Bingo is the only real money game of chance that retains its social character in most online implementations. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but on most dedicated bingo platforms, the chat experience is an integral part of the game. This makes it popular among people who are disappointed with the solitary nature of most online casino games, which are almost always played solo, with an automated random number generator providing the outcomes.
Bingo is also an excellent alternative to other number-drawing games, which are notorious for the massive edge they give to the house. If you’re tired of the relentless grind of lotteries and keno, even the casino version of bingo is guaranteed to feel refreshing – in most games, the return-to-player rate exceeds 90%, which puts it on equal footing with most slots and some video poker games.
How to select a bingo site
Some online casinos offer bingo, but because those games are played solo and lack many important features, this article will focus mostly on dedicated bingo platforms. Finding a legitimate bingo site is easier than finding a legitimate online casino – the number of active players gives you a good indication of the platform’s trustworthiness. Still, it’s best to make a habit out of checking for a license before joining any gambling site – safety should always come first.
Most legitimate bingo platforms are licensed in the Isle of Man, Malta, Curacao, Gibraltar, and other tax havens. This is because the industry is so oversaturated that being forced to raise commissions due to high gambling-related taxes prevents even the best of sites from being competitive on the global scene. Some Europe-facing sites are licensed in the United Kingdom where corporate gambling taxes are very low.
It’s worth noting that even US-facing bingo platforms are licensed by a legitimate regulatory body. For example, CyberBingo operates under a license issued in Curacao. This puts Australian and American bingo enthusiasts in a better situation than casino and poker fans – the former don’t have to play on “rogue” offshore sites that are forced to operate with no certification.
For extra certainty, check out eCOGRA’s list of approved bingo sites. eCOGRA is an independent, non-profit software testing agency that audits online gaming sites for fairness.
Due to the casual nature of the game, bingo bonuses are modest when compared with casino and poker bonuses, but they provide an opportunity to get some additional value. In most cases, your operator will match your initial deposit. For example, if you receive a 50% match, you will be awarded one dollar for every two dollars of your deposit, and if you receive a 100% match, your payment will be matched dollar for dollar.
Bonuses of this type are always capped – usually, you’ll be able to receive up to $50 or $100. For example, if you claim a 100% bonus up to $50, you’ll still only receive $50 whether you deposit $100 or $51, but you’ll receive $20 if you deposit $20.
You won’t be able to claim your bonus money until you meet its wagering requirements. Most bingo bonuses require you to complete a 3x-5x playthrough. This means you’ll have to bet at least 3x-5x the amount of your deposit. If you cash out before completing your playthrough, the promotional money will be considered forfeited.
Your goal shouldn’t be to find the network with the highest player population. In fact, your odds of winning are considerably higher when there are fewer players around, so you should avoid sites that are constantly overcrowded. The best way to strike a balance is by finding an operator that doesn’t share a player pool with other bingo platforms. Such sites are successful enough to operate independently, which guarantees trustworthiness while simultaneously giving you plenty of opportunities to join optimally sized games.
How bingo works
To join a bingo game, you have to purchase bingo tickets. A ticket’s layout is different for each bingo variant. In the most common variation, 75 ball bingo, the ticket contains a 5×5 grid, with five columns corresponding to the letters B-I-N-G-O. Twenty-four squares on the grid are assigned random numbers intervals in the 1 to 75 range. The range of the printed numbers is usually restricted by:
Column B: 1-15
Column I: 16-30
Column N: 31-45
Column G: 46-60
Column O: 61-75
The center square is an empty space and can stand for any number to form a winning combination.
When the game begins, the host starts drawing numbers and reading them out. Players are required to mark those numbers on their tickets and shout “Bingo!” if they cross out a horizontal, diagonal, or vertical line. Prizes in bingo are fixed, so the number of players has a significant impact on the expected value of a ticket – it’s usually better to play when not many people are around.
Is land-based bingo different from online bingo?
Multiplayer online bingo doesn’t differ from land-based bingo in terms of rules, odds, or strategy. Online games do progress at a faster pace, but the difference is not as pronounced as in table games or poker. As mentioned above, even the social aspect of bingo is retained since many platforms support chat functionality. The differences are purely technical – the numbers are provided by a random number generator instead of the host drawing them, the winner is established automatically, and players don’t need to mark their numbers manually.
Played using 5×5-grid tickets. In traditional 75-ball bingo, the only winning combinations are diagonal, horizontal, and vertical lines. Some bingo operators also offer 75-ball pattern bingo, which features unorthodox winning combinations, such as Five Around the Corner, Anchor, or Block of 6. Every site that offers this variant has its own patterns, so make sure tolearn them before you join the game.
Played using 3×9 cards. Every row contains five numbers and four blank squares. Tickets are often purchased in stripes of six. The winning combinations are: line, two lines, full house, and four corners. Each winning combination comes with a different prize, and the prize size is directly tied to the difficulty of scoring that combination.
