Playing Bingo

A Beginners Guide To Playing Bingo In The UK

This simple beginners' guide was originally written for my work colleagues after I arranged a bingo night and realised not one of them had ever played bingo before or knew how to play. It's written with the complete bingo newbie in mind.

Never Played Bingo Before? Then This Is The Guide For You!

On arriving at the hall, buy your bingo books from the book sales desk in the main area of the hall - it should be clearly signposted. If not, ask a member of staff, they're there to help! At the counter you will be asked how many books you require. One book will contain multiple pages, each page is a different game.

A bingo ticket looks like this:

A single bingo ticket

It has 15 numbers, arranged in columns 1-9, 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc. up to 90.

The more books you buy, the more tickets you have in play in a single game. You can buy between 1 and 6 books. If you have 6 books then every number called is on your book. If you buy 3 books you will only have half the numbers between 1 and 90 per game, so not every number called will be on your book.

Inside a modern Bingo club
Inside a modern club

Personally, I find 6 books easier to play, as you know you have to mark every number called. As a beginner though, I would recommend trying 2 or 3 - remember though, the less books you have, the longer you have to wait for numbers to be called. Bingo calling in the bingo clubs is a speedy affair. There are no clickety-clicks or 2 fat ladies in the modern game. You have to concentrate and move fast otherwise you lose out!

All around the hall, other games are going on. You need to check which times the main sessions begin, as there are many intervals throughout the night. When the main games are ready to begin, an announcement to take your seats will be made by the caller, and the hall will fall silent.

Eyes Down, We're Looking For The Line!

When the game is ready to start, turn to the first page in your book. The caller will announce whether you are playing for a LINE ACROSS, TWO LINES ACROSS or a FULL HOUSE - he will also announce which colour page in which book you are playing - check you are on the right ticket.

If you play the wrong ticket and win you will not get the money so always check around you to see everyone is on the same ticket. If the caller starts before you are ready, quickly shout 'hang-on' to give you time to catch up. If you're stuck, other members sat near will generally help you out if you ask nicely, or try to attract the attention of a member of staff if that fails. Be quick though, as the rest of the hall will groan if you hold them up too long!

As the caller announces the numbers, mark them off clearly in your bingo book, only on the page you are playing. Most games will be played for the line then the full house. A line is 5 numbers in a straight row, across the ticket like this:

A line across the ticket

One line across

Once that has been won the game moves on to the full house (15 numbers on one ticket, 3 rows.) There will be no more prizes awarded for a line.

A full house
Full House

Occasionally there will be a game for two lines between the line and the full house - listen for the caller to announce it.

Two lines winning ticket
2 Lines Across (must be on one ticket!)

Once you are the first to have a line across, two lines across or a full house, shout out loudly. You can shout 'House!' Bingo!' 'Knickers!' 'Here!' Or whatever you want to stop the caller - just make it LOUD!

You must also shout fast. If the number you need to win comes up, and you don't call straight away you can lose the money. If the caller starts the next number by just a breath before you stop him, you are too late, have lost, and get no money.

Hold up your hand and a member of staff will come to check you have the winning ticket. You need to give them your membership card and sign for your prize money which will be given to you at the table.

Golden Rules For Playing Bingo!

The regulars of any bingo club are renowned for their viciousness when it comes to the rules of the game and will give you a going over if you don't observe them.

The main rule is when a game is on - be quiet, even if you aren't playing. I can't stress how important this is! You will be strung up from the nearest fruit machine if you talk when the proper bingo is on. However, it is fine to talk when the table/party bingo is played in the interval.

As the tables are not officially kept for the members, it's common for regulars to mark their territory - if you see a table that looks empty but has items such as a glasses case or a couple of pens on it, stay away. That means the table is being kept for a friend... Otherwise beware!

Use thick markers or dabbers - if you try playing with a biro you will find it difficult to keep up! They can be purchased at the club. Circle or cross your numbers out as soon as they are called.

Bingo markers and dabbers
Dabbers - Markers (avoid black as it
obscures your numbers)

And finally...

Bingo can be good fun, especially if you win some money! It is a game of speed and concentration. However, bingo is also an activity enjoyed and frequented by people from many walks of life and backgrounds.

As such, if you are easily offended by homemade/faded black tattoos, cheap gold jewellery worn over Primark polo-necks, sports leisure wear, colourful language, blue rinses, a number of signet rings worn on one hand and people smoking Mayfair cigarettes then bingo is not the game for you.

You have been warned! ;)

Related Links

Wikipedia article on UK bingo

Bingo Guides section index

Land Bingo section index