Game Guides

How to Play Online Bingo


The real Bingo is played in “halls”. Rules, payouts and variations of play may vary from one hall to another. Documents of some type (pamphlets, hall rules, brochures, etc) detailing what games, rules and payouts are available at each respective location can usually be found and obtained by request.

Bingo players buy cards with numbers on them in a 5 x 5 pattern that corresponds to the five letters in the word B-I-N-G-O. Numbers are then drawn by the caller, such as I-19 or 0-65. These are drawn at random. In American Bingo there are a possible 75, and 90 possible in European Bingo called Tombola. This process is repeated until one player has a ‘Bingo’, which is a line on the card with five numbers in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row. Bingo wins the prize.

Bingo Cards

A bingo card has 24 spaces with numbers and one free space which is blank. The numbers are printed randomly on each card, arranged in five columns of five numbers each, making it a 5 x 5, equaling 25 spaces total including the blank square. All numbers in the “B” column are between 1 and 15. All those in the “I” column are between 16 and 30; “N” column (four numbers and one free space) has between 31 and 45; the “G” column holds numbers between 46 and 60, and finally in the “O” column you find numbers that are between 61 and 75.

Players may choose from thousands of unique cards, insuring that no one else in the hall will be playing off the same set of numbers.

The numbers are announced, usually rather quickly by the caller, so you must pay careful attention to which numbers are called and then mark them quickly and accurately on your card(s). You can play more than one at a time!

The caller will continue calling numbers until one or more players calls out “BINGO!” At that point, that particular game stops, and all the covered numbers are verified by the caller. If indeed that person has won, then the prize is awarded and a new bingo game begins, using all new cards. If there is more than one winner, calling out a simultaneous “bingo”, the prize will be split among all the winners.

Las Vegas and Online Bingo

In Las Vegas many variations of the standard form are played, including Letter X, Six Pack and Coverall Bingo. Some places offer special progressive payouts as high as $10,000. Progressive play is sometimes long…so be prepared.

When playing online bingo, your cards are randomly selected for you. Most online games give you 3 or 4 cards. Other games let you take more, sometimes having to pay for them. Every online bingo game has a caller or a display board for the bingo numbers. The game pattern is also displayed. Some games automatically mark the numbers on your card for you.

Online Bingo Halls

There are “pay online bingo” and ”free online bingo” websites. Nowadays there is no need to download any software, you can play in your browser or download an app. There are one game sites and multi-game sites. You should should know which one you are entering before play begins.

For purposes of speaking form experience, I entered a free, multi-game site and began my play. Here’s my journey, related almost in real time.

First of all, be prepared, even if you are going to play free bingo, to create an account and have to log in each time you want to play. And there may still be some king of point system or tallying method for how well you’ve done.

After creating this account, you can come and go in the bingo halls for that site as often or as little as you desire.

I entered for the first time and decided to start with Classic Five in a Row. The particular card theme I chose was “Independence”. I played my first game in which I was keeping track of four cards. It was relatively simple and just about like playing in a hall, except for the caller yelling out numbers or having to look back and forth between the board and the cards.

Outside the annoying ads, and the occasional pop up, trying to get me to play for money, it was a pleasant experience.

Overall, as far as gambling goes, online bingo is fairly benign and can be lots of fun!

Online Bingo – Terms and Definitions

    • Admission Packet – A minimum number of online bingo cards that you must purchase as the price of admission. Exactly what is part of the Admission Packet varies from hall to hall.
    • Blackout – (Also, Coverall) A pattern where you must cover the whole card to win.
    • Online Bingo Board – A display board, usually electronic that lights up showing each number as it is called.
    • Online Bingo Card – A card containing 24 numbered spaces and one free space (blank), with which you play BINGO. The numbers are assigned at random on each card and are arranged in five columns of five numbers each by five rows (5 x 5 = 25 in total including the blank square). The numbers in the B column are between 1 and 15, in the I column between 16 and 30, in the N column (containing four numbers and the free space) between 31 and 45, in the G column between 46 and 60, and in the O column between 61 and 75.
    • Bonanza Bingo – A progressive coverall Jackpot that is usually played as the 13th game of the session. Forty-five numbers are drawn before the session and players mark them on separate cards and set aside. There is an additional fee to play this game, usually $1. The countdown begins at 48 numbers or less and go up one number per week to 52 numbers or until won. The amount of the jackpot is determined by card sales for that game.
    • Buy-in – Buying bingo cards or an Admission Packet (see above).
      Caller – The person who calls out the bingo numbers.
    • Chat Room – A handy monitor or screen where you can read and exchange messages with other players.
    • Consolation Prize – The prize or prizes offered on some special games if there is no winner in a predetermined number of calls.
    • Free Space – The center square of the card, which does not have a number assigned to it. It’s like a Joker or a Wild square. You get it free every game and it counts towards your winning pattern.
    • Game Board, Gameboard – An electronic display that is attached to the bingo board to show the pattern needed to win that particular game. It looks like a bingo card and shows what variation of bingo you are playing on that particular game on the program. For example: four corners, chevron, regular, blackout, etc.
    • Game Room – Some online games divide the players into game rooms.
    • G.T.I., T.E.D. – An electronic dauber system used to play multiple packs at once. These usually require a rental fee and only one is allowed per player.
    • Hardway Bingo (Hard-way Bingo) – Bingo in a straight line without the use of the free space.
    • Jackpot – A big prize usually awarded for achieving a difficult pattern, such as a blackout, within a specified number of balls.
    • Lucky Jar (or Cookie Jar) – A container with cash. You win the contents of the lucky jar if you bingo on the lucky number.
    • Minimum Buy-in – The least amount you must spend to be eligible for prizes.
    • Money Ball – A number drawn before the game that will double a player’s winnings if bingo is hit on that number.
    • Multiple Winners – Two or more players bingo at the same time. When this happens, the cash prize is divided among them.
    • On – A player is said to be On when one or more cards they are playing lacks only one number for a bingo.
    • On The Way – The game played on the way to the blackout game. It is played prior to the blackout on the same card. First the preliminary game(s) are played and then more numbers are called until there is a blackout.
    • Pattern – The shape you need to cover on your card with called out numbers, usually it is in a straight line; horizontal, vertical and diagonal.
    • Payout – The percentage of salespaid out by the House.
    • Postage Stamp Pattern – Matching four numbers to form a postage stamp (a 2 x 2 grid) in any of the four corners.
    • Progressive Jackpot – A Jackpot that gets bigger until it is won.
    • Six-pack, Nine-pack – Six or nine numbers in a block on one card.
    • Split Pot – A bingo game in which the winner splits the sales of the game (the pot) with the bingo hall or House.
    • Texas Blackout – A variation of bingo. The first number called will be either odd or even. If the first number called is Even then all the even numbers on all your cards are Wild (Jokers). Cover all the even numbers. If the first number called is Odd, cover all the odd numbers. The game then proceeds to a blackout.

From “Rules on how to play in a Live Bingo hall” source timestamp March 9th 2010


By Simon

One of the first editors of Honest Casinos, I have been reviewing casinos since 2003.