Played with 4×4 tickets. The columns in 80-ball bingo are color-coded, and the tickets are usually sold in five-card strips. Players can win by completing a standard diagonal, vertical, or horizontal line, or by marking four corners or four middle squares. Marking two or three lines usually results in a higher payout, but the biggest prize is reserved for gamblers who manage to hit every square on their card (full house).
30-ball bingo is sometimes referred to as speed bingo and is played with 3×3 cards. The player’s goal is to mark the entire card, so there is only one winning combination and one prize per game.
Bingo-based online casino games (video bingo)
Single-player casino bingo – also known as video bingo – is a simplified version of bingo offered by certain internet casinos. Since the field is only large enough for one player, the odds of winning are always fixed, and there is no way for a player to gain a theoretical advantage. Video bingo is available in many variants. For example, Rival, a well-known slot developer, has released four variants of video bingo to match all traditional bingo games.
Bingo terms glossary
30-ball bingo: A fast and somewhat underappreciated bingo variant played with 30 balls.
75-ball bingo: An American-style bingo variant played with 75 balls.
80-ball bingo: A bingo variant popularized by online bingo operators, played with 80 balls.
90-ball bingo: A UK-style bingo variant played with 90 balls.
Advantage: A situation in which the player is in a position to make an EV-positive decision.
Expected Value: the mathematically expected value of a bet, decision, or game, abbreviated as EV. Bets that are more likely to benefit the player are referred to as EV-positive (EV+). Conversely, bets that are likely to result in money loss are referred to as EV-negative (EV-).
Full house: A winning combination that covers all available squares.
The grind: Going bust slowly when playing a slightly EV-negative game. The grind effect is more pronounced during long gambling sessions but can be avoided in short sessions due to variance.
House Edge: The mathematical advantage the house has over the player.
Jackpot: The main prize in a bingo game.
Progressive jackpot: A jackpot that grows every time the game is played.
RTP (return-to-player): Percentage of the wagered money that is mathematically expected to be paid back to the player.
Ticket: The card used to play bingo.
Video bingo: Single-player bingo offered by online casinos.
How to beat online bingo
Once a game of bingo starts, you can’t do anything to influence its outcome. However, multiplayer bingo is unique among luck-based games in that it’s possible for a player to achieve a theoretical advantage by entering the game at the right time. If the circumstances are right, bingo can turn into an EV-positive game.
If you are a profit-oriented player…
Purchase the most cost-efficient cards and take advantage of promotions – ticket price is one of the most important parameters in determining the expected value of your decision to join the game. Another important parameter to track is the prize size. In a simplified scenario, with no other players around, determining the expected value of a 75-ball bingo game boils down to multiplying the amount you can win by the odds of winning, then comparing that number with your stake. If you only purchase one ticket, the odds of winning in classic 75-ball bingo by completing a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line are as follows:
- 50 balls drawn: 1/1.2
- 40 balls drawn: 1/2.2
- 30 balls drawn: 1/7
- 20 balls drawn: 1/44
- 10 balls drawn: 1/1238
It’s worth noting that as the number of players increases, your odds of winning drop as someone else can complete the winning combination before you and eliminate the relevant prize from the game. For this reason, small games are more profitable than games that attract many players. For some people, this might sound like being forced to choose between socializing and turning a profit, but keep in mind that the size of the chat room doesn’t determine its quality. In fact, small chat rooms can be more entertaining than large ones, especially if you are acquainted with some of the players.
Purchasing more tickets allows you to reduce the negative impact of having other players around. To help you conceptualize this impact, we prepared a small mental exercise. Imagine playing against nine other players. Every ticket is guaranteed to win. For simplicity’s sake, let’s also forget about prize splits. In this scenario, the game boils down to completing the winning combination before everyone else. If everybody purchases one ticket, your odds of winning are 1/10. If, however, you purchase ten tickets and everyone else only receives one, your odds of winning grow to 10/19. Even though your ticket can never have a 100% chance to win, the effect of purchasing more tickets is considerable.
Video bingo and the grind
The only thing that matters in video bingo is the probability of winning and the ratio of your bet to the potential payout. This ratio is kept at a level that gives the house an advantage – otherwise, players would abuse those games and bankrupt the casinos that offer them. The house edge in most video bingo games is lower than 10%, which makes them preferable to the vast majority of online keno games and lotteries in terms of profitability.
Unfortunately, the only way to turn a profit in video bingo is to get lucky and then stop playing. Anything can happen in five or ten rounds, but as your session gets longer, the results will reflect the house advantage, and you will start bleeding money. In fact, an infinitely long video bingo session is guaranteed to make you go bust. This effect is known as “the grind” and is the bane of all kinds of casino players.
Tips for playing online bingo
These simple rules will allow you to maximize your enjoyment of online bingo and increase your chances of turning a profit.
