No, we don’t mean this is a philosophical sense, though readers are free to take that stance if they so wish. Rather, in terms of observable fact, what is bingo? What sort of game is it, where did it come from, and what features make it stand out? If you’ve ever wondered then you’ve come to the right place, as we’re about to have you covered.
Simply put, bingo is a game of chance. Less simply and more helpfully put, bingo is a game of chance where players are tasked with creating lines in randomly filled cards from numbers that are randomly called from a host. Once a line is successfully created by a player either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, the player calls out “Bingo!”, and wins.
There are a few different versions here, with different maximum numbers which can be called and cards sizes that can be used. For example, 30-ball bingo uses a 3X3 bingo care and – you guessed it – 30 balls that the host can select at random. The most popular version in the UK, 90-ball bingo, uses larger cards, and a greater pool from which to draw.
When it first started so many centuries ago, bingo went by the name of Lo Giuoco del Lotto de Italia. Or, for short, Lotto. Traced back to Italy in 1530, this early version of the game soon spread throughout Europe, remaining popular over the next 400 years. It was during its introduction to the United States by Edwin S. Lowe in 1929, however, that the modern form of the game took off.
Lowe, a travelling New York salesman, witnessed the game being played at a carnival as he passed through Georgia. At the time, it went by the name of “Beano”. Lowe understood the game had potential to be a hit, so he took the idea for himself. Since the game wasn’t copyrighted, he didn’t have to worry about being sued for infringement.
It was Lowe who brought the game to new heights, though the new name was not one of his creations. As the story goes, the term bingo originated when an excited player accidentally called out the wrong word – the new name stuck.
One of the most widely loved aspects of modern bingo is how each numbered ball is given a rhyme or other quirky term. “Eight, gardens gate” is one such example. Other classics include “Legs 11”, denoting the shape of the number, and “17, Dancing Queen”, a reference to one of the catchiest songs in the library of pop icons ABBA.
Of course, as they usually relate to rhymes and culture, the calls can vary widely by nation or region. American calls can be slightly different, with calls in foreign languages much more so. Even classic calls are being phased out in some areas, because of diminishing cultural relevance.
Even if you had never even heard of bingo up to this point, we’re excited to welcome you into the bingo family fold. Bingo is a community game first and foremost, and we’re always happy to have more people join in. Just be sure to call out the right thing when you win – bingo’s a name firmly set in the minds of today’s players!