How to play bingo: Rules, patterns, variations & winning

Master the game of Bingo with our comprehensive guide. Discover rules, patterns, variations, and strategies, plus creative ideas to make learning fun for kids. Let’s get those winning shouts rolling!

Reading Time
13 min read
Publish Date
Jun 24, 2023
How to play bingo: Rules, patterns, variations & winning

Welcome to the joyous, jubilant, and just plain fun world of bingo!

You may think of it as a simple game, relegated to church halls or retirement homes, or perhaps you remember it fondly as the highlight of your school's charity events. Well, we're here to bust those myths wide open!

The game of bingo is much like an iceberg—what you see on the surface is only a fraction of the whole. Whether you're a seasoned player or a curious newcomer who may even still be confused about the terminology, get prepared to be educated! We're going to embark on a delightful journey exploring the rules, variations, and the sheer versatility of this timeless classic.

By the time you finish this article, you'll be a veritable bingo boffin, ready to impress at your next family game night or community event. So grab a cup of tea, sit back, and let's delve into the exhilarating world of Bingo rules. Get ready to shout "Bingo!" with confidence? Let's dive in!

1. First, gather your bingo equipment

To immerse yourself in the Bingo universe, you'll need the following gear:

  1. Bingo cards: Central to every game, a bingo card is a grid (3x3, 4x4, 5x5 or 9x3) filled with numbers. Traditionally, those numbers are 1 - 30, 1 - 75, 1-80 or 1- 90. Every player needs one of these cards to participate. You can optionally make the game more personalized and unique by playing with words, images and emoji. This kind of game requires custom cards rather than traditional numbered cards, a bingo card generator can help with that.
  2. Bingo markers: These small markers are key to tracking your progress. You'll place these on the called numbers on your scorecard.
  3. Call list: This is the voice of the game. The caller randomly draws and announces letter-number combinations to the players.

2. Setting up the game

Set-up is a breeze with these simple steps:

  1. Distribute bingo cards: Share the cards with each player. This could be either physically printed cards or sharing your online game room if you're using Bingo Card Creator.
  2. Distribute chips: If you're playing in person, give each player their bingo markers. Keep them close; you'll need them as the game progresses!
  3. Assign a caller: Select a person to announce the numbers. The role of the caller is vital for game progression.
  4. Free space: For some games, like 75-ball bingo, there is a free space you can mark in the middle. Mark the center square of the scorecard with a chip.

3. Playing the game

Now you're ready for action:

  1. Call numbers: The caller draws a letter-number combination randomly and broadcasts it to the players.
  2. Mark your scorecards: Players, now's your time! Check your scorecards for the called combination. If it's there, place a chip on it.
  3. Get a bingo: The game continues with the caller announcing numbers and players placing chips until a player achieves five chips in a row—horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

4. Winning the game

Here's what victory looks like:

  1. Bingo!: As soon as a player gets five chips in a row, they shout "Bingo!" signaling their victory.
  2. Multiple winners: If fortune favors multiple players and they achieve Bingo simultaneously, they all win!

Clear all scorecards for a new round, and let the fun continue!

5. Play with alternative bingo patterns

Classic Bingo is all about completing a line—be it vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. But who said we need to stop there? There are many fun alternatives to traditional bingo patterns, adding an extra layer of excitement to your Bingo games. Here's a selection of some of our favorites:

Looking for more? Here are a few additional ideas:

  1. Full house: This game doesn't stop at the first line or two. It continues until a player covers every number on their scorecard. The anticipation builds with every call!
  2. Four corners: The objective shifts to the edges of your scorecard. Players aim to cover the four corners of their scorecard first, a speedy and thrilling pursuit.
  3. Postage stamp: This engaging variant has a miniature challenge; the goal is to cover a 2x2 grid anywhere on the scorecard.
  4. Coverall / blackout: This variation tests patience and suspense, as players must cover all numbers on their scorecard to win. It often goes longer, but the final shout of "Bingo!" is oh-so-satisfying.
  5. Diamond: Bingo isn't just about straight lines or filled cards. In this variation, players aim to cover a specific pattern in the shape of a diamond. Spotting the required pattern adds a fun challenge.
  6. Letter variations: Ever played Bingo to make an X, T, L, or another letter on your scorecard? That's the goal in this variation—creating specified letters by covering the right squares.

