying Alive’.

Should the number called be on your ticket, then you can mark it off. The aim is to mark off the following:

  • Four Corners – Crossing off the number in four corners of your card.
  • Line – A line of numbers crossed off horizontally across the card consisting of five numbers.
  • Two Lines – Two lines crossed off horizontally across the card consisting of five numbers.
  • Full House – All the numbers on the ticket get crossed off. You must then call ‘bingo’ to win the largest prize in the game. 

Bingo Strategy and Tips

Bingo is a game of probability and chance. You have no way of predicting what numbers are going to be called out. However, some things can increase the probability in your favour. This involves looking at how many people are playing and how many cards you play at a time. 

The odds of bingo depend on the number of cards in play in any one game. Imagine you are in a game, for example, with two people playing. You and another person, with one card each, have a 50/50 chance of winning. Yet as more people join, each playing with more cards, the odds of winning go down. 

One obvious way to increase your odds of winning is to join a game with fewer players. When playing a bingo hall or casino, you could attend on quiet evenings or seek out days when most people will not bother venturing out, such as during bouts of bad weather. Unfortunately, this is hardly a secret amongst bingo players, and even the stormiest of nights may not deter serious players. When playing online, always check the player counter as most sites will display the number of players in a session, allowing you to choose the least populated room.

Another way to increase the probability is to play with more cards. Imagine you are in the aforementioned game where your odds are 50/50. If you play with two cards, and your opponent with one, then your chance of winning increases to two-thirds. 

You might also consider joining games with lower progressive jackpots as they usually attract fewer people. Michael Shackleford, also known as “The Wizards of Odds”, recommends seeking out these types of games as they simply don’t entice as many people to play. He also recommends not making any side bets because, yes, even in bingo, there are sucker bets where the only winner is the House!

Bingo Variations

Most variations of bingo involve altering the number of balls and the numbers on cards. There are numerous variations online and between the games found in the United States and the United Kingdom. We spoke to three separate bingo experts and found there was even disagreement among them as to all the deviations you may encounter and how to give a generalised game explanation. The general game remains the same regardless, so for clarity, we’ve chosen only to highlight the most common variations.

“Lightning Bingo” or 30-ball bingo is a small and fast game, played on a 3×3 bingo card. 80-ball bingo is played on a 4×4 card and Classic British Bingo is a 90-ball game played on a 3×5 card (or a 3×9 card in one further notable variation).

“Blackout Bingo” is another common variant. This game is much quicker and instead of trying to get a row, you must get all 25 spots on your card ‘blacked out’ before your opponent. 

One of the odder variations is “Crying Bingo” and in order to win, you must NOT get a bingo. It’s a game played “to the contrary” and the point is to stay in it for as long as possible without getting any matches to the numbers of the caller.

There are dozens more variations and the best advice is to always make sure you know exactly which version you’re playing! Many a person has embarrassed themselves by not paying attention to the particulars and nothing will incur the wrath of serious players like someone yelling out an incorrect “Bingo!”.

Return to Player 

Bingo games have too many variations to give a definitive RTP. However, most will have an RTP of between 75% to 85%. This is determined by the number of people playing, the number of cards used, the payout structure, and how many balls the game uses. 

FAQ

How Do You Win Bingo?

To win in bingo, you must land the called numbers on your card in a specific pattern before anyone else does. The most common patterns and variations are discussed above.

How Do You Play Bingo?

To play bingo, you have a card that contains randomly drawn numbers. A caller announces each number as it is selected (or an RNG will display it onscreen). Cross off each number on your card(s) as it is called. If you are the first to cross off the pattern for that game (line, four corners, full house, etc.), you win!

Why Is It Called Bingo?

The name originates from New York toy salesman Edwin S Lowe. Originally called Beano and played at carnivals, Lowe produced a boxed edition for his friends and family. Urban legend says that one of his friends was so excited upon winning that they accidentally hollered out “Bingo!” and the name stuck.

Can I Play Bingo at Casino.com?

While there are no games of traditional bingo available to play at Casino.com, you will find a number of bingo-themed slots including Thunderstruck 2 Video Bingo, My Bingo Hall, Bingote and Immortal Romance Video Bingo.

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Angela Wyman is nationally recognized as Your Gaming, Gambling, Vegas Girl Friday. She has been based out of Las Vegas for the last 10+ years, after extended stints entertaining in Scotland and Macau. Professional stage credits include Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding, Evil Dead, countless shows with A Touch of Mystery and as a Magician’s Assistant for Paul Draper, Dr Scott Lewis and Jackson Rayne. She is featured in numerous TV and radio ads (Golden Gate Casino, Newsmax TV, Nectar Bath Treats) and has made guest appearances on television series that range from Criss Angel: Mindfreak to National Geo’s Brain Games. She is most often recognized for her gambling videos with The Wizard Of Odds.

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