Be a responsible gambler and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose
Some bingo platforms allow you to participate in EV+ games, but this doesn’t guarantee a win. Variance is a powerful force in luck-based games, and when the advantage isn’t significant, an unlucky swing can make you go bust even if you make all the right decisions. Treat making a deposit to a bingo site like spending money on entertainment. If you come out ahead – great. But never take it for granted. Most bingo operators allow you to set a weekly or monthly deposit limit – keep that in mind if you notice you’re spending more than you can afford.
Enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid to use the the chat feature
Things won’t always go your way – it’s part of the game, and there’s no reason to get angry. Negative emotions can only cloud your judgment and make selecting EV+ games more difficult. Remember that you’re playing bingo to have fun, and don’t be afraid to turn that chat window on – just like live bingo, multiplayer online bingo is best enjoyed with friends.
Try to play with an advantage
Try to find EV+ games – always scout for cheap tickets, big prizes, and small player pools before you start your bingo session. Some opportunities will be fairly obvious, while others might take some skill to recognize. Try to follow this tip even if you’re playing just for fun – bigger returns will make you enjoy the game even more and will allow you to play for longer.
Turning a profit begins with platform selection
This ties in with the previous tip – if you choose the right platform, you will spend less time looking for good opportunities. Once you find a few promising sites, narrow it down to the ones that offer the highest number of small and medium-sized games and take some time to compare their ticket prizes and payouts. This additional effort will be rewarded in the future. Take a look at our best bingo providers list of recommendations.
Avoid single-player video bingo games
Casino-style video bingo games are designed to be EV-negative, so they’re guaranteed to chew through your entire bankroll unless you get on a lucky streak and cash out in time. While these games are undoubtedly more profitable than keno, you should avoid them altogether if you have the option to join a multiplayer bingo platform.
Online bingo FAQ
Q: Can I really win money playing online bingo?
A: Yes. If you avoid video bingo and focus on optimally sized multiplayer games, you might even be able to gain an edge and turn a fairly consistent profit. Finding good opportunities might be hard on overcrowded networks, but your overall return-to-player should still be better than in most casino games.
Q: What’s your opinion on bingo side bets?
A: The general rule of thumb for real money games is that amazing side bets and seemingly attractive progressive jackpots are there to attract you to low-RTP games. This is even more true for multiplayer bingo, as such features tend to attract crowds of inexperienced or math-averse players. If you’re a profit-oriented player, we recommend judging bingo games on their own merits.
Q: How can I maximize my odds of winning?
A: Once the game starts, you can’t influence the outcome, but you can improve your odds considerably by choosing the right games and taking full advantage of promotions. In optimal circumstances, you may be able to gain a theoretical advantage and turn bingo into an EV-positive game.
Q: Should I play multiplayer bingo or single-player casino bingo?
A: Multiplayer bingo beats single-player video bingo in terms of RTP. It also allows you to socialize with other bingo fans. If you can join a multiplayer bingo site, you should avoid video bingo altogether.
A: Absolutely. Most multiplayer bingo sites have chat functionality and reward their customers for using it by offering chat-related promotions and contests.
Q: How do I deposit money with an online bingo site?
A: Most bingo sites support a wide range of deposit methods, but their availability depends on your location. In most cases, you’ll be able to choose between an e-wallet, credit card payment, and local payment processing services. If you live in the United States, we recommend avoiding Visa and MasterCard deposits, as up to 50% of transactions get blocked due to federal-level anti-gambling regulations.
Q: If I win at bingo, how will the operator pay me?
A: In most cases, there is significant overlap between the supported deposit and withdrawal methods. For example, if your bingo operator allows you to make a Neteller deposit, you should be able to cash out using this method. Keep in mind that many gambling sites restrict the availability of certain methods based on banking history. The most common restriction is limiting e-wallet withdrawals to players who have used the relevant e-wallet to make a deposit in the past.
Q: What about cryptocurrencies? Can I use Bitcoin to fund my bingo account?
A: Unfortunately, most legitimate bingo sites don’t support cryptocurrency payments. If Bitcoin is your only option, you’ll have to settle for single-player video bingo in a crypto-friendly online casino, such as Bovada or Bodog.
A brief history of Bingo
The history of bingo dates back to 18th century France and a game called Le Lotto, which utilized the 3×9 lottery card design. This French game most likely migrated to Great Britain and was brought to the United States by 19th-century immigrants. In the early 1920s, an American named Hugh J. Ward modified this design and popularized his game at carnivals in Pennsylvania. The rules of this game were copyrighted and published as a book in 1933.
Ward’s game spread to other parts of the country thanks to Edwin Lowe, who saw it being played with beans under the name “Beano” in the Atlanta area in 1929. Tickets for Lowe’s game could be purchased in a 12-card set for $1, and 24-card set – for $2. By the 1940s, Lowe’s bingo spread all across the country, and in 1942 Lowe patented the modern 27-square bingo card design.
The origins of the name “bingo” are unclear. It is rumored that one of Lowe’s friend was so excited when he played the bean game in Atlanta that he shouted “Bingo!” instead of “Beano!”