Bingo is a popular game of chance using cards with a grid of numbers, a row of five which constitutes a win. The numbers are chosen at random until a player makes a line, which is also called a bingo. Bingo is one of the most popular forms of low-priced gambling in the world.
To play bingo each player purchases one or more cards divided into numbered and blank squares. Randomly chosen numbers, usually from a pool of up to 75 or 90, are called out by a “banker.” The first player to achieve a line in which all of the numbers have been called shouts “bingo” or “house” and collects the entire stake money, usually minus a small, specified percentage. In another popular variation, the central square on the card is free, and the first player on whose card five of the called numbers appear in a row—vertically, horizontally, or diagonally—is the winner. The prize may amount to thousands of dollars. Bingo is legal in the far majority of U.S. states that prohibit other forms of gambling, and is even associated with church fundraisers.
The earliest form of bingo was first recorded in 1778. The original American form, called keno, kino, or po-keno (depending on location), dates from the early 19th century. At the height of its popularity during the Great Depression of the 1930s, a variant (often called screeno) was played in motion-picture theatres, with one night in the week designated bank night, when patrons received free bingo cards with their admission tickets. Prizes often amounted to hundreds of dollars in cash or merchandise.
Bingo is a game that hasn’t diminished in popularity at all. There are non-gambling versions in board game format for children, special bingos at church basements and American Legions across the United States, and bingo is even beginning to make a strong appearance as a favored game of chance in online casinos right along with blackjack and poker. The simplicity of the game, and the random luck, is what makes it so popular. There aren’t skilled experts or complex rules to create professionals with an unfair advantage. The game is about luck, and it remains as popular now as it did two hundred years ago.