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How to Play Bingo

How to Play Electronic Bingo

Is "computers-plus-bingo" a winning combination? With electronic bingo machines, you can keep track of more cards than you thought humanly possible. But electronic bingo isn't the best option for everyone. Before you ditch the paper cards, this article will review the basics of what you should know about electronic bingo. Below are some options to consider if you want to play this traditional game with updated technology.

Handheld Bingo Devices

Computers are changing the way we do everything -- even playing bingo in bingo halls. In the past few years, more and more bingo enthusiasts have been ditching paper cards. Instead, they are using handheld, portable electronic bingo devices that allow them to play dozens of cards at the same time with a minimum amount of effort. Many players find electronic bingo minders permit them to double, or even triple, the number of cards they can play. In some halls, as many as 20 percent of players are using these electronic bingo devices.  

Do Electronic Players Have An Edge?
Electronic bingo is controversial. For years, traditional bingo players have enjoyed the ritual of daubing the paper card. They live for the challenge of matching wits with fellow players while keeping pace with the caller. Some think relying on a machine takes the skill out of bingo, reducing it to a contest of who can spend the most money to buy cards.

So who really wins here? Does an electronic bingo player with 66 cards have a greater chance of winning? Having more cards gives you a slight edge, but not that much.

A player with 200 cards will have an advantage over players with only a dozen cards, but, when 20 other people in the hall also have 200 cards, the advantage is no longer significant. (Besides, players who regularly play 200 cards at once would also have to regularly pay for 200 cards at once, which could have a disastrous effect on the wallet.)

The best part about handheld bingo devices is that they usually have a tracking mechanism so players will never miss a bingo, even if they are playing dozens of cards. The end result is that novice players can track as many cards as experienced players without a problem. Also, players with physical disabilities might be able to enjoy bingo for the first time using one of these devices.

Players using these devices simply sit at the table, listen for the caller to call the next number, then punch the corresponding keys on the machine. The computer automatically scans the player's bingo cards to see if the player has that number. If one of the cards gets a bingo, it's up to the player to alert the caller by yelling "bingo," and show that he or she has the winning card face.

Many different types of bingo computers exist. Power Player, one of the more advanced systems, features a full-color screen showing up to 12 cards at a time, sound effects, and a small onscreen character (Lil' Champ) who keeps track of the game. Some handheld computers can hold up to 200 cards per game, though certain halls may regulate the number of cards that can be played at one time.

Most jurisdictions have a limit (in Texas, for example, no more than 66 card faces per machine are permitted in any single game). This limit probably stems in part from bingo hall owners' fear that traditional card players will stop coming
if the players with the machines start winning all the time. 

Video Bingo Machines

Another high-tech form of bingo is the video bingo machine, which is similar to a stand-alone video poker or video slot machine. While these machines aren't widespread across the United States, video bingo can be a fun, even productive, way for people to pass the time while waiting for traditional bingo games to start. 

Each game of video bingo costs at least a quarter but usually no more than a dollar. The payout of these machines is typically 80 to 90 percent. In other words, for every dollar put in, the machine returns 80 to 90 cents in winnings. Prizes run up to $1,000, depending on how much money is wagered. To claim winnings, the player pushes the onscreen "cash out" button, and the machine prints out a ticket that can be redeemed for cash.

Video bingo machines sometimes are linked with machines in other places. Evergreen is one game that is commonly linked to more than one machine. The object in evergreen is to get four corners on an electronic bingo card of the player's choosing (cards can be changed before each round begins). Balls from B-1 to O-75 are randomly picked by the computer and displayed on screen. Players whose card shows the number have three seconds to hit the "Daub" button.

If two or more players get four corners at the same time, the pot is split. A large progressive jackpot is available for any player who gets four corners in the first four balls.

Keno Isn't Bingo

Keno is a grid game that is often lumped in (perhaps unfairly) with bingo. Keno has its roots in China, and it was Chinese immigrants who introduced the game to the United States at the end of the 19th century.

In the modern electronic keno game, players pick a few numbers (from 1 to 80) on a card and insert that card into a computer, which prints out a ticket showing their chosen numbers. Then, the computer selects numbers at random. Players win prizes based on how many of their picks match the computer selections.

Bingo players looking for ways to spice up the traditional game can find some relief with electronic bingo. Which technology they choose depends on how they want to enhance the game.