For many of us, our introduction to bingo came on a trip to a local church or charity hall with a parent, one where just a few dollars were spent on cards and you used a dauber to mark off your numbers as they were called. These games are popular in many countries around the world, as they can raise a lot of money for organizations while being little more than harmless fun for the players themselves. They also make for great memories: that first time you win the jackpot in your local game is a thrill you won’t soon forget.
But bingo has become a big money game as well. Some casinos and other venues offer contests that come with high buy-ins and serious prize funds. Indian casinos in the United States sometimes still have massive halls, built when that was the only game they could legally offer to players.
Today, the latest evolution in bingo is taking place on the Internet. The Internet has helped bring players together from around the world, offering a convenient, fun, and safe way for fans to enjoy their favorite game anytime they like. Games come in all shapes and sizes, allowing for everyone from the most casual player to high-rollers looking to get some serious action to find exactly what they are looking for. And these sites haven’t forgotten what makes bingo special, as they include live chat and other features that ensure the social aspect of the game hasn’t been forgotten.
If you’ve never played bingo before – and chances are you have – it’s easy to understand how the game works, as it is intended to be a simple, jackpot style game in which many people can play with only one (or a few) winning prizes in each round. However, there are several different formats in which the game can be played, and each of them uses slightly different rules.
If you’re from the United States or elsewhere in North America, you’re likely most familiar with 75-Ball Bingo. In this game, players buy cards that feature a five-by-five grid. Fifteen of the numbers are assigned to each of the five columns, and typically, each column is associated with a letter that spells out B-I-N-G-O. For instance, B contains the numbers 1-15, I includes 16-30, and so on. The cards have randomly assigned numbers in each column from the appropriate range. In many games, the center spot is given to players at the start of the game as a “free square,” which mostly serves to speed up play a bit.
The caller will draw numbers one at a time, with players able to mark off the matching spot if that number appears on their cards. The object of the game is to be the first player to mark off the required pattern for a particular game. The most common game type has players seeking to make any horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row of five spots in a row. However, numerous other patterns are possible: diamonds, the four corners, frames, letters, and the cover all (or “blackout”) pattern are all common, and basically any pattern can be used as long as the players understand what is needed to win. Traditionally, players must also call “BINGO!” when they complete their pattern in order to have an official verify their ticket and win the prize for that game or pattern.
In most of the rest of the world – particularly Europe, South America, and Australia – a 90-Ball Bingo variant is much more common. In this case, players are given cards that come with three rows and nine columns. However, there will only be five numbers per column (with the remaining spaces being blank), meaning each player’s card contains 15 numbers. The numbers in each column are associated with a different group of approximately ten numbers: the first column can only contain numbers from 1-9, the second has numbers between 10-19, all the way down to column nine, which holds 80-90.
In a typical game of this type, there are three different prizes awarded. The first, and smallest prize, is given to the “one line” winner: the first player to hit all five numbers across one horizontal line on their card. Next, a second preliminary award will go to the first person to fill two of their lines (ten spots in total). Finally, the grand prize goes to the first player (or players) to finish a “full house” by marking off all 15 of the numbers on their card.
Other versions are also spread, even if they are not as popular as the two main variants. In 80-Ball Bingo, the cards feature a four-by-four pattern, but the gameplay is more similar to the 75-ball game, with full lines or coverall patterns often being the goal for players who want to win prizes. Meanwhile, a 30-Ball version is basically a “quick” way to play: players typically get a three-by-three card, and the first person to fill their entire card will win the prize for that round.
Online bingo has been around since the late 1990s, with the first versions starting to pop up on the web sometime around 1996. Many of these were free-to-play games, with some providing prizes (which were usually not cash) to the winners. It wouldn’t be until many other forms of online gambling, such as online poker, really took off in the first decade of the 21st century that real money bingo started to truly take hold on the web.
Today, there are dozens of reputable, safe, and popular sites to choose from, though not all are available in all parts of the world. In particular, players in the United States typically have a smaller selection than in other regions: because there is no regulation of Internet bingo in the country, only foreign, unregulated sites can operate there, and many companies would rather not bother given the risk of reprisal from the government. However, it’s important to remember that there is nothing illegal about playing on such sites for the vast majority of Americans; the laws on the books deal with operating sites (and processing transactions for them), not for simply playing.