Want to see even more patterns? Make sure to read our comprehensive guide to bingo patterns!

6. Play the different game variants

The charm of Bingo lies in its capacity to transform, to offer myriad exciting possibilities beyond just different winning patterns. Allow us to take you on a whirlwind tour of the fascinating world of Bingo variations. Buckle up; each version brings a unique flavor to the table:

  1. 75-ball Bingo: Our first stop is the USA, the birthplace of the 75-ball Bingo. Played on a 5x5 grid, each column is lovingly labeled with a letter from B-I-N-G-O. The central square is a freebie - consider it a welcoming gift! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to complete a predefined pattern before everyone else.
  2. 90-ball Bingo: Crossing the Atlantic, we reach the UK, where the 90-ball Bingo reigns supreme. Here, your ticket has three rows and nine columns. Each row contains five numbers and four blank spaces. Your objective? Be the first to complete one row, then two, and finally, all three (Full House!). There's a prize for each stage - talk about keeping things interesting!
  3. 80-ball Bingo: This modern variant is an attention-grabber with its 4x4 grid and vibrant colored columns. Each column is assigned a specific range of numbers. It's a fan favorite on online Bingo platforms, thanks to its quick pace and dynamic winning patterns.
  4. 30-ball Bingo: Crunched for time? This 'speed bingo' uses a 3x3 grid for a whirlwind game. It's fast, it's furious, and it's perfect for adrenaline junkies. The aim is simple - fill your card before anyone else!
  5. Death Bingo: Enter if you dare! In this darkly humorous twist, the first person to get a bingo is eliminated. The thrill is real as you teeter on the edge of victory and defeat!
  6. Quickie Bingo: Numbers are called out as fast as a racetrack commentator, and you're trying to keep up. It's Bingo on steroids!
  7. Bonanza Bingo: The game begins with 43 numbers already drawn. As the game progresses, the caller keeps drawing numbers until someone covers their card completely. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and patience is key.
  8. U-Pick 'Em Bingo: Ever dreamed of picking your own numbers on the scorecard? Well, dreams do come true! It's a bit of Bingo and a sprinkle of lottery. Choose wisely!
  9. Shotgun Bingo: This quickfire version is a sprint. The first person to mark off the first number called wins. Blink and you'll miss it!

With such an array of winning patterns and game types, every Bingo night can become a new adventure. So why not mix things up at your next Bingo gathering?

How to win at bingo?

Ah, the age-old question! As much as we'd love to hand you a foolproof blueprint for victory, Bingo is, at its heart, a game of chance. The numbers are drawn at random, and there's no way to predict what comes next.

However, some players swear by certain strategies. These range from the practical to the downright bizarre, and while none can guarantee a win, they certainly add an extra dash of fun to the proceedings! Here's a summary below, but make sure to read our full guide on how to win at bingo to learn more.

  1. Play more cards: The logic is simple - the more cards you play, the higher your chances of having the winning combination. However, juggling multiple cards requires a sharp eye and quick reflexes!
  2. Arrive early: Some players believe in the "early bird gets the worm" theory. Getting to the game early allows you to settle down, prepare your cards, and observe the crowd without rush.
  3. Tippet's theory: British statistician L.H.C Tippett proposed a theory stating that in a 75-ball bingo game, as more numbers are called, the more likely they are to be closer to the median number 38. Early in the game, choose cards with numbers closer to 1 and 75. Later in the game, switch to cards with numbers around 38.
  4. Granville's strategy: Another popular strategy comes from financial analyst Joseph E. Granville. He suggests choosing cards with an equal number of high and low, and odd and even numbers, along with numbers ending with each digit from 0 to 9. The idea is to have a card as diverse as possible.
  5. The Lucky Charm theory: Some players have their favorite lucky charms, whether it's a rabbit's foot, a four-leaf clover, or that old, lucky Bingo marker. Do they work? Who knows, but they sure make the game more colorful!

