The Rules of Bingo

Since there are different types of bingo, rules tend to vary slightly from place to place. However, there are a lot of similarities between the two most popular bingo games - American/Canadian bingo, which has cards with five rows and 25 numbers, and bingo as it is played in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, which uses cards with three rows and 27 numbers.

American Bingo

The game begins with players buying their bingo cards where numbers are spread out over the five letters that form the word ‘bingo’. Once all players have their cards, the dealer begins drawing numbers at random from a container and calling these numbers out. Players mark each number called on their cards. The first player who completes a pre-agreed bingo pattern shouts out “Bingo!” to indicate that he has won the game. The dealer confirms the numbers on his card. Once the win is confirmed, a new game begins.

Bingo patterns usually include a single line with five numbers that can be arranged vertically, horizontally or diagonally; a square; the number ‘8’; the letter “F”; the letter “E” and a host of other patterns. Given its 5x5 layout, American bingo can have hundreds of patterns, which further enhances the suspense of the game. On the other hand, there are more than 6,000 unique card combinations possible.

The 5x5 bingo card actually has only 24 spaces and one free (blank) space. Random numbers are assigned vertically under each letter. For example, five numbers between 1 to 15 are assigned under Column B, between 15 to 30 under Column I, between 31 to 45 under Column N, between 46 to 60 under Column G and between 61 to 75 under Column O. The dealer calls them out as a combination, e.g., “B2” or “N42” or “O74”.

British/Australian Bingo

The rules are the same as American bingo except that, given its 3x9 bingo card, the patterns are different. On each row, only five of the nine spaces have numbers while four spaces are blank. The numbers range from 1 to 90.

There are only three basic patterns in this type of bingo: One Line, Two Line and Full House. The first player who crosses off a horizontal line wins One Line, the first to cross off two horizontal lines wins Two Lines and, finally, the player who crosses off all three lines wins Full House. Prizes for each pattern increase in value.

In British/Australian bingo, each player can have as many as 48 tickets. Players can also purchase a strip of six tickets which covers all numbers from 1 to 90. This way, he is sure to cross out one number every time a bingo call is made.

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