National Bingo Month
 Cartoon Fun & History

Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
Bingo Service, Inc.



Create your own special Games with our free blank  bingo card.
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All About Bingo 
The cards

Before I tell you how the game all began, I think it's best to see what the game looks like. I made a "Brownielocks Bingo Card" to show you how the numbers are arranged.  Below each letter are 5 squares.  Since "BINGO" has 5 letters, that makes 25 squares on the game card.  The total numbers allowed each letter are 15.  Thus, 15 x 5= 75 numbers (or chances) to be drawn.   But the center square is "FREE" and so 75 numbers must fit in only 24 squares. Hmmm?

The sample card on the right shows how the letter and number distribution are set up.  The column under "B" has been given 1 to 15.  The column under "I" has been given 15 more numbers consecutively so "I" gets 16 through 30.   The "N" always  has a "FREE" square in the middle of the card.   The column "N" has the next consequential numbers of 31 to 45 (15 numbers).  Then the column under "G" runs from 46 to 60 (15 numbers) and finally "O" gets numbers 61 to 75 (15 numbers).  Thus, 15 numbers  per column x 5 columns = 75 numbers on a card.


The arrangement of how the numbers fall on a card has many variations. Many serious bingo players strongly feel certain cards are more lucky or have more reoccurring numbers.  In some bingo clubs, members can literally "reserve" certain cards on Bingo nights to play with.  The arrangement of the number ranges under each letter can be sporadic and not in any particular order.

On the right is a sample playable "Brownielocks Bingo Card" showing the shuffled number arrangements under each letter.

As you can see,  the minimum and maximum numbers allowed under each letter might not be on your card.  Out of the possible 1-15 allowed under the "B", on this card neither the 1 nor the 15 are printed.   That's OK as long as no number in any column exceeds the maximum for that letter allowed.


History of Bingo

The Italians are credited with being the inventors of Bingo!  No, the name doesn't mean anything in Italian.  Actually, the game was first called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto  D' Italia."  From Italy, it went to France in the late 1770's and they shortened the name to "Le Lotto" and played strictly among the wealthy French aristocrats.  In the 1880's the Germans then developed their version of Bingo as an educational game for children to help learn math, spelling and history.

The game reached the US ( from which European country it is uncertain) during the depression and was first played at a carnival in Atlanta, Georgia.    At that time, the game was being called "Beano" because beans were used to mark the squares called on the cards.  A toy salesman from New York, named Edwin S. Lowe, changed the name of the game   when he heard a player miss-yell it as "Bingo" and not Beano.   The carnival version (drawing numbers from a cigar box and covering cards with beans) remained popular after the carnival left town.  Many people were playing Bingo by having a caller pull numbered disks out of a cigar boxes, bowls, or any other secure container and placing their beans on the appropriate number.  During the carnival, the prize was a Kewpie doll.  Afterwards, it usually was money.

 Mr. Lowe, seeing how popular Beano was,  decided to market the game under the miss-yelled name  he heard  "Bingo."  He hired a Columbia University math professor named Carl Leffler to help increase his sales by increasing the number of cards made.  By 1930, Professor Leffler invented over 6,000 different bingo card numerical variations.  (It is said that he later went insane in his life!)  


Bingo is considered a game of chance, like any rolling of dice game or lottery.  And because you spend money buying your cards (regardless if the prize is money or an item) to take a chance to win, it is considered gambling.  As with all chance games, there also comes the risk of addiction for some.  And, as such, there also comes the condemnation by some religious groups that it is a game of sin.  The irony of this is, Bingo first became a game as a motive to help raise money by a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania who approached Mr. Lowe.  When Bingo became a church fund-raising event, it energized its popularity among the population and sales increased. Thus, the church first used it as a fund-raiser and in many Catholic churches Bingo still is the main church fund-raising event.

By 1934 an estimated 10,000 bingo games were played weekly, even after the depression ended and the temptation of gaining sudden wealth wasn't as strong.  Today, Bingo is estimated to be a weekly $90 million spending in just North America.  


During both World War I and World War II (1939 - 1945) Bingo was a popular game among the troops.  In particular, the British servicemen during long voyages to the Far East would a version of Bingo called "Housey-Housey."


