When most recreational players think about their next casino trip, slot machines and table games are largely the norm.
But gamblers in the know are taking to bingo in droves, and finding the simple yet exhilarating pursuit of five in a row to be one of the more entertaining games in the house.
Bingo is usually associated with two completely opposite ends of the age spectrum – children and grandparents. Teachers tend to use bingo cards as a vehicle for vocabulary and math instruction, while older folks flock to churches and community centers to play charity bingo with their buddies.
For ages, casinos treated bingo like an afterthought, relegating the game to dusty convention halls far from the glitz and glamour of the main floor. That made sense too, as the coveted 21-35 age demographic simply didn’t gravitate toward bingo like they did slots, table games, and poker.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago, however, and everything seemed to change for the better. Clever casino managers stumbled upon the perfect hook to get twenty-somethings in the door – bingo nights with a party theme. With modern music blaring, the lights dimmed low, and a dance floor nearby, along with a steady flow of complimentary cocktails, any bingo hall can be transformed into a hybrid nightclub / social mixer.
Casinos from coast to coast now run their own version of party bingo night, mixing in their own promotions and variations on the game to keep things fresh. For that reason, bingo is enjoying a bit of a renaissance among recreational gamblers, bringing beginners into the game like never before.
And when anybody first learns the game of bingo, one question is sure to follow – how can I get better at this and win more money?
Well, that’s easier said than done, given bingo’s status as a pure game of chance. Unlike skill-based games like blackjack and poker, players can’t apply any sort of strategy to influence the final result. Bingo is more like roulette, another game of chance in which the outcome is entirely random.
Even so, if you spend enough time in your local bingo hall, you’ll notice that a select few players seem to have a knack for filling up their card. These are the regulars whose voice you’ll get to know because they’re calling “bingo!” four of five times every night.
These guys and gals weren’t born luckier than anybody else, and they aren’t in cahoots with the caller either. No, they simply have experience on their side, which allows a few crucial tricks of the trade to come into play.
If you’re looking to improve your bingo play and earn more out of your hobby, than take advantage of the following three tricks you can use to win more while playing bingo:
1. Play More Cards
This tip should be fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many bingo novices purchase just a single card.
As they reason it, each card has the same odds of winning in the end, given 24 open spaces and 75 (American) or 90 (European) balls in the hopper. Players like this tend to use the lotto analogy, claiming that a ticket hoarder with 100 number combinations in their pocket has the same chance to win as a player with just combo in hand.
Indeed, that is essentially true when it comes to a game like Powerball, or some other lottery with tens of thousands of tickets out there floating around. Given that massive sample size, one player purchasing multiple tickets just isn’t enough to sway the laws of probability to their side.
But in a bingo hall with limited capacity, the number of cards distributed for a given draw is always capped at a relatively small amount. Let’s say your casino’s bingo hall seats 100 players, and each of them decides to purchase 5 cards – putting 500 cards into play before the first ball is drawn.
In this scenario, every player in the room enjoys the same odds of winning in the end – 1 in 100, or 1 percent.
But let’s say you have a little extra cash on hand, so you splurge for a 20-card package while everybody else keeps their original 5 card allotment.
Now you’re holding 20 cards out of the 515 now in play. A little rough math shows us that you’re overall odds of winning have jumped to 3.88 percent (20 / 515 = 0.0388). Meanwhile, with only 5 cards to work with, the other 99 players present all share the same win odds of less than 1 percent (5 / 515 = 0.0097).
In a room where the number of cards is always capped, the player who holds the most cards always has the best odds of winning.
Now, that’s not to say they’ll win every time out – random chance is still the dominant factor in bingo after all.
Even in the exaggerated example from above, you’d only have less than a 4 percent chance to call out bingo before anybody else. Think of those 99 other players as a unified block, and between them, the “field” has more than a 96 percent chance to win before you can realize that increased equity.
For this reason, bingo remains a crapshoot even when you have the numbers on your side.
But don’t let that fact discourage you from making full use of the maximum cards allowed to you. While the margins might be razor thin at only a few percentage points one way or another, gaining any sort of edge on your fellow players is essential if you’re hoping to win more often.
And over the long run, purchasing cards in bulk can actually pad your bottom line in a different way. You’ll be spending a bit more each time out, but most casinos and bingo halls today offer price breaks for larger quantities of cards. When cards cost $1 each, but you can get 10 for $8, that’s a no-brainer if there ever was one.
Bingo is a war of attrition, and the players who bring the most bullets to the battlefield have the best chance of survival.
2. Play Against Fewer Opponents
The flip side of that coin involves thinning the proverbial herd.
Remember that example scenario from earlier, where you were facing off against 99 opponents? Even though you held more cards than anybody else, that edge was diluted significantly simply because you were one fish amidst a sea of sharks.
But what happens when we cut the field size down to 50?
In that case, the 49 other players purchasing 5 cards each would put 245 cards in play, while your 20-card count makes it 265 in total.
Your odds of winning in this scenario stand at 7.54 percent (20 / 265 = 0.0754), while each other player holds just a 1.9 percent shot (5 / 265 = 0.0188).
