Bingo comes in many forms. It began as a type of lottery played in Renaissance Italy and then France in the late 18th century where it became known as “Le Lotto.” By the early 20th century, the game was popular in the U.K. It was played by soldiers during World War I under the name “Housey-Housey.” The version that reached the United States was originally called “Beano,” referring to the practice of using uncooked beans to cover numbers on the game cards.
Edwin Lowe, a New York toy salesman, came into contact with Beano at a county fair in 1929. When he heard a winner mispronounce the game’s name, he adopted the name for a new toy and went about marketing it as “Bingo.”
Catholic churches in both the U.S. and U.K. discovered that the game could be useful as a fundraising social event. In England, in particular, small liberal churches draw crowds and donations by offering Bingo play under the name “Tombola.” to draw crowds. Instead of cash, various prizes were awarded to winners in order to avoid any association with gambling.
When Britain’s Betting and Gaming Act legitimised existing social gaming in 1960, “Bingo Clubs” started popping up, adopting the U.S. brand name, although retaining the original rules of “Housey-Housey.” As a result, Bingo can refer to two very different games, one on either side of the Atlantic, along with many variations that have been introduced in the past half century.
90-Ball Bingo – This is the most popular form of the game in the U.K. It is played on tickets that have 15 numbers scattered over three rows of boxes with five numbers in each row. Tickets are commonly sold in strips of six. With no number repeated, there are exactly 90 numbers in all. As the bingo balls are called, players cross off the numbers, seeking to win by being first to mark five numbers in a line on a single ticket. Subsequent to a winner being announced, players attempt to mark two full lines on one ticket and then a “full house” covering all 15 numbers.
75-Ball Bingo - The U.S. card features a 25-box grid. It has five rows of boxes arranged in five lettered columns containing 24 numbers and a “free” space in the very middle. Played with just 75 balls, the numbers 1~15 appear in the B column, 16~30 fall in the I column, 31~45 go in the N column (where the free space is located), 46~60 are in the G column, and 61~75 occupy the O column. To win, a player must be first mark five numbers in a row, a column, or a diagonal.
80-ball Bingo – This is a relatively new U.K. version of the game that uses a ticket with a 4x4 matrix of numbers. Each row has a different colour for numbers 1~20, 21~40, 41~60, and 61~80. It is somewhat similar to the U.S. style of play, as a greater number of winning combinations are permitted.
Mini Bingo – This is 30-ball bingo played on a ticket with nine squares in a 3x3 matrix. It is becoming popular online because it is fast, with each round lasting no more than several minutes, which means winners per hour.
Pattern Bingo – Played on the U.S. card, winning combinations must form a certain shape or pattern, such as four corners, the letter L or T, etc. The patterns to be formed are announced before the start of each game.
Coverall – In the U.K., this is the same as a full house. It may also be referred to as “blackout” in the U.S. The object is to be first to cover all of the numbers appearing on a ticket. At some Bingo Halls, progressive jackpots may be linked to this version of the game, awarding a huge prize pool to the player who can cover every box within a certain numbers of balls called.
Quickie – A game in which numbers are called as quickly as possible. The winner is the first to fill the entire card. A variation of this is “Speed Bingo,” sometimes played with a pattern.
Bonanza Bingo – In the U.S., a progressive coverall Jackpot that is typically played as the 13th game of a day’s sessions. It involves the pre-selection of forty-five numbers, which players mark on separate cards. Assuming no winners to share the prize money initially, numbers are called till a coverall is achieved.
Money Ball – Prior to the start of a game, one number is designated that will double the player’s winnings if a Bingo is hit on that exact number. A variation of this is “Lucky Ball,” where the very first number called during the first session becomes “lucky” for the rest of the day, and any players who Bingo with it receive a bonus.
Texas Blackout - Whatever number is called first must be odd (1, 3, 5…) or even (2, 4, 6…). If it is even, for example, all of the even numbers on every cards become “Wild” and are immediately covered—vice versa for odd. The game then continues until someone wins with a blackout.