Today, there remains debates and lawsuits on the criminal nature of Bingo, if it's really gambling, the ages of who should play and the controls of it on Indian Reservations in the US.   Many feel whenever there is money + chance that's gambling. Bingo is a popular form of gambling that many feel is difficult to cheat at (unlike other gambling games) and is in some areas a high stakes serious game.

The game today not only brings in money for the clubs and organizations that host it, but for the bingo commercial market as well.   First there are those who print out cards. Through the years, they have grown from simple cards with beans or disks,  to sliding markers  or shutters to move , to today's  throw-away paper cards that you dab with a marker or blotter (some call it "dobbing" a combination  word of dabbing + blotting) of many colors.  And then we can play Bingo on-line via the internet, which has raised even more problems when it comes to some players  being underage.    There is also the Bingo commercial market of good luck charms, bingo accessories, jewelry,  figurines, t-shirts, bumper stickers, carry-alls, seat cushions and who knows what else.

Bingo games bring a variety of people together for a fun, social evening. And, they are mostly popular among the elderly because there is no real physical activity involved besides sitting at a table.  In many smaller clubs they have a "snack" committee that brings something each week for the group.  Other clubs are much too large to have a hometown closeness.  However, nerves are  often strained as one important number might wait and wait to be called.  And jealousies occur when two players vie for the same winning game and wait for their special numbers!


How to Play Bingo!


Players are given (or buy) a bingo card with a variable number arrangement as we showed you above.  Some games allow a player to play with more than one card, but will put a limit on the maximum number of cards per person.  A caller is the person who draws the bingo numbers.  As we said earlier, originally they were numbered disks drawn from a cigar box.  Throughout  the years, drawing the bingo numbers were done in a variety of ways.   In some cases there were two drawings, one for the letter and one for the number.  (This caused problems with too many invalid calls. For example, a caller could draw a "B" and then "68". And "B" only goes to 15, so this call doesn't exist.) Soon, both the letter and number appeared on the disks or balls.   Mixing them up varied from game host to game host.  Today, we all know about the plastic, hollow, lightweight bouncing bingo balls that  are tossed with air and twirled inside a metal cage until the "caller" takes his hand and draws one out.    If a Bingo club can't afford an air-shuffling machine, then the balls are usually tossed in a wire cage and twirled with a handle (on the outside) by the caller as many revolutions as he chooses until he decides to pull a ball out.  These balls are random and considered fair. In some serious gaming houses, a computer randomly generates a bingo number and it's displayed on a large screen besides being yelled. Some challenge the fairness of a computer doing it and claim that the computers can be programmed.

Once a ball is called, keeping tract all depends on the Bingo club's rules. Some display a lighted screen for everyone in the room to see.  Many callers have an assistant that keeps the called balls in a large wooden bin or holder to easily know what's been drawn so far in case someone miss-hears or doesn't hear very well.  And  also so that the ball can't be accidentally re-put into the cage and recalled again messing up the  drawing ratio for the other  remaining balls.

Balls are called until a winner is declared.  Winners are determined by the type of game that the caller stated it was before he started the game.

Before a game begins, the caller will declare if it's a regular bingo game, or some special type.  The caller will also determine the prize for the game, whether it's an item such as a free bicycle or prize money.  In some Bingo clubs, some games are "accumulative" until there is a winner.  For example, a club could have a game in which a winner must have 4 corners in the first four balls called.  If not, the prize money is added to next week's game.  Therefore, if a game is for $50 and there is no winner, then next week the prize is $100  and so on until a winner is declared.  Often, if a game hasn't been won in weeks and has grown to be a large prize, many people who do not usually play Bingo will show up to play that night.  

How to Win?

Every Bingo club has it's own style of game and even special slang for a game win.  Below are  8 of the most common  types of wins in Bingo games.

Regular Win 

Vertical, Horizontal
or Diagonal Line =
One of the above options  to win (not all as shown)

(I didn't want to make 3 different cards but you get the idea.)

Cover All


All the squares must be covered to win this game. This is usually the last game of the night for many clubs.

4 Corners


All four corners must be covered to win, and done so in the first 4 balls drawn in the game.
The center is left unmarked.

A Handful Win
This  is a 5-square combination win. Looks like 4- corners right? The difference is that you don't have to do it in the first 4 balls. You can win with how many balls it took drawn to cover all the corners. And the center "Free" is marked.


