How the game was originally played
Originally, 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.
How to play online bingo
Having explained in some detail how the traditional game of bingo was played, you’ll have a great understanding of how to play online bingo. That’s because online bingo is designed to replicate the original offline experience as closely as possible.
When you join an online bingo game, you’ll start by purchasing one or more cards, which will be displayed on your screen. Cards can usually be purchased a few minutes before the next game is scheduled to begin. When the game does begin, a simulated bingo machine will draw and call the numbers one by one.
You can either mark your own numbers by using your mouse, or you can get the game to mark your cards automatically. That latter option is perfect for players who like to buy multiple cards per game to increase their chances of winning, as it removes the risk of missing any.
When any of your cards has enough marked numbers (or marked numbers in a required pattern) to win a prize, ‘Bingo!’ will be called on your behalf, and the prize will be paid to you.
The social aspect online
The good news for traditionalists everywhere is that online bingo is just as social as its offline counterpart. A live chat room panel can be accessed throughout the games so that players can converse and enjoy ‘chat games’ between and alongside the actual Bingo games. A Bingo Host is usually present in the chat room to help keep things lively and friendly and to help players with any questions or problems that they might have.
There are several different varieties of bingo, but most online bingo games focus on 75 Ball Bingo, 80 Ball Bingo
and 90 Ball Bingo
. The basics of the game are the same in each case, so here we will only outline the key differences.
75 Ball Bingo
This is the traditional US version of the game. It uses 75 balls, and bingo cards are presented as a five-by-five grid. The central square in the grid is a ‘free’ square, which is already marked. This leaves 24 numbers on the rest of the grid. The aim of this game is to complete certain patterns, such as a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line, a turtle, an arrow, various letters of the alphabet, and more.
80 Ball Bingo
This game uses 80 bingo balls and is played on a four-by-four grid, which shows a total of 16 numbers. Winning patterns are usually horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, the four corner numbers and all of the numbers. The marking of all numbers on a card is known as a Full House.
90 Ball Bingo
This is the traditional UK version of the game. It uses 90 bingo balls, and cards have three rows and nine columns. Each of the three rows has five numbers, with the other four spaces being left blank. This gives a card 15 numbers in total. The aim here is to complete one horizontal row of five numbers, two rows, or to achieve a Full House by marking the numbers on all three rows.
Online bingo is a game that can be played on mobiles and tablets as well as a full-size desktop and laptop computers. The visual presentation of the game will, of course, be different on mobiles because of the smaller screen size. However, all of the features which make online bingo so popular will still be accessible, including online chat as you play.
Where to Play
It used to be the case that online bingo could only be played at dedicated websites, but all of that has changed. Today the game can be played at regular online casinos too, although it has to be said that the number of venues that offer the full community game is still quite small. One of our favourites is LeoVegas Casino because it offers 75 Ball, 80 Ball
and 90 Ball Bingo
games, making it suitable for everyone.
For those of you who would like to play online bingo without waiting for other players to get involved, most online casinos offer standalone games for individual players. Three good examples that are well worth checking out are Super Bonus Bingo
from Microgaming, Hot Bingo
from Play’n GO and First Person Mega Ball
from Evolution Gaming.