All of the games we described earlier can be found at some sites, with 75-ball and 90-ball formats being the most popular. Which games are spread often depends on where the site is aimed: if Americans and Canadians are the audience, for instance, expect B-I-N-G-O formats to reign supreme.
While there is variety in the offerings at various sites, they do tend to share a lot in common with each other. For instance, most software systems feature similar features that players can use to better organize their play. While everyone typically has the option of marking their cards manually (making the game similar to those in a live setting), there’s also an “auto-daub” feature that will automatically do the work for you – something that’s especially useful if you’re playing lots of cards.
Speaking of those who play too many cards to keep track of, these sites also include ways for you to keep tabs on your key shots at winning each round. Usually, there will be some sort of sorting mechanism designed to bring your most successful cards to the top, allowing you to instantly see how close you are to making the winning pattern at a glance.
One place where bingo differentiates itself from other Internet gambling games is through its emphasis on providing a strong social experience. In fact, this is actually a way in which the virtual version of the game is quite different from land-based play: talking in a brick-and-mortar game is generally discouraged, as it can be distracting when people are attempting to listen to the caller and mark up their cards.
That’s definitely not the case online. Live chat features are a big part of Internet bingo, and may actually be a major part of why the sites have taken off so well over the past decade. In contrast to sports betting sites, casinos, and poker rooms, bingo has been marketed to as casual an audience as possible. That atmosphere is achieved in large part through the chat, which allow players to cheer each other on or celebrate their wins.
In fact, an entire culture has built up around these chat rooms, which are usually overseen by chat monitors (who will usually be referred to by the title of “CM”). These hosts try to keep the atmosphere as friendly as possible, might lead players in trivia or games between drawings, congratulate winners, and moderate the chat to make sure nobody acts abusively or otherwise gets out of line.
Acronyms and lingo are also a big part of the chat scene, and while many may be familiar to those who have engaged in online chat at least once in their lives, others are somewhat unique to the bingo world. A few examples include:
There are hundreds more phrases, and most sites will have a page devoted to the kind of phrases and behavior they expect to see in chat. Of course, you could potentially ignore the social aspect altogether, but if you’re going to take part – and we recommend that you do – then it’s worth taking the time to check this out and make sure you’re on the same page as everyone else.
If you want to give online bingo a try, the first thing you’ll have to do is find a site that fits your needs. Of course, you’ll want to pick one that offers real money play in your area, and you might also want to scout a few out to see which ones have a style of games you’ll enjoy. If you’re not sure where to start, we can recommend some top bingo sites that are reputable, fair, and fun.
Once you open an account, you’ll have to find a way to deposit money into it. There are numerous banking options for Internet gambling, and they more or less mirror those found at other online gambling sites. If you’re unfamiliar with these, the following breakdown explains a few of the most common methods players use:
These are just a few of the many ways to fund an account. Cashing out is usually handled by similar means; in addition, most operators will be happy to send you a check in the mail if that’s the best way to get your winnings to you. With an account set up and a balance to draw from, you should be ready to start buying cards and playing your first games in minutes!
As for software, most sites today run on instant play platforms that can be accessed directly from your web browser. However, as in other types of Internet gaming, there has been a marked increase in the interest in mobile bingo. Now, many sites offer apps (or mobile sites) that can be accessed directly from your smartphone or tablet, allowing you to jump in and play a round or two any time you have access to the Internet.
Online bingo may be the least intimidating version of Internet gaming on the market today. Not only is the very nature of the game less intense than, say, a typical casino offering, but operators have designed their products to be as welcome as possible. While high stakes games exist, you can also jump into many contests for just a few cents – and if you just want a single card, that’s perfectly okay.
Even if you’re afraid that playing for such low stakes will give you almost no chance to win, many sites have you covered. There are usually special games that limit the maximum number of cards that can be purchased, limiting the advantage that well-financed players can get. Again, the name of the game here is inclusion and friendliness – even if you might be playing for prizes worth thousands of dollars or more.
Put all of these factors together, and it is easy to see why Internet bingo has become such a popular pastime in many countries. If you have fond memories of games played with friends at your local church, then the online version of the game can be a great way to get back into the action. If casinos or poker rooms seem just a bit too intimidating for you, then bingo can offer a safe, comfortable way for you to get into online betting – and one in which you might make a few new friends, too. No matter what the reason, these websites are a perfect way to enjoy one of the world’s most popular social games in a whole new setting.