The modern form of bingo is played in numerous countries around the world. It is primarily a social game, and although players are obviously keen to win cash and other prizes, they tend to enjoy its strong sense of community even more. Many players have met their best friends thanks to their shared love of bingo, and quite a few have even met their life partners through the game.
In this article, we will explain how bingo is played, which variations of the game are most popular, and where you can play for yourself.
How the game was originally playedOriginally, bingo was played using a mechanical drum (also known as a Bingo machine), which contained up to 90 coloured balls. Each ball was uniquely numbered (1 to 90, for example), and a handle was turned to rotate the drum.
Players would each purchase one or more Bingo cards (or Bingo tickets). Those cards each had a unique variation of numbers on them. While two or more cards could have a few of the same numbers on them, no two cards would ever have exactly the same numbers.
The operator of the game was known as a bingo caller. This was because he or she would turn the handle of the Bingo drum, extract a ball at random and then clearly call its number. Often the caller would embellish the number with an associated rhyme or word description. For example:
‘One Little Duck… number 2.’
‘Man Alive... number 5.’
‘Garden Gate… number 8.’
Players would then look at their cards to see if the called number appeared anywhere on their own cards. If it did, they would mark it with a brightly coloured felt pen, known as a bingo marker.
The aim of the game was for players to be the first to mark a certain quantity of numbers on their cards or make a certain pattern on their cards. Players needed to loudly call the word, ‘Bingo!’ to pause the game. Their card would then be checked against the called numbers to verify the win, in which case the player would win a prize. If the call was false (because they had marked one or more incorrect numbers), then the game would continue.
The biggest prize in each game would normally go to the player who succeeded in marking all of the numbers on their card.
Over the decades, the mechanical Bingo drums which selected the numbers came to be replaced by automated machines. Those were later replaced with fully computerized systems that didn’t use physical Bingo balls at all. And then the internet came along, and the game took yet another leap forward.