Find an out of the way bingo hall with only 30 players counting yourself, and the situation improves even more. Now we have 145 opponent cards in play, plus your 20, giving you a 12.12 percent chance of victory (20 / 165 = 0.1212) to their 3.03 percent chance (5 / 165 = 0.0303).
No matter how you slice the pie, playing against few opponents combined with the previous maximum card count strategy offers a tremendous boost in win odds.
To put this approach into action, I recommend using The Bingo Hall Locater, a free website which allows you search the U.S. or Canada by state or province for all bingo halls near you. After a few scouting missions, you should have a good idea about which venues draw the largest crowds, and which ones offer a more lucrative opportunity thanks to sparse attendance.
Another reason to consider playing against fewer foes comes down to personal preference, but it can produce profits indirectly to boot.
Take a look at the table below, which displays the average amount of balls which need to be drawn before a bingo to occur, based on various field sizes:
|Players||Balls Before Bingo|
|1 player||41.37||10 players||25.51||50 players||18.28||100 players||15.88||200 players||13.82||500 players||11.56||1000 players||10.13|
If you were playing by yourself for practice, you’d see a bingo called at right around 41 calls on average.
Get 100 players in the room, however, and the frequency increases by more than half, with bingos arriving after only 18 balls or so are drawn. This trend continues on a curve, so as the amount of players present goes up, the time it takes for a bingo to hit goes down.
If you’re the kind of player who likes to stretch their initial buy-in out for a fair amount of time, cutting the field size down is a great way to start. With fewer opponents to worry about, the span of each round will lengthen in kind – providing increased value relative to your purchase.
Players who aren’t prepared for the rigors of a big-time bingo hall can easily find themselves purchasing many more cards than they anticipated, simply because new rounds are coming fast and furious. To avoid that fate, head to the smaller bingo establishments that allow the games to linger at a leisurely pace.
3. Avoid the Side Bets and Gimmick Cards
Like most gamblers, many bingo players are drawn to the game because it offers the prospect of a massive jackpot prize.
For just a few bucks, a little luck can be parlayed into a life-changing score, which is what casino gambling is really all about at its core.
One way that bingo halls incorporate the jackpot element is by offering longshot wagers that require special combinations to be filled out on the card. You’ll find all sorts of these alternative bingo games, from the “Four Corners” to the “X,” but one of the worst bets out there is the “Coverall.”
When you buy a Coverall card, you’re hoping to hit all 24 open spaces, covering the entire card along with the free space for a 25-number winner. When you’re lucky enough to make this happen, the reward can be enormous, with most major casino bingo halls paying out progressive jackpots that reach $5,000 or higher.
But let’s take a look at some data to sort through exactly how long of a longshot the Coverall in bingo really is:
|BALLS||BINGO ON LAST BALL||BINGO ON OR BEFORE LAST BALL|
|24||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|25||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|26||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|27||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|28||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|29||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|30||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|31||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|32||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|33||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|34||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|35||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|36||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|37||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|38||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|39||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|40||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|41||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|42||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|43||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|44||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|45||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|46||0.0000 percent||0.0000 percent|
|47||0.0000 percent||0.0001 percent|
|48||0.0001 percent||0.0001 percent|
|49||0.0001 percent||0.0002 percent|
|50||0.0002 percent||0.0005 percent|
|51||0.0004 percent||0.0009 percent|
|52||0.0008 percent||0.0017 percent|
|53||0.0014 percent||0.0030 percent|
|54||0.0024 percent||0.0054 percent|
|55||0.0042 percent||0.0097 percent|
|56||0.0072 percent||0.0169 percent|
|57||0.0123 percent||0.0292 percent|
|58||0.0206 percent||0.0498 percent|
|59||0.0341 percent||0.0839 percent|
|60||0.0559 percent||0.1399 percent|
|61||0.0907 percent||0.2306 percent|
|62||0.1456 percent||0.3762 percent|
|63||0.2315 percent||0.6077 percent|
|64||0.3646 percent||0.9723 percent|
|65||0.5692 percent||1.5415 percent|
|66||0.8808 percent||2.4223 percent|
|67||1.3520 percent||3.7743 percent|
|68||2.0587 percent||5.8330 percent|
|69||3.1109 percent||8.9439 percent|
|70||4.6664 percent||13.6103 percent|
|71||6.9500 percent||20.5603 percent|
|72||10.2801 percent||30.8404 percent|
|73||15.1055 percent||45.9459 percent|
|74||22.0541 percent||68.0000 percent|
|75||32.0000 percent||100.0000 percent|
Using this chart, you can see that the odds of landing a coverall don’t even become measurable until 47 balls have been called. And on average, it will take 73 balls or so before any card is entirely covered.
But as we learned earlier, bingo rounds seldom last longer than 15 or 20 balls with a typical crowd on hand. Knowing this, you can expect the vast number of Coverall cards and other gimmicks to go by the wayside, simply because you won’t see enough balls drawn to make them viable.
You should play bingo for fun and the social aspect of play and not expect to win in the long run. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to win. Use these three tricks to win more while playing bingo.