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Understanding Bingo Basics


Raising the Stakes

The most exciting new phenomenon in the bingo world is the spread of high-stakes games. There are literally dozens of halls scrambling to set up games that promise to pay $50,000, $100,000, or even $1 million to some lucky winner. The jackpots are so high that some hall owners take out insurance policies so they won't go broke!

Some of the super-jackpots are set up to be "step games," where the game pays different amounts depending on how quickly the winner gets a blackout. For example, a blackout in 49 numbers might pay $50,000, while a blackout in only 45 numbers would earn $100,000. Because it's very hard to get a blackout in so few calls, it may be weeks or even months before anybody wins it.

These high-stakes games are found mainly at casinos and Native American bingo halls. Royal River Casino in Flandreau, South Dakota, features a $25,000 and a $100,000 game. Pot O' Gold in Henderson, Nevada, offers a $25,000 game. At Mahoney's Silver Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, the top prize is $500,000, and at the American Legion-Cheyenne, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the jackpot is $1,000,000.

The super-jackpots are usually winnable during certain sessions. For example, the Thunderbird Entertainment Center in Norman, Oklahoma, has a $100,000 payout game offered six sessions a week -- five nights and one afternoon. In order to win this or other super-jackpots, players usually have to get a special pattern within a certain number of calls, and then they may have to play another game of chance, like spinning a wheel or picking an envelope off a prize board.

As you can imagine, the odds of winning are pretty slim, so it may be weeks, months, or years before somebody gets that top prize. Then again, somebody could win it on the first game of the first session on the first day it's offered.

Collecting the Cash

Players who hit a big bingo in a super-jackpot don't just walk away with a fat check. First, the bingo balls are collected and sent to an independent testing lab to make sure there has been no tampering, and the insurance company reviews a security videotape. The check is usually cut about 48 hours after the win. If the jackpot is less than $100,000, it may be paid out in a single lump sum, but larger jackpots are usually paid out in the form of yearly payments.

Satellite Bingo

Satellite bingo is another way bingo halls can offer larger jackpots. This is a linked bingo game played simultaneously at bingo halls in a certain area. An outside company links the bingo halls by satellite (hence the name of the game!). The prizes in satellite bingo games are often much larger than what individual halls could offer. Satellite bingo is only found in certain states, such as Washington, where the top prize in evening games is $50,000.

You've learned the basics. It's time to start playing.

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