Online bingo games are a lot like games at real bingo halls, but they come without the smoke and the noise. The main bingo card is a pop-up window that contains information such as:
- your card faces (usually three)
- the current number and a tote board of previously called numbers
- a list of current players
- a "chat room" where players can type a few quick words to each other between games. To chat during the game, players type into the chat box under their cards and press the 'Enter' key on the keyboard.
Some Fees Required
While many of the online games themselves are free, most do come at some price. You'll have to wade through ads plastered next to the game cards or in pop-up windows. Plus, you'll need to pay the monthly fee for Internet access. Die-hard online enthusiasts might even choose to invest in a second phone line so they don't tie up the only line.
Some for-pay online games (which require a virtual buy-in using a credit card or check) promise to award big prizes.
How to Play
Getting started: At Bingo.com, players compete for prizes in free games. Before you play any game at Bingo.com, however, you have to sign up for a user name. Be sure to supply a valid e-mail address, or you won't be able to claim prizes. Most of the games are straight-line bingo or coverall.
Each player gets three cards per game, which appear in a special pop-up window with the bingo tote board and a chat area (and a lot of advertisements). The pattern players have to match appears in the upper right corner of the bingo window. The Bingo.com computer calls numbers at random. As numbers are called, players "daub" their cards with a click of the mouse. When a player's card matches the pattern, he or she hits the "Bingo" button.
Prizes: While there are some cash prizes at Bingo.com (for example, on Mondays all winners are automatically entered in a drawing for $50 in cash), don't expect the stakes to be too high for most online games. At Bingo.com, most games are worth a set amount of "bingo bucks." A straight-line bingo might be worth 20 bingo bucks. If more than one player wins, they split the bucks. Every 1,000 bingo bucks can be redeemed for a $10 gift certificate.
The winnings for progressive blackout are a lot higher, and can easily top 1,500 bingo bucks, but the odds are no different than they are in the real bingo hall. People can play for days and never even come close to hitting the blackout.
Socializing: If you spend lon g enough on Internet bingo games, you will start to recognize the user names of certain regulars. Some games are downright chatty, while others are uncomfortably silent (or peacefully quiet, depending on your perspective). Socializing is not mandatory. You may choose to just sit at your computer and play. If you don't like a particular person's chatter -- you may find them to be rude or annoying, perhaps -- you can just click on their name and hit the "Ignore" button, and they're history.
Also, you can click on the "Private Chat" button to send a confidential message to another player. You may not find that you have a whole lot of time to socialize, however, because the online "caller" (basically just a little box where the current number appears) may churn out several numbers seemingly as fast as you click the mouse. After just a few games, though, it becomes easier to keep up with the caller, and you may find yourself with extra time to surf other bingo games at Web sites like Uproar.com and BingoMania.
Potential pitfalls: Sometimes online bingo doesn't go as smoothly as it would at the local bingo hall. The card face may not fit on the screen. The game could get terribly slow, depending on your connection speed, the quality of the Internet service provider, the amount of traffic on the Internet, or problems with the Web site itself. A player may get disconnected from a game because of heavy Internet traffic, or because the Web site itself is so busy that it can't handle all the requests. A heavy dose of patience may be required.
Online bingo players also should be careful of other potential pitfalls, like false bingo sites. In the next section we'll discuss tips on how you can play it safe and still enjoy your bingo experience.