The average night of bingo at your local club can present a number of different game types during the evening. If you’re new to the game, this little guide is an overview to some of the game related styles you could face during the night.
Bingo Sessions And Intervals
Turn to the yellow page…
If you’re new to bingo, then it’s important to understand sessions and intervals as the structure to the night and the games. Arriving at the club can be bewildering enough, without the added panic of not knowing what sessions are.
Basically, the evening will be split up into sessions and intervals. The main stage bingo is played in the sessions, the party and prize bingo is played in the intervals. Your average evening will consist of 3 or 4 sessions depending on your club and time of arrival. A session is a block of games where the club sits to play the main big money bingo.
Teaser And Early Session
A typical night might see a ‘teaser’ session around 18:00 which is just 3 or 4 games which would finish very quickly; not all clubs do a teaser though. Around 18:45 there’s another short session, generally called The Early Session. This is typically around 5 or 6 games. Both these short sessions are optional. You could arrive after them or during them. You don’t have to play them if you don’t wish, but note, you will need to remain quiet whilst others do.
The Main Session
The main event of the night is unsurprisingly called The Main Session. This will start around 19:30ish and consist of anywhere between 12 and 20 games. Some clubs will have an interval midway through the main session, some don’t – ask someone if you’re not sure. Everyone plays the main session (you can opt-out, but that defeats the point of playing!) and there will be both a main book and a collection of various flyers, more on which later. The main session generally takes around an hour to play, and is followed by the final interval of the evening.
The Late Session
Often many members will leave after the main session, and you’re welcome to do so if you wish. The evening of bingo ends with The Late Session, which is generally 5 or 6 games with the remaining players at the club – and starts around 21:00. Once again, this is one of the optional sessions. Some clubs will play more party and prize bingo after the late session, but generally that’s your bingo for the night.
Party And Prize Bingo
Party Bingo board in action
During the intervals, people mill about the club, hit the bar, play the bandits or chat. Many will play the party and prize bingo games in the interval (also known as 4 square bingo). You’ll notice some stand alone bingo boards with set numbers and sliding doors – this is the interval bingo game.
Unlike the main stage game, you can talk whilst the numbers are being called. Depending on whether it’s called party, prize or 4 square, the interval games are played more like the American version of the game with patterns and free squares. The games will either be played for cash (party bingo) or prize vouchers and goodies (prize bingo).
You put your money in the appropriate slot for each game you want to play, and always have the same set of numbers each game. This is how many of the regulars manage to keep up with the games. If you’re new to it, be prepared, those numbers fly past!
Individual Games And Tickets
Bingo game in action
Now, after that introduction to the structure of the evening, you should be able to tell your session from your intervals. That’s the easy part though – now we’ll take a look at some of the types of game you could face during your evening.
The standard games will be played for a line and full house. You may get some that are played for a line, two lines and full house. You may even get some that are full house or line only games. Listen out, the standard main games will be in your main book, but at any time during the night you will face one or two of the following variations on the game and ticket.
A flyer is the general term for a single sheet game. It’ll vary in every club as to what games you get on a flyer, but essentially, it’s a coverall term for single strip of bingo tickets, whether they be snowballs, link games, birthday flyers or anything else. Generally they come in the standard six cards per strip, but occasionally you get a 4 card flyer. Unlike your bingo books, with a flyer you usually don’t get a choice of how many tickets you get to play.
If you hear strange disembodied voices coming across the PA, sounding like the Eurovision scoring round-up (hello, Pontypridd calling…) then the chances are you’re just about to play what’s commonly called the link game.
A link game is normally played between a number of clubs in a region, with the prize money pooled to make a bigger pot. A player at any of the clubs can win the prize – and they can also be split between clubs, so if it’s a shared shout, people in more than one club could get the share.
Every chain has a different way of highlighting the link games – some will do them on a small book, others will use a flyer and some will have it in the main session book. What’s being played for will also vary, be it lines, two lines or full house. Listen out for the caller’s prompts.
The National Game
This is the one everyone would love to win, with a national prize of up to £200,000. In essence it’s a highly regulated link game. In this case instead of between clubs in a region, it’s played between near enough every big club in the land.
The National Game comes on a ticket – you can choose how many you want to play, anywhere between the standard 1 and 6 tickets. The game is usually played for a straight full house, and the prize money is decided on the lowest called winner. Unlike a link game, there’s a prize for every club that plays it.
The prizes break down like this – the in-house prize is won by the first person to call house in every club. All these results get sent to the central National Game computers where the big prize is sorted out. Of all the clubs and players in the UK, the person(s) who called house on the National Game in the least amount of numbers wins the National prize (or a share of).
The country is also split into regions, so if you called the lowest in your region, you could get the regional prize. You can win the regional prize without winning the National, but if you win the National, you’ll also have won the regional prize as well. Either way, it’s a nice little payout over the generally fairly low in-house prizes.
Snowballs And Jackpots
Snowballs and jackpots are on the face of it similar games, but there are some subtle differences. A snowball, as the name would suggest, is a rolling prize that gathers weight and value as it rolls. A jackpot is often a set prize that doesn’t roll, except in cases when it does, just to confuse you.
With the snowball, the prize money increases daily, every time the game is played and not won. The most common form is that both the snowball jackpot and the number of calls to win it increment. As way of example, the snowball (often a flyer) is played from day 1. You have to call a full house in 45 or under numbers to win the extra snowball jackpot money – let’s say in this case an extra £100 on top of the full house money.
So day 1, the house is won, but after the snowball number of calls. Day 2, the snowball is now £110 and calls in under 46 numbers. Once again it fails to be won, so once again it grows. Day 3, call house in 47 numbers or under to win £120. And so on until it’s won, and the prize money and calls start back over again at day 1, £100 in 45 numbers or under (as an example).
Technically, the snowball prize is a jackpot, but you can also get set jackpot games, for instance, win an extra £500 if you call house on 45 numbers or under. In this case though, it doesn’t roll. You could have a rolling jackpot as well, or indeed a decreasing jackpot where the prize money goes down as the number of calls required to win it goes up. Either way, the jackpot is an extra prize awarded for beating certain conditions on the game.
Some clubs will sometimes have a free game during the evening, you may have had to collect stamps or done something to get the free flyer or it’s handed out as a promotional thing. Sometimes it’s played for money, sometimes for fancy gifts or something. As way of example, we did one free flyer where every single member of the audience shouted house at the same time. They all got a free bingo bag (and a good laugh).
Often clubs will have a monthly birthday night. If you’re a member you may receive a special pack from certain clubs prior to your birthday, with a voucher for a free gift and a bottle of bubbly or something similar. Once a month all the people who were eligible to get the flyer can play the game on the set night. If you’re not included, that’s why.
So, there we have it – the main game types you’re likely to meet during your night out playing. Along with your knowledge of bingo sessions, you should be equipped to enjoy your game without the worry of not knowing what’s going on. As ever though, if you’re not sure, ask a member of staff or a friendly looking regular on the next table to help – most are happy to oblige.