The history of bingo

The game we call “bingo” actually started out as “beano.”
The history of the game dates back to the mid-1500s. “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia,” or the Italian Lottery, was all the rage. Players had cards with numbered squares on them, and the winning numbers were drawn out of a sack. The game made its way to France in the late 1770s, and it was a young Frenchman who developed an alternate version. He printed numbers on cards, three horizontal rows and nine vertical, with the numbers one through 90 in random arrangements. Again, numbers were drawn from a sack, and the first person to cover a horizontal row was the winner.
Flash forward to early 1900s America, and “Beano” was all the rage at local carnivals. Similar to the French game, but with fewer numbers, players covered their squares with beans, prompting the winner to shout “beano!” Legend has it that in 1929, struggling toymaker Edwin S. Lowe observed a spirited round of Beano in New York and was inspired to create his own version. Acting as caller, he invited a group of friends to play using his version of the numbered cards. One player got increasingly agitated as his card neared completion, and when his final number was called, he called out “Bingo!” in excited confusion, and the name stuck.
Although that may be true, the term “Bingo” had been used for a similar game in the United Kingdom for years and likely lent its name to the American version. Either way, the game took off and helped save Lowe’s toy company.

Bingo Paper Terms

ONs: Number of individual bingo faces per sheet.

1 Set (all one color): One complete series of 9,000 bingo faces.

Number of booklets per set: 9,000 divided by the number of ONs.

UPs/ Collated bingo paper books: Booklets containing any number
    of various colored sheets, any cut.

Number of UPs: Number of sheets in a collated booklet.

Total faces per collated set: 9,000 multiplied by the number of UPs.

Faces per book: Cut style (ONs) multiplied by the number of UPs.

Case paper: A complete series of 9,000 faces using any cut (ONs) all
of the same color.

For example…
To determine the total number of bingo faces in a 6 ON, 10UP collation,
you take 9,000 (number of faces for each color) multiplied by 10 colors
per booklet, which equals 90,000 faces.

To determine the total number of booklets for a 6 ON, 10UP collation, you
divide 9,000 by 6 ON (number of faces per sheet), which equals 1,500 booklets.


Bingo Face

There are millions of possible unique faces made up by the combination of 75 bingo balls in the  24 squares (plus the free spot) on a bingo face. 

That number is 552,446,474,061,128,648,601,600,000 simplified as 5.52×1026 or 552 septillion.


There are 9,000 unique faces per box or permutation.

Permutations or “perms” are:

1 to 9,000 Faces

9,001 to 18,000 faces

18,001 to 27,000 faces

27,001 to 36,000 faces

36,001 to 45,000 faces

45,001 to 54,000 faces

54,001 to 63,000 faces

and so on…

The number in the FREE spot is the number of the card and denotes what the perm is.  The example to the left is from perm 9,000-18,000.

The Serial number on top of the Face is a unique number that identifies the perm set.

Bingo Cards and Insane Mathamaticians

Several months after Bingo hit the market, Lowe was approached by a priest from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The Father had a problem in his parish. A fast thinking parishoner had come up with the idea of using Bingo as a way to get the church out of its financial troubles. The priest had put the scheme into operation after having bought several sets of Lowe’s $2.00 Bingo game. However, problems developed immediately when it was found that each game produced half a dozen or more winners. Lowe could immediately see the tremendous fund raising possibilities of Bingo, but at the same time, he realized that to make the game workable on this large of a scale, a great many more combinations of numbers would have to be developed for the cards. To accomplish this, Lowe sought the services of an elderly professor of mathematics at Columbia University, one Carl Leffler. Lowe’s request was the the professor devise 6,000 new Bingo cards with non repeating number groups. The professor agreed to a fee that remunerated him on a per card basis. As the professor worked on, each card became increasingly difficult. Lowe was impatient, and toward the end the price per card had risen to $100. Eventually, the task was completed. The E.S. Lowe Company had its 6,000 cards – at the expense of the professor’s sanity!
The church of Wilkes-Barre was saved and after it, a Knights of Columbus Hall in Utica, New York. Word spread fast – “I used to get thousands of letters asking for help on setting up Bingo games, “said Lowe – so many that he published Bingo’s first Instructional Manual. This effort was followed by a monthly news letter called The Blotter (absorbs all Bingo news) which was distributed to 37,000 subscribers. By 1934 there were an estimated 10,000 Bingo games a week, and Ed Lowe’s firm had a thousand employees frantically trying to keep up with demand – nune entire floors of the New York office space, and 64 presses printing 24 hours a day – “… we used more newsprint than the New York Times!” According to Lowe, the largest Bingo game in history was played in New York’s Teaneck Armory – 60,000 players, with another 10,000 being turned away at the door. Ten automobiles were given away. Bingo was off to a fast start, and at the same time, had reserved itself next to baseball and apple pie – thanks to Ed Lowe and the loss of Professor Leffler’s sanity.


