Game Information: An Introduction To Bingo

Includes a history, rules, cultural importance and discussion of gambling. Where does the name Bingo come from?

The predecessor of the ever-popular gambling game of Bingo was a game called Beano. Beano was played at country fairs. It was played with a dealer who would pick out and then call out numbers from a box. Each player had a playing card which had numbers printed on it. When the dealer would call out a number they had on their card, the player would then mark their cards with a bean. When players had gotten a row of beans, he or she would then call out "Beano!" and they would be the winner of the game. They would then receive some type of prize, such as a doll. Beano, as well as Bingo, of course, are strictly games of chance.

To play Bingo today, each player has to buy at least one card in order to play. Each card is divided into squares. Sometimes, the square in the middle of the card is called a "free square" or a "wild square." The caller then mixes up and randomly picks numbers out of a bin, As each number is called, each player checks his or her card to see if they have that number. There are variations to this game. That is, to win some games, you need to have all of the numbers in a vertical row, or a horizontal row, for example, or have all of the numbers on a card, and so on. The winner is the first person to call out "Bingo!" when they have achieved the required numbers of pattern of numbers on their card. The winner then wins a certain amount of money.

A toy salesman from New York by the name of Edwin Lowe was responsible for changing Beano into Bingo. Lowe had started his own toy company the year before, and sales were miserably low. In 1929, he happened upon a country fair in his travels. This happening would change Lowe's luck. All of the other games were closed down for the night except one game which had attracted many people. Lowe tried to play the game, but he could not find a seat since the tent was so packed with players already. So, he watched the game of Beano being played. When the game finally closed up, Lowe talked to the caller to find out the details of the game that so many people loved and played for hours at a time. He then returned home and started his own Beano game by inviting friends over to his apartment to play. Once, when an excited woman realized she had won, instead of yelling the required, "Beano!", she accidentally yelled, "Bingo!" Lowe used the term Bingo when he marketed his version of the game.

After the game had become a marketing success, Lowe was visited by a Catholic priest from Pennsylvania. His church was experiencing severe financial troubles. A parishioner had suggested that the church hold Bingo games as a way to raise the much-needed money. So, the priest had bought several of Lowe's Bingo games and the plan was put into action. A problem quickly developed when it was found that each game was won by six or more players at a time! Lowe then hired a math professor from the Columbia University to develop six thousand Bingo cards with numbers on them that did not repeat themselves. The professor succeeded in this difficult task, and the game of Bingo went on to become a profitable gambling game for both the organization as well as for the players.

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