The types of patterns that will be played during a session are usually set ahead of time. Single games are not limited to a single pattern (for example, the caller may call a picture frame on the way to a blackout). It's possible that a player can win two jackpots in the same game by completing both the first and second patterns; or, it's possible the game may feature two different winners if one player gets the picture frame but a second player gets the blackout. Patterns are not limited to one card, either. For example, giant bingo is a straight-line bingo that extends from one card face to another.
To keep the game interesting, most halls will change the patterns frequently. Some of the patterns can get pretty creative; the biggest problem with this is that trying to find a complex pattern on a dozen cards at once is an acquired skill. If the pattern is complicated, don't worry -- it's likely to be printed in a program or displayed on a lighted electronic board overhead, and it certainly will be explained by the caller prior to the game. But that still doesn't make it any easier for an inexperienced player to pick out the pattern when there are blotches all over their card. It's very important that you pay close attention to your cards in complicated games, or else you may reach bingo and not even realize it until it's too late. This happens all the time!
One way to keep things simple is to break down a pattern into its elements. The following are descriptions of popular patterns grouped by similarities. In some cases, you'll find suggestions for how you might think of the patterns in order to simplify things while scanning your cards. Pay attention to special rules (for example, the two lines in double regular bingo need not run parallel to each other).
Straight Line Patterns
In one-line bingo, also called regular bingo, a player simply needs to cover five numbers in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. In two lines, or double regular bingo, the lines do not necessarily need to run the same direction. The same is true for triple regular bingo, where it's possible to win with one horizontal, one vertical, and one diagonal line.
Railroad Tracks Pattern
These patterns can be thought of as special configurations of double and triple bingo. Two horizontal or vertical lines together make up railroad tracks. Asterisk is the two diagonals plus the vertical line down the center; add the horizontal line through the middle for starburst. Bow tie is just four lines: two diagonals, plus a vertical line down each edge.
Take a look. While this might seem like alphabet soup, it's just more straight-line combos. Remember, if the letter is designated "crazy," the pattern can be formed right-side up, upside down, or lying on either side.
Lucky Seven Patterns
Lucky seven is a double bingo consisting of the horizontal line along the top edge of the card plus the diagonal line from top right to bottom left, forming -- yes, you guessed it -- the number seven.
Usually, coverall, also known as blackout, is used for a large, progressive jackpot. Players try to daub off all 24 numbered spaces on a card within a specific number of calls. In a 51-number blackout, for example, a player must cover all 24 spaces in 51 calls. If no one accomplishes this, the game ends and the jackpot rolls over. As mentioned earlier, some jurisdictions prohibit progressive jackpots; in that case, coveralls are played until someone hits bingo, regardless of how many balls are called.
In odd-even, a variation of coverall, the caller instructs players to blot out all even (or odd) numbers, and then calls only odd (or even) numbers until someone wins. The caller will usually use the day of the month, a ball drawn from the blower, or some other method to determine whether the game is set at odd or even.
Speedball is a fast-paced version of coverall in which the caller rapidly calls out numbers one after the other until one player covers all spaces. The caller may even omit the letters to make it more challenging.
Picture Frame Patterns
A picture frame pattern includes every space along the edge of the card. Broken picture frame is every other space along the edge, starting with the corners. An inside frame is a small box inside what would be the larger picture frame area.
Big Diamond Pattern
Little diamond is a four-square pattern that includes the squares immediately to the top, bottom, left, and right of the free space. The points of the eight-square big diamond touch the center square of each side.
Postage Stamp/Double Postage Stamp Patterns
In a postage stamp pattern, to win you need to cover four squares in a corner. In single postage stamp, players usually need to have the top right corner covered (so the board looks like an envelope that's ready to mail). Double postage stamp can include any two corners.
Six-Pack/Block of Eight Patterns
These patterns are groupings similar to that of postage stamp. Six-pack is made up of two rows of three squares, just like a six-pack of soda or beer. Make that two rows of four squares each for block of eight. (Block of nine, as one would expect, is three rows of three squares each.)
Kite (Magic Wand)/Arrow Patterns
These are basically more variations on the postage stamp pattern. Kite is a four-square box in one corner (the kite), plus a diagonal line all the way to the opposite corner (the tail of the kite). A "crazy" kite is one in which the tail points to any of the four corners. Arrow looks a little bit like kite, but it consists of a six-square triangle instead of a four-square box.
American Flag Pattern
American flag and castle are two horizontal bingo variations. American flag covers the top three lines plus a two-square flagpole at the bottom. The flagpole may be on the left or right. A castle covers the bottom two rows of the bingo card, as well as every other square in the middle row. As you can see, this creates the look of turrets on a castle.
The snake pattern consists of a zigzag line of five squares along the top edge of the card, starting with the second square in the B column. Remember, a crazy snake is the same pattern, but it can start in any of the corners.
Now that you are familiar with potential bingo card patterns, let's look at how players try to increase the mathematical odds of their numbers being called.