It’s no surprise that a game as popular as Bingo has many different variations played around the world. All Bingo games are based on the same concepts: staying alert as a series of numbers are called out and crossing them off your individual card in the hopes of being the first to complete a winning pattern. Bingo games played around the world all originated from the same game, which you can read about in our section on the history of Bingo. In the United States and Canada, the 75-Ball variation is usually played and in some other countries, including Britain and Australia, the 90-Ball version is most popular. The names of these two variations come from the fact that the numbers called in live games are often printed on balls which are drawn at random from a container. Regardless of the variation played, a number of different patterns may be accepted for determining the winner. When playing for real money, Bingo cards must be purchased. This amounts to a buy-in, similar to poker or Rummy.
Anyone who has ever played Bingo in North America is likely to be familiar with 75-Ball Bingo. Players all receive one or more playing cards with 25 squares arranged in a 5x5 grid. Each square, with the exception of the center square, is marked with a number between 1 and 75. The center square is usually reserved as a “free” space, meaning it can be used in any pattern without having to be called. It’s common for the cards to be labeled with the letters B, I, N, G, and O above each of the five columns. The numbers in each column are then as follows: 1-15 in the ‘B’ column, 16-30 in the ‘I’ column, 31-45 in the ‘N’ column, 46-60 in the ‘G’ column, and 61-75 in the ‘O’ column.
The game is played by marking off numbers on your card as they are called. Since the game is played with the numbers 1-75, but each card only has 24 numbers (when played with a free space), not all players will be able to mark off a number on every card each time one is called. The first player to complete a designated pattern is the winner. 75-Ball Bingo is typically played with so-called “5-in-a-row patterns,” such as a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line across their card.
Outside of North America, 90-Ball Bingo is the world's most popular version of Bingo. This variation is by far the Bingo game of choice in the UK and most of Europe.
For the most part, the main difference between 75-Ball Bingo and 90-Ball Bingo is the setup of the cards used. 90-Ball Bingo cards, also referred to as tickets, consist of three rows and nine vertical columns. Not each square contains a number. Only five numbers are printed in each row and there is no free space.
Winning patterns in 90-Ball are usually horizontal lines, with all of the squares containing numbers in a given row marked off.
Other popular Bingo variations exist as well. Some Bingo rooms allow players to select how their cards are numbered themselves, which allows for some strategy since players can then influence their winning chances by calculating the probability of different numbers being called. Various quick games are also played in which numbers are pre-drawn. Players purchase cards and can see immediately if they won, without having to wait.
Patterns are specific arrangements of marked spaces on a Bingo card. Depending on the game being played, different patterns may be accepted. There are a number of standard patterns but any combination of the spaces on the Bingo card may be used.
In 75-Ball Bingo, “5-in-a-row” patterns are customary. As their name implies, 5-in-a-row patterns are made up of 5 consecutive squares. They may be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. The free space is especially helpful for completing such patterns, as it can be used for two horizontal, two vertical and both diagonal lines on a standard 75-Ball Bingo card.
Blackout patterns, also commonly referred to as “coverall” patterns, make use of every single square on a Bingo card. This pattern is common in all Bingo variations. If a player succeeds in marking off their entire card, they are often rewarded with a larger-than-usual prize or jackpot.
As mentioned above, a winning Bingo pattern may be any combination of the squares available on the cards for that game variation. Some Bingo rooms therefore offer original patterns, such as an ‘X’ pattern or patterns that form some kind of design on the card.