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How to Play Bingo


The History of Bingo
While bingo became popular in the United States early in the twentieth century, the roots of the game stretch back to the year 1530. That's when a state-run lottery called "Lo Gioco del Lotto d'Italia" started in Italy. (Interestingly, even to this day you can still play that lotto every Saturday.) The French picked up lotto in the late 1700s. One version used a playing card with nine columns and three rows, with four free spaces per row.

The caller reached into a bag and picked out wooden chips marked 1 through 90 (1 to 10 for the first column, 11 to 20 for the second, and so forth). The first player to cover one whole row was the winner. These lottery-type bingo games soon became a craze throughout Europe.

Bingo as we know it today was popularized by Edwin S. Lowe, a struggling but enterprising toy salesman from New York. Lowe observed a game called "Beano" at a country carnival in Atlanta, Georgia. The game was called Beano because players used dried beans to mark their cards as the numbers came up. When a player completed a line of numbers, he or she would stop the game by yelling "Beano!," and that player would win a small prize.

Lowe saw that players were captivated by the game. Lowe himself was so spellbound by this new game that he brought it back home and introduced it to his friends. During one game, a lady got so excited by her win that she blurted out "Bingo!" instead of the accepted cry.

And just like that, bingo was born. "Lowe's Bingo" became a sweeping success, and by the mid-1930s, bingo games were popping up all over the country, in part because churches and social clubs quickly realized the fund-raising potential.

Today, 48 states (and more than 100 Native American reservations) offer legal bingo on some scale. Games range from small enough to fit in a church basement to big enough to pack a 1,800-seat hall. In this article, we'll discuss the basic equipment and rules used in bingo, and give you tips on how to improve your strategy. If you are looking for more places with new players, we'll show you where to look. If you aren't sure who your challengers will be or what kind of prizes can be at stake, check the overview below.

Bingo players come from all walks of life. There is no stereotypical bingo player. Most like to socialize, which is why they go to bingo, and they may also enjoy other competitive group activities, such as bowling, that combine fun and friends. Most regular players are over the age of 45, surveys show, but bingo is being discovered by young people every day as a new way to socialize. And both men and women enjoy playing the game, whether by themselves or with a spouse or friend. The bottom line? Bingo is fun for everyone.