Bingo sheets start of on a sheet with 36 faces.  It is then cut down to any size all the way down to just one face.  These are called “Ons,” for the number of faces on the cut down sheet.  The most common cut in Alaska is a 6 ON cut.  Since a 6 ON cut can either be two faces across and three faces down, or three faces across and two faces down, the cuts are referred to as Vertical and  Horizontal respectively.  (Similar to “portrait” and “landscape” on a printer) 

The majority of our stock is 6 On Vertical or 6 On Horizontal bingo paper.  

We do have a paper cutter and occasionally cut 6 On paper down to 2 On or 1 On sheets. 


36 On Sheet
24 On Vertical
24 On Horizontal
15 On Horizontal
12 On Vertical
12 On Horizontal
10 On Horizontal
9 On
8 On Vertical
8 On Horizontal
6 On Horizontal
6 On Vertical
5 On Horizontal
4 On
3 On Vertical
3 On Horizontal
2 On Vertical
2 On Horizontal
1 On

Packages, Ups and Color Rotation

Packages, sometimes called books, are a group of Perm Sets arranged with different colors that coordinate with each game in the Bingo Session

Bingo halls create a schedule for each bingo night.  The schedule will consist of Sessions, promotioins and Intermissions.  Each session is a group of bingo games.  Each game will have a specific colored Set associated with it.  These combined sets are called Packages.

In this example, a Package consisting of 5 different sets of paper is used: Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow and Pink.

Monday Night Early Schedule

Seassion 1

Game 1. Large X – Blue
Game 2. Small Picture Frame – Orange
Game 3. Outside Corners – Green
Game 4. Double Bingo – Yellow
Game 5. Coverall – Pink


Each different colored set in a package is called an “Up.”  So a 10 game session would require a 10 Up Package consisting of 10 different colored sets.

The colors in the package are referred to as the “Color Rotation.


There are multiple colors of Borders available along with Screen or tinted paper. 

Border colors have a white background while the Screen colors have a background with a lighter shade of the border color.  White is just white with a black border.


Bingo Patterns

Bingo patterns can either be fixed or rotating (Crazy/Any way.)

Patterns can be used to control the length of the sessions by learning how many balls need to be pulled to make the game “possible,” and what the average amount of balls called is for each game.  If your session is running too long, you can change your patterns to adjust.  Some patterns do not use all of the BINGO letters and can speed the game up.  Black Out or coverall is the longest game, and an Alaskan favorite is called the Double Diamond.  Most halls stick to their patterns for years once they have been established.


Common definitions of Bingo terminology

  • Bingo Card or face

A card containing 24 numbers and a “free space” arranged in a 5×5 square. At the top of each column is the appropriate letter, spelling out B I N G O. Each column has 15 random numbers from its number set. The sets are as follows: B is 1-15, I is 16-30, N is 31-45 G is 46-60, and O is 61-75.

  • Bingo Marker/ Dabber/ Dauber /Dobber

 The marker, usually ink filled, used to cover the numbers on the bingo game card.

  • Bingo Books / Packets / Packages

 A number of different colored bingo sheets bound together in a booklet. Each of the colors correspond to a specific game and are usually bound in the order in which they will be played.

