Bingo Basics from the Bingo Gurus

Since owning, I’ve learned a thing or two about the basics of playing bingo. Helping customers with their custom bingo card creations, I have had to really study the not only how to play the game, but the timing, probability, and statistics of bingo. Here’s my bingo wisdom tied up in a tiny blog ball and thrown in the hopper for you.

How to Play Bingo

Traditional bingo dates back all the way to the 1500s with Italy often getting credit for game origination.  From Japan, to the UK, Sweden, Romainia, Mexico, and America, you can find the traditional game of set numbers in columns.  While their may be variations in game set-up and what constitutes going bingo, game play is basically the same.

  1. Purchase or create a set of bingo cards.  Players will also need something to cover their cards with.  Bingo chips, daubers or even something as simple as kernels of corn work great.
  2. Give one or several cards to each player.  Players will cover the center space or “Free Space” on each card.
  3. Place the numbers for calling the game in a hopper.  Or, if you are playing custom bingo, fold each word/phrase/picture used in card creation in a hopper which can be anything from a paper bag to the same turning mechanism used in bingo halls.  Hint: If you created your bingo cards using, you can use the cut-apart call sheet automatically printed with each set of bingo cards.
  4. Call the numbers by first saying the column it is in, then the number.  For example “B-5” means the first column (B), and the number 5.  If playing custom bingo, you can just call the word/phrase/pictures unless you set up the game using Consistent Columns in
  5. Players look on their card and cover the space if they have it.
  6. The first player to cover five words on their card in any horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line shouts BINGO! and wins.

Bingo Game Timing

How long a bingo game lasts depends on several factors, the biggest two being the number of items in the hopper and how many people are playing or the number of cards in play.

For game timing using standard 5×5 bingo cards and following the regular bingo rule of covering a row across, up and down or diagonal, follow these estimates per game:

  • 1 player/card=about 40 minutes
  • 10 players or cards in play= about 25 minutes
  • 50 players or cards in play=about 18 minutes
  • 100 players or cards in play=about 16 minutes
  • 200 players or cards in play=about 14 minutes
  • 500 players or cards in play=about 12 minutes
  • 1000 players or cards in play=about 10 minutes

Timing of games can be manipulated in different ways. If you are playing custom bingo, cards can be created in different sizes, with more or less items in the hopper or no Free Space. Here are some ideas to manipulate timing of bingo games.

To Create Longer Games of Bingo

  • Less people playing at one time
  • Use more words/images in card creation
  • More spaces needed to go bingo (cover all, picture frame, X, etc…)
  • Create custom bingo cards with no Free Space

To Create Shorter Games of Bingo

  • Have more people playing at one time
  • Provide more than one card per person
  • Create bingo cards using less words/images in card creation
  • Use the traditional row/column/diagonal to go bingo
  • Create bingo cards with a smaller card size


As with any game that stands the test of time, different ways to play and win are created. Bingo is no exception. Here are some interesting Bingo variations.

Quick Shot Bingo– Numbers are pre-drawn. Players purchase sealed cards which are then matched against the pre-drawn numbers.

Death Bingo– An inverted game where a player that gets a bingo is eliminated and knocked out of the game. The winner is the player who fills out the most spaces on their board before getting a bingo.

Buzzword Bingo– Participants prepare bingo cards with buzzwords and mark them off when they are uttered during an event, such as a meeting or speech.

Loteria– This Mexican game of bingo uses images on a deck of cards instead of numbers on balls. Each player has at least one tabla, a board with a randomly created 4 × 4 grid of pictures.

Want more ideas? Visit our Bingo Blog.