Bingo is popular all across the UK with hundreds of Bingo halls up and down the country, and also increasingly popularly available online.
Bingo is a gambling game of chance where players mark off numbers on printed cards/tickets as a caller draws random numbers, with the winner being the first player to mark off all the numbers on their card or marks off lines or other combinations.
Bingo in the UK (90 ball bingo) is different from the bingo played in the USA (75 ball bingo) because the printed cards/tickets and calling of numbers are slightly different.
The two main operators of bingo halls in the UK are Gala and Mecca, although it may be played elsewhere. There is also a large number of online bingo operators.
UK Bingo Gameplay
Players buy their cards (see details below) at the bingo event and then the games is presided over by the "caller", who calls out the random numbers drawn and validates winnings. They will announce the prizes for each game before it begins. To start the game the caller will usually say "Eyes down" to notify the players that he is about to begin. They then begin to call out the numbers as they are randomly selected, either by a random number generator (RNG) or using numbered balls in a mechanical draw machine, or possibly counters from a bag. The calling of the drawn numbers may take the format of simple repitition, "Both the sixes, sixty-six", or "Two and three, twenty-three", but some numbers may have special calls due to them being significant. Independently run bingo clubs may call numbers ending in a zero as "blind". For example, forty would be called as "Four-o blind 40"..This is usually practised in independent clubs and not by the big bingo operators like Mecca and Gala.
A typical bingo ticket in the UK is made up of a grid of three rows and nine columns making 27 spaces. Each row on the ticket will contain five numbers and four blank spaces. Each column will contain up to three numbers, which are typically arranged as follows, but there may be variations depending on whether you're playing in a hall, club or online and depending on the bingo company.
Tickets are made as strips of six, because this means every number from 1 to 90 can be included across all six tickets. So if a player buys a full strip of six they are guaranteed to be able to mark off a number every time a number is selected and called.
The different winning combinations of marked-off numbers are as follows:
Warning: Any winning combination must be claimed as soon as the number completing the winning sequence is drawn. If a player doesn't stop the game before the caller calls out the next number the player's claim is usually invalidated and lost.
As each random number is elected and called, players check to see if it appears on their tickets, and if it does, they mark it off, either with a special marker called a "dabber" or "dauber, or just with a cross made with a pen or pencil.
Once all the numbers required to win a prize have been marked on the ticket/card, the winning player shouts out to get the caller's attention. There are no specific formal rules to what a winning player should shout out, but most players will typically shout "Yes!" or "Bingo". Some may also choose to shout "Line" or "House" depending on the winning prize, while yet other players decide to shout "House" for any win. But a player may choose to call out anything they want to get the caller's attention if they wish. Once a player has called out, an official or staff member will then come and check the claim and ticket.
In large bingo clubs in the UK, they often use a computerised Auto-Validation system where a 1 to 8 digit security number is read out be a staff member and checked automatically for that ticket in the system. This is quicker than the time-consuming exercise of reading out every number on the player's ticket. Even in the smallest clubs, it is unusual for the ticket numbers to be checked against the callers selected numbers. The only time this happens is when there is a computer error in the club that means the Serial or perm number of the ticket can't be identified.
In UK bingo halls there is often an interval halfway through the game, when it is common for Mechanised Cash Bingo to be played (see below).
Buying Bingo Tickets
Players in UK bingo clubs, buy books of bingo tickets from a book sales desk. usually located in the entrance of the club. Playing will be divided into sessions with different books, each containing a designated number of pages.
In most bingo clubs in the UK, including Mecca and Gala clubs, the first session, known as the "Early Session" at Mecca and "First Chance" at Gala, is a three page book usually played at about 1:00PM for afternoon sessions and 7:00PM for evening sessions. This is then followed by a break when Mechanised Cash Bingo is played, which is followed by the main session, known as the "Main Event" at Gala, which is made up of about 11 pages of bingo play with a break in the middle lasting around half an hour.
When players buy their tickets, nearly everyone buys tickets for the main session. Some other players may arrive earlier and purchase tickets for the early session. Once the main session finishes, there is another break with more Mechanised Cash Bingo which is followed by a late session. At Mecca, the late session is three pages. At Gala, a "link" (see below) is played for the late session (known as the 'Last Chance') made up of two pages and is free.
Linked bingo is played using electronic communication across a number of different bingo halls at the same time. This allows even larger prize money for the winners because of the increase in the number of players taking part. One club caller is selected from all the clubs taking part and his voice is broadcast to all the clubs included in the linked game. The game is played according to exactly the same rules as normal bingo. Players must call out to notify the club of a win and the game is stopped by the host who turns on their microphone and declares "claim in..." and the name of the club. Staff then check the claim as usual.
Sometimes clubs play linked games when the number of players is low to increase prize money, on quiet early and midweek days, for example.
Bingo clubs often offer Windfalls which are extra cash awards for certain games that the club doesn't have to pay out on every game every time. Different clubs offer different Windfall games at different times. Windfall games may be free or the club may charge more to play these bonus games.
Here are some example Windfalls offered:
The National Bingo Game
The National Bingo Association has run a "linked" National Bingo Game since 1986 which is played across a number of bingo clubs in the UK, with the largest participator being Mecca Bingo.
Gala Bingo's High 5 Game
Gala Bingo decided not to take part in the National Bingo Game in 2008. Instead they came up with their own version of the game called the High 5 game, that was a "linked" game played immediately before the second half of the Main Event, taking the same time slot as the National Bingo Game. As well as the standard full house prizes there were windfalls, offering chances to win bonus money. If the winning player called house on any number ending in the number 5, then they took £25000 instead of £3000. If the winning player called house on the number 5, then they would win half of the progressive jackpot, with the other half being shared amongst all other players of the club where the winning ticket was won. In 2011, Gala stopped the High 5 game. The Party Xtra XL game was introduced and the High 5 game was replaced with the 'Special Ticket' (see below).
Gala Bingo's Special Tickets
Gala bingo clubs offer Special tickets. These special tickets are played with numbers 1 to 80 in the same manner as the mechanised cash bingo, but are usually played on paper tickets, unless the player is playing on an electronic terminal. It's a straightforward full house game with a set in-house jackpot that is based on the number of tickets sold. There ate also the following windfalls:
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