Arrive early. It's common practice for regular players to arrive at the hall one or two hours before the session begins. This gives them ample time to get their favorite seat, prepare their cards (by fastening them down or predaubing spaces not needed for the pattern), grab a snack, set up their good-luck trinkets, play some pull-tabs, or gossip and play gin rummy with other regulars.
This is also an excellent opportunity to learn more about the best or worst games in town. As you meet people, you'll get to hear war stories and find out about the popular places in town to play bingo. Take what you hear with a grain of salt, though. People might make broad statements about a certain hall just because they went one time and lost. Or they might say, "I love that hall -- I won six times!" However, it's wise to also ask that person just how much they have lost there!
Be prepared. Bring tape or a glue stick. Slippery tables can be a pain when you're trying to concentrate on your cards. A roll of adhesive tape should solve that. Likewise, a glue stick might be a good investment.
Sit close to the caller. The faster you get information, the better. By sitting near the caller, you may be able to sneak a peek at the next ball as it pops out of the chute. This is a totally acceptable practice, so feel free to take advantage of it. However, be aware that you can't call bingo until after the number is announced by the caller.
Stay alert. Stay on your toes, because if you cover the pattern on B-7 but don't yell "bingo" before the next number is called, you lose. For somebody who has spent all night at the tables, it's a personal tragedy to "sleep a bingo." (Somebody who hollers "bingo" after the next number has been called is known as a sleeper.)
Keep your wits about you. Some bingo halls serve alcoholic drinks along with the usual assortment of snacks and refreshments. Enjoy in moderation, if that's what you like, but always remember that alcohol can impair your judgment. Don't rely on your bingo judgment to be the best under the influence of alcohol. You don't want to wake up the next morning wondering what happened to that paycheck you just cashed!
Speak up. Don't be afraid to call the caller. If it seems like the caller is whizzing through the numbers, you may be playing too many cards. But the caller could be new, or he or she may simply be tired and hoping to get the game done quickly. If you know you can play six faces comfortably but you're having trouble keeping up, don't be afraid to speak up.
Know the rules. If someone gets a bingo unfairly (for example, they don't call bingo loud enough for the caller to stop the game but they are awarded the pot anyway), citing the rules may mean the difference between you having a chance to win and the game ending right there.
Get some exercise. A lot of people say exercise makes them sharper and better able to concentrate. Exercise also combats the dreaded "seat spread" caused by excessive bingo snack consumption. Be warned, however, that a brisk walk around the parking lot probably won't cut it. Researchers in Victoria, Australia, found that six minutes of aerobic exercise had no effect on how mentally sharp bingo players were compared with their pre-exercise scores.
How to Hone Your Mental Skills
A big surprise to bingo beginners is how often they have to slap their forehead because they missed a chance to fill in a square on one of their cards. For bingo "professionals," however, missed calls are kept to a minimum thanks to a combination of concentration and mental skills that become second nature from repeated play. Below are a few tips to try out.
Ignore the numbers on the left side of the square. By reading the numbers on the card backward, you may save a little time. For example, if the number called is B-12, scan the right-hand side of the B column for 2's. When you see one, glance to the left for a 1.
Pay attention to the pattern. It can be tricky to keep up with the caller while remembering to check for the pattern. It's not unusual at all for a beginner to get bingo and not realize it, simply because their card is so daubed up that they don't even see the pattern. Predaub all the squares you don't need. Don't forget that in certain games, many of the spaces don't matter.
If the game pattern is picture frame (all the squares along the four edges of the card), try predaubing all the inside numbers to help you mentally block out the rest of the card and concentrate on the important spaces. That can mean a lot of daubing in a 12-card game of little diamond (the four squares immediately up, down, left, and right of the free space), but the slight edge you gain from predaubing might allow you to comfortably track additional sheets.
Eventually, as you develop the mental skills that come with repeated play, you may find you don't get any benefit from predaubing. You may be able to simply visualize the pattern as your eyes dart from card to card.
Rely on backup. If you're still having trouble keeping up with complicated patterns, consider bringing a yellow highlighter to mark the daubable spaces.
Now that you know some basic rules and how to keep up with seasoned players, where can you play bingo? Let's find out in the last section.