How to Play Bingo

How to Play Bingo

Bingo, essentially a game of chance that involves no skill by players, involves having random numbers selected, with the objective of the player being to match the called numbers to those listed on a bingo card. Bingo cards may differ from game to game, with the patterns needed to be covered pre-determined. However, the main objective of the game stays the same – the first player to cover the numbers to form the pattern and to yell BINGO is the winner of the game.

The first time we come across bingo in a similar format in the history books is in the mid 1500’s when it was played as a lottery game. The game’s popularity spread across Europe and arrived in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. Called Beano in the US, the game was soon discovered by traveling salesman Edwin Lowe, who realized the potential there was to be had in the game and mass marketed it to the American public. It was one of Lowe’s friends who inadvertently renamed the game BINGO. The introduction of the internet ensured that the game spread across the globe and it is now found at over 2,000 online bingo sites in many languages.

Click for information on how to play, history, lingo/chat terms, number nicknames, terminology, card layout and bingo patterns.

The Bingo Card

While there exist a number of variants of bingo today, the basic premise of the game remains the same, and the classic bingo card is always used as a basis for most games. A classic bingo card is usually 5 x 5 in grid form with the word BINGO written across the top. Under these five letters are five columns making up five numbers each. Numbers within certain groups will fall under each letter as follows:

1 - 15, under the letter  B
16 - 30, under the letter I
31 - 45, under the letter N
46 - 60, under the letter G
61 - 75, under the letter O

A caller will usually refer to both the number and the letter when specifying which games come up, for example – N35, G50 and so forth.

As can be seen from the diagram below, a bingo card has a total of 24 numbers, with the middle number being a blank space. Numbers allocated on the cards are random and are never the same in a game.

Bingo Card Layout

Bingo Table

How to Win at a Bingo Game

The game of bingo is very simple to play and anybody who watches once will soon pick up on how the rules of the game work. Depending on where the game is played, online or off, the numbers that are drawn randomly are displayed for all players to see, with the objective being to check whether the number called matches a number of their card. Numbers are then marked off on the card (using various methods, including daubs, markers, etc. and again depending on where the game is played). The objective of the game is to try and get all the numbers in the predetermined pattern covered and call BINGO first.

Callers continue to call out the numbers until a winner is announced. Once a player calls BINGO, the card is checked for accuracy and the prize is awarded. Bingo rules state that if two players yell BINGO at exactly the same time, the prize is split between them.

The Role of Bingo Patterns: To keep things fun and entertaining, bingo games have players try and complete a predetermined pattern. These may range from straightforward diagonal or vertical rows, or they could be something more creative such as the shape of an animal, a heart and so forth. Online bingo rooms are big on bingo patterns, especially when they refer to themes running at the site. So, for example, it will be common to have a heart shape on Valentine’s Day or a tree on Christmas Day.

The Role of the Caller: The caller has a very important role in the game, with the job of picking out numbers from a cage or box and announcing them to the players. A caller at a bingo hall will usually have a vibrant personality and be able to work the crowd. Online bingo rooms use electronic means to get the number called.

British versus US Bingo: While mainstream bingo may have originated in the United States, it is safe to say that the game has had a massive influence in the United Kingdom as well. Two different streams of the game sprang up on both sides of the ocean, with British Bingo offering its players the choice of 90 numbers to choose from, and the American version sticking to a more modest 75 numbers.

Bingo as a Commercial Game: While bingo was first mass marketed as a means for churches and parishes to raise money for their communities, the game soon became so popular that the potential of bingo as a commercial venture was soon realized. In some states in the US, bingo is a legal pastime and can be offered in commercial venues such as casinos (Nevada, for instance). In other states, it is offered at Native American casinos as part of a treaty with the US government. The UK is more accepting of bingo as a commercial game, and since the passing of the Gambling Act in the 1960s, bingo halls have sprung up across the country, providing entertainment for millions of players.

Bingo as a Charity Game: We have touched on the origin of bingo as a game for charity, and even today, many communities rely on this game to bring in funds. Because of the link of bingo to gambling, many churches prefer not to offer money as a prize, and instead offer items, vouchers, and so forth.

Online Bingo

There is no doubt that the biggest change in bingo, and the way it is played, came about with the introduction of internet gaming. There are literally thousands of online bingo sites available today and competition between them is tight. Playing bingo online is obviously different from land based bingo, with the most glaring difference being the physical location. To play online, players do the following:

  • Find a bingo site that appeals to them
  • Open an account by providing personal information
  • Take advantage of the welcome bonus offered by the site
  • Deposit funds into the online bingo account using banking methods offered by the site
  • Choose a game and play

Some online bingo sites offer players the chance to play for free, before going on to play for real money, as a way to familiarize themselves with the games and software.

Online bingo is played in a virtual environment from the player’s own living room or office. Technology ensures that the numbers called are completely random, through the use of the Random Number Generator. Depending on the site, the numbers are flashed across the screen or covered automatically (auto-daub). The player who has all the numbers on his or her virtual card covered is the winner.

One important factor of online bingo that is not found offline is the chat feature. Players can communicate with others from all over the world in virtual chat rooms, play chat games and win prizes.


The appeal of bingo is clearly understood, thanks to its rich history and sheer simplicity. The game is highly entertaining, combining social aspects with a competitive streak. With no real skill needed, and lots of money up for grabs through progressive jackpots and bingo cash, there is no doubt that the popularity of bingo will continue to grow for years to come.

Posted by CCJ Team