The Postage Stamp

Any 4 groups of
squares in any 
location on the card.

Winner's Circle

All the outer squares of the card must be covered.

The Cross

The covered squares form a center cross on the card.

The Christmas Tree

The covered squares form a tree shape on the card.


There are many Bingo books written on various strategies and views of what the odds are on what numbers get called more than others.  Other people just go by lucky chances and feel no numbers are better than others.  Whether you are a serious weekly Bingo player or an occasional one, Bingo is now a very popular social event in the United States, as well as a high-income finance for some Bingo hosting areas.  Some statistics claim that there are over 6 million avid Bingo fans in the US alone.  With prize money (per game) often reaching into the thousands of dollars.

One such lucky winner was Thayo Seipel, who won $10,000 at the McGuire Air Force Base on March 29.  Her card cost $5 and she won a progressive game that did not have a winner in 6 years. 

Many American Indian Reservations are now Bingo Houses with some having very high stakes games.   There's been much debate in their local state governments (and even the US) about how to regulate this.  Rather than get even more wordy here, click on the link below to read some of the official legal documents regarding Bingo on Indian Reservations.

Read the US Supreme Court's ruling with a case in California.

And if you're feeling lucky and are getting the urge to play some Bingo, well I'm sure there's a game somewhere in your town.   For me, I helped out with the Volunteer Fire Dept.'s Sunday Bingo games for a while.  But many churches, VFW or other local clubs also host Bingo games.  If you can't find any, then there's always Bingo on the internet.  

Bingo in Navajo used by permission from Terry Teller's site.Much thanks.

To play Bingo
Navajo phrase: Naa'óí naalzhoodí
This word describes "moving the beans around". I hear this was a common term. Since most people use the English word in Navajo conversation, this word is being forgotten. This word originated back when people played bingo and used beans to cover the numbers.


Naa'óí naalzhoodí yee ndaanéégóó deekai.
We're going to the Bingo Hall
(Literally: We're going to where they play moving the beans around)



Make Your Own Bingo Games!

Baby Shower Bingo

I created this years ago, around 1980 for a friend who was having a baby.  What I did was I made a blank Bingo card and the letters along the top were 
"C - H - I - L - D"

I then sat down and made a list of 75 items that pertained to babies, kids, etc.  Some examples are:
diapers, bassinette, bottles, pampers,  monitor, etc.
I put 25 items  under each letter.

I typed up this list (double spaced) and made enough Xerox copies for all the guests. I also made enough Xerox copies of the blank "CHILD" Bingo card.

At the Baby Shower, I passed out to every one a blank Bingo Card and the sheet of 75+ items.

I told the girls to write in the squares their 5 choices (out of the 25) for each letter and to write them in any arrangement they wanted on the card. In other words, they made their own CHILD bingo card.

While they did this, I took one Xeroxed sheet and cut out the items into strips.  I folded them up and put them into a bowl to draw the items from.

The items were typed like:

C  -  Baby Food
C- Teething Ring
H - Pampers
H - Baby Shampoo
I - Monitor 
L - Crib Mobile
(and so on)

This is so that I could call a letter and item.
And they knew which column to write the item in.

After they were done making their cards, I called the game based on the number of door prizes.
The first winner was a a regular game.
The second winner was a cover all game.

Bridal Shower Bingo

This is played the same way as the Baby Shower Bingo only the words across the top of the blank Bingo Card is
 "B - R - I - D - E"

And instead of 75 baby items listed under each letter to choose from, you can make items that pertain to wedding, marriage or the couple themselves (if you are familiar with how they met,  any dating information, etc.)  

Items were typed like:

B - Wedding Cake
B - Garter
R - Groom
R- Rice
I - Rings
D- Susan (name of bride?)
D- Minister
E - Stan (name of groom?)
E- Certificate
(and so on)

The games can be called as regular or instead of the Winner's Circle type of win, you can call it the Wedding Ring win!  And you can use the Cross also as a game.


Here is a sample of a  BRIDE bingo card.

For Detailed Game Instructions
 go to our

and Check out our
Halloween Bingo
  Christmas Bingo
 Valentine Bingo!
Easter Bingo!
Ham Radio Bingo!
(This has it's own card)

Tip: B-I-N-G-O should be replaced by a word that 
does not have any letters duplicated to avoid confusion.



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