  • Blackout/Coverall

 A pattern which requires all 25 squares on a face be covered in order to win the game of bingo.

  • Blower

 A forced-air device that mixes the bingo balls and dispenses them to the caller who announces the numbers and displays them on a bingo board.

  • Caller

 The person who calls the bingo numbers as they are drawn.

  • Consolation Prize

 A prize offered that is less in value than the original bingo prize. Consolation prizes are usually given on “Special” games when no winner meets the predetermined guidelines for winning that particular game.

 Example: Blackout in 52 numbers or less for $1,000.00. 53 numbers or more receives a $250.00 consolation prize.

  • Crazy/Any Way

A term used to describe a bingo “pattern.”  That can be completed in either multiple directions or on multiple areas on the sheet. For example, if the bingo pattern was the “Crazy letter T” or letter T “Any Way” That would mean that the “T” could be upside down or turned 90 degrees left or 90 degrees right as an example.

  • Duplicate

Unlike a multiple winner, a duplicate is when two identical bingo faces produce a bingo at the same time.  Bingo halls go through a great process to maintain that all bingo faces sold are unique.  Usually using different “perms” at each point of sale.  By Alaska State regulations, “duplicate” winners do not share the prize with the other winners, each must be paid the full amount.

  • Early Bird Game

 A game which starts before the regularly scheduled games or session time.

  • Early Bird Game (ALASKA STYLE)

Alaska’s Early Bird Games are usually run as an ongoing game throughout the session in which the first or last number called (depending on the Hall) from each of the session’s regular games is daubed on a separate sheet of bingo paper.  The separate game is normally a traditional straight or diagonal Bingo. The first person to achieve a straight or diagonal wins.  If there is no winner, the game plays out in the “Early Bird Playoff” round.

  • Face/Bingo Card

An individual bingo playing area containing 24 numbers and a free space in the middle. For example, a bingo sheet that has 6 individual playing areas (bingo cards) on that sheet is said to have 6 “faces,” or 6 on  

  • Flash Board/Bingo Board

A display board, usually electronic, that “lights up” showing each number that has been called with the last number called normally blinking. The board will also display the number of balls called and the game pattern being played on what is called the “Game Board.”

  • Free Space

The middle square of the bingo card that has no number assigned to it. You get this square free every game. Some games do not allow the use of the Free Space. See Hardway

  • Hardway

 A term used to describe a bingo game in which the free space cannot be used to achieve a winning pattern.  Examples: Hardway Bingo (Any straight line without the use of the free space)  Hardway  Six Pack   (a block of six daubs in 2 rows of 3 daubs, or 3 rows of 2 daubs that does not use the free space)

  • Late Night/RAMA Bingo

 A late night bingo session, usually beginning sometime after the regular evening session has ended.

  • Multiple Winners

 If more than one player wins a bingo game at the same time, the cash prize is divided between them. With multiple winners, it does not matter who calls Bingo first. All verified Bingo winners will split the total “prize” evenly including Sleeper Bingos.

  • On

 A player is ‘on’ when one or more of their cards are only one number away from achieving the necessary pattern to declare a bingo.

  • Ons

 Not to be confused with “On” above. “Ons” is a term used to describe how many “faces” are on a sheet. For example if you hear someone say “6 ON” then they mean a sheet that has 6 “faces” on it.

  • Pattern

The winning graphic shape or design that players need to cover with chips or marks on the card in order to win the game.  Game patterns can be found on the provided game schedules, on the flash boards located throughout the hall, or on the electronic daubing devices.

  • Payout/To Go

The amount of money paid out by the bingo hall for a particular game. Also known as the “To Go” amount.

  • Possible

Means that someone has called bingo and everyone needs to hold their cards for the verification or that enough of the numbers per B, I, N, G and O in the bingo pattern have been called for there to be the possibility of a bingo.

  • Pull-Tab

A fundraising gambling game that uses a multi layered paper (cardboard) ticket with perforated windows that when opened, reveal various symbols, pictures, or numbers. It is referred to by some as a “Paper Slot Machine.”  Money is won by the player when they get the winning symbols, pictures, or numbers.  Other names for Pull-Tabs include: Break-Opens, Nevada Tickets, Cherry Bells, Lucky 7s, Pickle Cards, Rippies, Snappers, Crackers, Tabbies, Jar Tickets, Instant Bingo, Bowl Games, or Popp-Opens, Chips and Nuggets.

