Bingo is a game of chance where numbers are randomly drawn and players attempt to match those numbers on cards in order to form a winning pattern or series. When a pattern is correctly recognized by a player, she wins the prize (or one of the prizes available) for that round.
Traditional bingo uses bingo cards, bingo balls and a ball cage. A caller oversees the game, operates the ball cage and calls out numbers. In large bingo halls, it’s not unusual to have a separate game moderator and caller as well as several or more assistants that walk the floor. The goal of the game is to achieve a pattern or series of numbers, which is established at the start of the round. Once a player recognizes that pattern, she calls out “Bingo!” to inform the caller that she has won.
90-Ball vs. 75-Ball
The two most common forms of bingo are 75-ball and 90-ball. The 75-ball format is the U.S. style, and the playing card is a 5×5 grid with the center square being automatically filled. The 90-ball format is the U.K. style. The 90-ball playing card comprises six tickets. Each ticket is a 3×9 grid, and each of the three lines has four spaces. Furthermore, no number is duplicated throughout a single card. The 75-ball format can be played to one or multiple bingos. The 90-ball format usually has the same three win events: one line, two lines and full house, which is when all 15 numbers on a ticket are present.
Having the call-out numbers on a card does not guarantee a win. A player must recognize the number and dab it, and then recognize the completed pattern and call it out. Players need to purchase at least one bingo card to participate in a round. There is, however, no limit — unless a house limit is in place — to the number of cards that can be purchased for and played in a single round. Additional cards increases the chances to win, but players must find a balance because too many cards would make it impossible to keep up.
There are also a wide range of variants for both 75-ball and 90-ball. They are usually fundamentally the same but tweak gameplay in some way. For 75-ball bingo, a variant called U-Pick’em is common and a lot like Keno in that players choose the numbers ahead of time and hope they’re called. A popular 90-ball variant is the reducing jackpot. The first series requires one bingo to win the jackpot, the next series two, then three and so forth, which makes the jackpots larger but extends the time in between payouts.
In-Person vs. Online Bingo
The biggest difference between in-person and online play is the auto-dabber. In a bingo hall, you’re responsible for dabbing your numbers correctly and calling out bingo. Online, the auto-dabber recognizes numbers, dabs them and calls out bingo automatically. This allows you to play many more cards than would otherwise be possible. Additionally, proper etiquette is expected at a bingo hall, but online bingo games, that good etiquette is limited to how you represent yourself in the chat room.
At its core, bingo is a simple game, and that core applies to both 75- and 90-ball bingo and all the variations of each. The key to being a good bingo player is card recognition, which comes with time. Also, pay attention to rules differences for the current round and adjust accordingly.