Remember, these theories and tricks should be taken with a grain of salt, and the main goal of Bingo is to have fun. So, play responsibly, enjoy the game, and who knows, Lady Luck might just shine on you!

Now that we've explored the ins and outs of Bingo, let's tackle some frequently asked questions.

Playing bingo with kids

Bingo is an incredibly versatile game that can be adapted to children of all ages. Not only does it provide endless entertainment, but it can also be a fantastic educational tool. Here are a few ways you can change the traditional bingo game to be a fun educational tool for kids:

  1. Alphabet Bingo: Replace the traditional numbers on your Bingo cards with letters. It's a fun way to help children learn their ABCs! You can make this even more challenging for older kids by using words instead of individual letters.
  2. Math Bingo: Instead of numbers or letters, why not fill your cards with simple math problems? When you call out the answer, the kids will need to find and mark the corresponding problem on their card. It's a sneaky way to get them practicing their addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division!
  3. Animal Bingo: Create a card filled with different animal names or images. It's a great way to teach children about various animals. When an animal is called out, children can also make the corresponding animal sound for extra fun!
  4. Sight Word Bingo: Sight words are common words that children should learn to recognize instantly. A sight word Bingo game can reinforce this learning in a playful, interactive way.
  5. Foreign Language Bingo: If your kids are learning a new language, Bingo can be a fantastic aid. Use words from the language they're learning, and they'll have fun while absorbing new vocabulary.

And here are some popular templates we've created for educational purposes:

Our Bingo Card Creator makes tailoring these games to your kids' learning level a cinch. The generator allows you to create custom cards (words, images, or traditional numbers) for 3x3, 4x4, and 5x5 grid sizes. You can print them out for a tactile experience or play online if you prefer.

A few bingo tips for the little ones

To ensure the kids have a blast and the game runs smoothly, here are a few tips:

  1. Use Picture-Based Cards for Younger Kids: If your players are very young and still learning to read, picture-based cards can be more accessible and engaging.
  2. Pace the Game According to Your Audience: With children, especially younger ones, it might be helpful to slow down the pace of the game so they have time to find each number or picture.
  3. Provide a Bingo Game Walkthrough: Take a few moments at the start to explain the rules, perhaps even doing a quick practice round to make sure everyone's on the same page.
  4. Celebrate All Wins: Make sure to celebrate whoever gets a Bingo - a little encouragement goes a long way in boosting their confidence!

Playing Bingo with children can be an excellent way to make learning fun, and our Bingo Card Creator is here to help you tailor your game to their needs. Let the laughter and learning commence!


Final words

Bingo is a universally beloved game, teeming with timeless appeal and a rich history. Whether it's played in a bustling community hall, a lively party, or a cozy family gathering. Its allure lies in its simplicity, yet it provides endless opportunities for variety and excitement with its myriad patterns and game variants.

But remember, at the heart of this game lies the spirit of camaraderie and shared joy, making every shout of "Bingo!" not just a personal victory, but a collective celebration. Whether you're armed with one scorecard or ten, whether you're aiming for a single line or a full house, each game offers its unique blend of anticipation, thrill, and satisfaction.

As you gear up for your next exciting Bingo event, consider our card builder for your game preparation. Create custom cards that suit your event's theme, whether you prefer traditional numbers, words, images, or even a mix! Our easy-to-use platform allows you to print your cards or play online, making setup a breeze. Enjoy the fun of Bingo with a personalized touch, and may the shouts of 'Bingo!' be in your favor!

The Bingo Card Creator Team

The Bingo Card Creator Team

We're the Bingo Card Creator Team, bringing you diverse, engaging bingo templates and content.

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