Chapter Four: The Mechanics of Bingo
The Moving Parts of the Bingo Industry
In this chapter we will cover:
- What is needed to play bingo
- How to create a home bingo game
- Bingo in a virtual setting
As outlined in previous chapters, bingo is a game that evolved from a variety of sources. Although today's online operators have well-crafted platforms boasting the latest technology, early incarnations of the game were a lot less refined.
In fact, look back at Chapter 3 of this Wink Bingo Guide and you'll recall that archaeologist John Stephen's trips to Mexico in the 1800s revealed a bingo-style game played with stones and makeshift dice. Closer to home, 19th century naval records outline evidence of bingo games using homemade cards and bottle tops for markers.
While it is certainly true that bingo, both land based and online, is a well-honed operation today, our historical review of the game suggests that this was not always the case. Therefore, if this is true, then it is also true that bingo is a game that can be played by anyone at anytime. Indeed, with a few simple ingredients, anyone can create a bingo game if desired.
What You Need to Play Bingo
To really understand the game, it is important to be aware of the vital elements that make bingo the game it is today.
With this in mind, here's a breakdown of the main components found in every game of bingo:
Bingo Balls: Every game of bingo involves a selection of coloured balls emblazoned with numbers. Depending on the style of game (90-ball, 80-ball, 75-ball or modern variants such as 50-ball), the numbers run from 1 to a maximum of 90.
Bingo Cards: Each player in a game of bingo has a unique card which is typically structured in a 9X3 format in the UK and a 5X5 format in the US (see below for more info).
Bingo Daubers: When playing land-based bingo, most players will use a pen designed especially for bingo. Known as a dauber, this oversized pen allows the user to press down once and mark the number. Daubers allow players to cross off a lot of numbers in a short space of time.
Bingo Bankroll: When playing for money, the amount of spare cash a player has is called their bankroll. A bankroll should be made up of money the person is comfortable with losing.
Bingo card is the ticket bought before the start of each game. Costing a set amount depending on the format and stakes, each card will have a random set of numbers set out in a predetermined way.
In general, a 90-ball bingo will use game cards made up of 27 squares, with each arranged into nine columns and three rows. Each row contains five numbers (leaving four blank spaces) and each column contains up to three numbers arranged in the following way:
- Column 1: Numbers from 1 to 9
- Column 2: Numbers from 10 to 20
- Column 3: Numbers from 21 to 30
- Column 4: Numbers from 31 to 40
- Column 5: Number from 41 to 50
- Column 6: Numbers from 51 to 60
- Column 7: Numbers from 61 to 70
- Column 8: Numbers from 71 to 80
- Column 9: Numbers from 81 to 90
In contrast to the typical 90-ball layout used in the UK, US bingo games are, generally, played using 75 balls. This structural difference means that each game card is arranged into a 5x5 format with the five columns labelled 'B', 'I', 'N', 'G', and 'O' from left to right. The centre space is usually marked "Free" and is automatically filled.
In terms of the numbers contained in each column, the range of options runs in the following way:
- 'B' Column: Numbers 1 to 15
- 'I' Column: Numbers 16 to 30
- 'N' Column: Numbers 31 to 45
- 'G' Column: Numbers 46 to 60
- 'O' Column: Numbers 61 to 75
To help make bingo more entertaining, a caller is used to bring things to life with a range of colourful words and phrases. Although there are names for almost every number combination, some of the most famous include:
1 = Kelly's Eye
11 = Legs Eleven
16 = Sweet Sixteen
22 = Two Little Ducks
88 = Two Fat Ladies
90 = Top of the Shop
For more on the nuances of bingo's lingo, make sure you check out Chapter 12 of the Wink Bingo guide.
How to Create a Home Bingo Game
As we've mentioned, bingo is a game that can be played anywhere by anyone. From the outline above it can be seen that there are very few elements required to host a game of bingo. In fact, such is the simplicity of the game that a bingo game can be created using the following techniques:
Homemade Game Cards Firstly, it must be decided how many balls are going to be used as this will determine how a game card looks. Although tickets can be made by hand if required, it is easier (and fairer) to simply buy a booklet of tickets. Homemade Bingo Balls The next thing needed is some balls and a bowl. If necessary these can be made using a batch of ping pong balls and a permanent marker. On each ball a unique number must be written before each is placed in the bowl. Homemade Bingo Pens The final thing needed in order to set up the perfect bingo home game is a sufficient number of pens. Although a standard pen will work, a felt-tipped pen or dauber are preferable in order for the numbers to be highlighted as efficiently as possible.
Bingo in the Virtual Arena
If setting up a bingo game in the comfort of the home seems too much effort then today's iGaming community is there to help. Over the last decade it has become possible to ante-up online and play a variety of games on different platforms.
Although we will detail the finer points of the online bingo industry later in this guide, it is important to set the scene now and provide an overview of the industry.
Computer or Mobile
Thanks to modern technology, bingo can now be played using a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Regardless of the medium chosen, all online bingo games have been optimised to suit their surroundings. This means that a myriad of formats can be played, such as 90-ball, 75-ball, 55-ball and progressive jackpot bingo, either from home or while on the move.
Before bingo can be played at any online site, a user must create an account. To ensure the safety and protection of customers, online bingo operators require users to input and verify their personal details. Only people of legal age (18 in the UK) are permitted to create an account and play for real money. As part of the account sign-up process, a user must create a password and an online alias to give them an online identity.
To start a real money online bingo experience, a player must deposit some money which can be done in a variety of ways with leading operators. Because each account balance is held in a secure account by law, users should always feel comfortable adding money to an account using methods such as Visa, MasterCard, Skrill, PayPal and Ukash.
Later in the Wink Bingo Guide is more information on the online bingo world and how to create an account but all the elements outlined in this chapter are present in the virtual arena.