  • Rama (see Late Night)
  • Screened

When your winning number is showing on the “next ball” monitor and someone calls bingo.

  • Session

A program or series of Bingo games played all together. A session may contain Special games, jackpots, and intermissions throughout the program, with varying game times usually lasting 2 to 3 hours depending on the number or types of games being played.

  • Sleeper Bingo

A Bingo that is discovered to have been “made” on a number previous to the last number that was called, usually the result of missing or not daubing a previous number. In many places, a sleeper bingo is not honored. However, here in Alaska, State law requires sleeper bingos to be honored so long as they are declared prior to the closing of a Game. All players that have a verified bingo that was declared prior to the close of the game must be paid regardless of which number they Bingoed on.

  • Validation

A process to mark or track bingo paper to insure it was sold by the bingo hall for that session or is not counterfeit.  Many halls use “perforators” to mark a secret code on all sheets sold for that session.  Another means is to track the serial number on the perm set to make sure it belongs to the hall. Each process is checked along with the rest of the verification process.

  • Verification/ Verify

The process of authenticating the validity of a declared Bingo. A bingo can be verified through an electronic device integrated into the caller’s stand and blower system which can display a representation of the winning card and pattern on a video monitor.  It can be “called back” by an employee and verified visually by a caller and usually a neutral player. Or it can be verified by a combination of the two. Once you call Bingo, a Bingo caller or computer program will check to make sure that you have correctly marked off the right numbers.

Did you know...


Bingo is more popular than the combined attendance of all NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR and thoroughbred racing events combined.

Bingo is played by all ages around the world, about 30% of bingo players are under the age of 35.

An estimated 96% of all bingo players have won some money while playing bingo.

“Winning” is not the number 1 reason people play bingo. In fact,” winning” is actually #5 behind: #4 Supporting worthy causes, #3 Like playing Bingo, #2 Socializing with friends, and #1 Entertainment

Despite what some people might think, bingo is good for you. Bingo improves concentration, memory and observation skills.

Four years after its appearance in 1930 the estimated bingo games in churches and recreation centers numbered 10,000.

 Reportedly, the largest bingo game ever held was in New York which had approximately 60,000 players. There were reports that an additional 10,000  players had to be turned away at the door.

 It is reported that after working to produce some 6,000 individual bingo cards (faces), University of Columbia mathematics professor Carl Leffler went insane.

 The first charity bingo game was held at a church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

 Bingo is the number one fundraising game in the world.

 During the depression a form of bingo was played in movie theaters. It was called “Screeno”.

Reportedly Cats are the number one pet of bingo players.

 Bingo was Bing Crosby’s nickname as a child.

 In Australia bingo was known as Housie when introduced in the early 20th century.

 There are approximately 552,446,474,061,129,000,000,000 different bingo card combinations. (That’s over 552 septillion different combinations)

If we were to print these given possible combinations of bingo cards, it would take us 17,505,972,382,599.7 years to finish all bingo cards, given that we can print 1 million bingo cards per second!

 Purple is the apparent favorite color for bingo players. This is according to a survey of bingo suppliers.

The chat rooms of big bingo sites are some of the most active in the world.

 You can find a bingo game in approximately 90% of the countries in the world.

 Bingo generates over $10 billion in revenue per year in North America alone.  

Bingo spending in North America alone is estimated to be over $90 million – weekly!

If you include the rest of the world, Bingo would account for an estimated $20 billion plus in sales – yearly!

There are approximately 60 million bingo players in the United States accounting for 1.2 billion visits annually to commercial, charitable, military and casino bingo operations.

It may help your chances of winning at bingo, if you change your name – Statistics show Margaret is a lucky name for a female bingo player, while Joe is a lucky name for a male bingo player

Nearly as many men (43%) play Bingo as women (57%); however, women play the game more often.