Many gambling enthusiasts out there might consider the term “bingo strategy” to be a bit of an oxymoron.
After all, bingo is essentially an interactive lottery game, with randomly drawn numbers deciding who winds up holding the winning card. Players can’t use decision-making to influence which numbered balls drop down from the hopper, and nobody has the power to play “better” than the other folks in the room.
In reality, bingo is a hybrid game of chance that does indeed incorporate several strategic elements you can use to become a better bingo player.
By understanding the rules of the road through and through and taking care to learn the mathematics underpinning every game of bingo, players are definitely capable of strategizing their way to success.
If you don’t believe me, check out the list below to learn about three bingo rules and strategies that most players don’t know about. When you’re done here, you’ll be much better prepared to utilize strategy during your chase to cross off as many numbers as you can.
Best known as an astute financial analyst, Joseph E. Granville is the math whiz responsible for devising the “on-balance volume” (OBV) system of stock market analysis.
But during his storied life crunching the numbers — Granville passed away in 2013 at the age of 90 — Granville also discovered one of the fundamental truths behind bingo math.
Known today as the “Granville Strategy,” this system uses basic principles of probability theory to determine which numbers on a card players should choose.*
The Granville Strategy is predicated on bingo games in which players can choose their cards. Many bingo halls today randomly distribute cards, but you’ll still find plenty of venues where players are free to pick and choose cards based on the numbers they like.
Here’s how the Granville Strategy works.
According to Granville’s analysis, a standard game of 75-ball bingo begins with all 75 numbers holding an identical chance of being drawn. That much is obvious, of course, so it didn’t take a genius to get that far.
But where Granville’s undeniable genius did discover a breakthrough is how the game progresses after that first number is called.
Based on his theory, Granville posited that the second-digit of that first number necessarily impacts how the rest of the draw will play out. In other words, players should be mindful of how bingo balls can be grouped into X-1, X-2, X-3, X-4, X-5, X-6, X-7, X-8, X-9, and X-0 categories. With 75 balls in the hopper, you’ll have the following arrangement based on second-digits.
The Granville Theory Illustrated
That’s a mouthful, and a difficult one to envision at that, so let’s use an example game to show you how the Granville Theory works in real-time.
The first number drawn in our example game happens to be 23. Knowing this, try to visualize how the rest of the balls in the hopper are now arranged. With the 23 out of the way, the count of balls ending in X-3 drops from eight to seven. And as the game progresses, whenever one of those X-3 numbers is called, the likelihood of another X-3 falling from the hopper decreases dramatically.
Based on this deceptively simple concept, Granville used his 1977 book How to Win at Bingo to provide players with a basic path to strategic success.
To incorporate the Granville Strategy into your own bingo game, never select cards that feature several numbers sharing the same second-digit. Under the above example, a player holding a card showing 23, 43, 53, and 73 might be excited when the first number called hits their board. But going forward, that card’s overabundance of X-3 numbers will make it much less likely to create a winning bingo in the end.
To avoid this all too common trap, always be on the lookout for cards that spread the second-digits out as much as possible. It’s fine if you see two or three of the same second-digit, but any count higher than that will leave your win odds lacking during the session’s endgame.
One of the unspoken rules of bingo that regulars know well — and rookies are taught in a hurry — says players should shut their traps when the caller is working.
Amidst the cacophony of chit chat, shuffled cards, and frantic dauber stamping, it can often be difficult to hear the caller read off the numbers — especially in the larger bingo halls that seat hundreds of souls.
To remedy this potential problem, bingo players have a tacit agreement in place which holds that everyone should quiet down whenever the caller starts to read off a new number.
This pact is certainly worthwhile, as it allows everybody an equal chance to hear the numbers and accurately mark off their cards.
But as is typical among the hardcore bingo community, unspoken rules such as this can result in hectoring and harassment when an unsuspecting player accidentally breaches protocol. It only takes a few times hearing a regular ream somebody out for any rookie to develop a deep aversion to talking at all when the caller is doing their thing.
Unfortunately, this agreed-upon silent treatment leads to an unintended consequence for bingo players who haven’t been around the block just yet. Directed to pipe down when numbers are being announced, many novices out there will let the game proceed even when the caller isn’t quite up to snuff.
The caller might be going too quickly, reeling off numbers in rapid succession while you struggle to keep up. Or perhaps they’re using their inside voices, whispering the numbers into a microphone that may or may not be working properly.
In either case, when the caller is acting in such a way that puts you at a disadvantage, never hesitate to speak up and let them know. Do this politely, of course, but do it firmly, so the caller knows what they need to improve.
When you do, you’ll find that making a bingo is much more attainable when you a) have time to scan and mark your cards and b) can hear all of the numbers called out.
Leonard Henry Caleb Tippett — better known as L.H.C. Tippett to statisticians worldwide — was a London-born human calculator.
Along with his many contributions to the fields of probability theory and statistics, Tippett developed a sound bingo strategy based on the length of a game. According to Tippett’s analysis, bingo’s random draw is more likely to produce numbers closer to the median as more balls are drawn.
Conversely, when fewer balls are drawn, numbers closer to the extreme ends of the set are more likely to appear.
Here’s how the Tippett Strategy works in plain English.
Thus, if a long string of numbers is called during a given game, you can expect to see numbers like 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42 show up. On the other hand, when a short string of numbers is called, look for numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 to land.
To take advantage of this statistical certainty, smart bingo players assess the winning combinations needed for a given game.
If the house is using a basic five-string bingo to find a winner, you can expect the game to end rather quickly using a short string of numbers, so choosing cards with low and high numbers is best.
And if the house is rolling with more complex winning combos like the Flag, Bullseye, Butterfly, Candle, or Coverall, you’re best served by choosing cards with a higher ratio of median-adjacent numbers.
Bingo strategy might not be as clear cut and definitive as the methods used by winning blackjack and poker players, but it’s still very effective when wielded correctly.
These include the calculated, math-based approaches advised by theorists like Granville and Tippett, and simple tricks of the trade like communicating with the caller in hopes of playing at your preferred pace.
But whichever strategy you choose to exploit, be sure to approach bingo like any other gambling game that can be played properly using logic and reason.
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