Most of us learn to play bingo as kids, with teachers and instructors using the simple and easy gameplay to impart lessons in a more entertaining way. But even if you’ve never played before, learning the rules of bingo shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. In fact, bingo rules have remained the same for almost a century, proving that the most classic games usually don’t need to be updated, altered, or improved.
A game of bingo begins with players in attendance purchasing their playing card, or playing cards. Every bingo hall allows a maximum number of cards to be purchased by an individual player, and as you’ll soon discover, more cards in play means a better chance of winning.
A standard American bingo card is essentially a 5x5 grid with the letters “B-I-N-G-O” standing as headers over each column. A randomized process is used to generate each bingo card, and under the “B” column you’ll see a random sequence of numbers between 1 and 15. The “I” column contains numbers between 16 and 30, the “N” column contains 31-45, the “G” column contains 46-60, and the “O” column contains 61-75.
The center square on a bingo card is typically left blank, and players automatically mark this “Free Space” off before starting play.
After purchasing one card or several, players take their seats and organize their cards according to personal preference and convenience. Here’s a word to the wise for new players. One of the unofficial rules of bingo allows regular players to claim so-called “lucky” seats as their own. So if you’re new to a particular bingo hall, don’t be surprised if somebody asks you to vacate their seat. Don’t worry though, it’s all par for the course and nothing personal. And besides, you know better than to think a chair will help you win the game.
Once the players in attendance are seated and situated, the game begins when the caller draws the first letter-number combination and calls it out. A total of 75 numbers are included, and these are usually imprinted on ping pong balls contained in a bubble or tumbler. The balls are continually shuffled and mixed together to achieve randomization, and the caller usually pulls a lever to activate a suction tube and draw one ball at a time.
After calling out “B-11” or “N-37,” players scan their card or cards and search for that particular combination. If it appears on their card, players use a special marker known as a “dauber” to stamp that space on the card. This process continues until one lucky player calls out “bingo!” to announce a winning card and end the game.
In order to make a “bingo,” a player must complete any five-square straight line – either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. The “Free Space” can always be used to complete a standard straight line bingo. Several variations on the classic straight line bingo also exist, and often multiple variations are played at the same time. You can learn more about the different forms of bingo by heading over to our how to play bingo page.
After a player calls out “bingo!” an employee of the bingo hall, usually called the “verifier,” heads over to check the card for inaccuracies. If all five of the squares marked out have indeed been drawn and called, the verifier signals that the game has ended and declares that player the winner. Depending on the house rules, the winning player takes a preset portion of the total prize pool generated for that game. Then, a new game begins and the process repeats itself until another winner emerges.