Looking at the Rules and Themes of Bingo

Looking at the Rules and Themes of Bingo

You probably know the basics of bingo. You likely have an inkling that it’s traditionally been popular with women players. But do you know bingo in its most intricate details? The game’s basic concept – a grid of numbers that a player ticks off as they’re called, from a specified range, at random – is not only easy to grasp, but it leaves the game open to myriad variations and even the application of themes. Of course, that means players need to get clued up on what the different variations entail. So how does each game work, in what ways are offline and online bingo different, and why are themes so key?

Playing Bingo

As with many successful games of chance, one of the strongest components of bingo is its simplicity. To get started in traditional 75-ball bingo, all that is needed are 3 or more people, and a pen and paper. Though, for the sake of saving time, a computer and printer to produce randomized bingo cards can make things a lot easier.

On these cards are five vertical columns of spaces, with each column under one letter of the word bingo. In the centremost space is a wildcard labeled “Free”. Otherwise, these spaces will be randomly filled with numbers based on their column. These are:

B: 1-15

I: 16-30

N: 31-45

G: 46-60

O: 61-75

From this point on, all that is needed is a way for the game host to randomly call numbers, and for the players to mark them off. Traditionally, a bucket of numbered balls is used for this purpose, but any method of random selection will usually work just fine.

As the game goes on, players simply mark down any numbers that are called which appear on their bingo card. Highlighters or blotters are the traditional choices here, but any pen or marking device works fine. Once a player manages to complete a line horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, they call out “BINGO!”, and the game is won.

While this is technically all that players and hosts need, just as important to players is the idea of lingo. When calling out bingo numbers, the basic way is to use the direct numbers and letters, with callouts like B12, or G55. However, the culture of bingo takes these callouts much further. Each number has a traditional phrase attached to it, and it’s common for hosts to adopt this lingo or modify it along their own lines to add character and charm to the game.

Under these terms, B11 becomes “Legs 11”, owing to the number’s resemblance to two standing legs. Others of these like “26 Pick and Mix” rely on rhyme schemes, while others such as “17 Dancing Queen” combine rhymes with cultural references, in this case, the famed 1976 song by ABBA.

While this aspect of the game might seem unnecessary to newcomers or outsiders, for long-time fans the lingo plays an important part. The game of bingo is an incredibly communal one, so these little things help maintain the culture and can give extra flavor.

Traditional bingo cards are simple and easy to read (Pixabay)

The Offline and Online Worlds

In the modern bingo world, offline and online bingo represent two sides of the same coin. Both leverage the same community feels and spirit of the game, but given their different needs, both go about it in very different ways. As explained above, traditional bingo is a more physical act and one which leans more on direct interaction.

In offline bingo, the community is based around the theatre in which you play, and the people you sit next to. This is fantastic for players who go with friends, as it lets them enjoy a day out while still keeping the spirit of friendly competition active. Even when big prizes aren’t on the line, the fun atmosphere of friendship can make the experience well worth the effort.

In online bingo, this sort of person-to-person feel is more limited in some ways, but in others, it is actually improved. For one thing, by joining the same digital table at the same time on different devices, friends can still play sitting next to each other, so this form of comradery is still possible. The other major advantage here comes from the addition of a chat-room. This room lets all players talk at once, a feature-limited in offline bingo by how loud you can yell, as well as rules regarding good manners.

The other major advantage of online casinos is a product of their far-reaching structure. Unlike offline bingo, online bingo can offer games shared by people from all over the world. You could easily be participating with somebody on the other side of the planet, for example, which can be great for meeting interesting new people. This international interest also means that it’s easier to find active games, which plays into our next topic…

Offline bingo has a long legacy, but it’s no longer the only game in town (Pixabay)

Setting the Stage with Themes

Themes are as important in bingo as they are for any other game. These can help draw in initial appeal, foster a certain mood, or bring together like-minded people. The same is true for both online and offline bingo, though offline bingo themes can be more difficult to change. This is a simple reflection of the cost of redecorating, which is naturally much more expensive and time-consuming on a physical scale.

For online bingo games, changing themes is more of a matter of adjusting both the host website and selecting which games you want to offer. Some websites are more catered for female players, for example, using softer and more varied colors to create appeal. From here, the bingo titles like Flash Fives and Progressive Jackpots can choose to follow this theme, making games more welcoming from start to finish.

For both offline and online, it’s the theme that ultimately dictates who will become involved. From this point, the hosts can use their discretion on elements like lingo to make smaller and more targeted changes. From relying on traditional ideas to something more feminine, abstract, or even something based on properties like shows and movies, themes can prove an effective final push.

Once they choose a theme, physical bingo parlors are usually stuck with it (Pexels)

Approaching half a millennium old, bingo is a game that has proved it has legs (11). At its base, the game is incredibly simple to learn, welcoming new players into the fold without the need for complicated introductions. From here, the community aspect maintains bingo’s popularity, making it as much an act of friendliness as a straight competitive game of chance. Finally, given form and direction by its themes, bingo works to guide players down certain roads, to utilize its elements to create a shared mood.

Looking at these elements, it’s perhaps unsurprising that bingo has survived while so many of its contemporaries over the centuries have failed. At this point, the continuation of bingo as a permanent fixture of culture is effectively a given. Really, the only question is, what form could it take next?

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