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As a teenager, I often would volunteer at the various nursing centers that my mother worked at as a speech pathologist. Sometimes I would read to patients. Sometimes I would decorate the halls according to whatever holiday was nearing. And sometimes I would serve food.
By far, though, the most popular activity for me to help out with was calling out the game of bingo. Because the patients were older and almost across the board hard of hearing, I would be equipped with a microphone attached to an amplifier. There would be an aluminum contraption, sort of like a wheel, that I would spin around. The wheel would scramble all of the balls inside of it and then I would select one from the bunch.
“I 26!” I would call out, and then nursing center protocol dictated that I repeat. “I 26Q!” Even then, sometimes someone would have to have me repeat the letter and number a third time.
The patients played for nickels, and let me tell you that it is no exaggeration that they took the game seriously. It wasn’t about the money. No, it was about the glory of victory, and in the Pallisades Nursing Home, or the Coronado Nursing Center, or the Las Palmas Rest Home, winning at bingo was all that mattered for the two hours a day it was played.
If you were ever a kid who went to school, then chances are you probably remember the game of bingo. It is a time-honored game that is easy to learn and is popular with both children and adults alike.
In the world of primary school, the game is often used to entertain kids during down times or as a teaching tool, particularly for the subjects of math and science. In the adult world, it is played for money or other prizes in casinos, VFW headquarters and dedicated bingo halls all over the world, especially here in Australia.
As was mentioned earlier, the game of bingo is simple to learn and tons of fun to play. The following is a rundown of the rules of bingo, just in case you are thinking of playing anytime soon.
To begin, the game may start when an appropriate amount of players has bought their personal bingo cards. There is really no limit to the amount of cards a person can buy, and the more a person buys, the greater the odds are of winning the game. A player can come into the bingo hall, or wherever the game is being played, at any time and purchase their cards. If a game is already in play, then the player just waits until a new game begins.
The components of the game comprise a big wheel that is spun and holds inside of it 75 balls, all with various letters and numbers on it, although the device with which the balls are spun and mixed up before they are drawn individually can vary.
As for the bingo cards, they consist of a grid that has twenty five boxes on it in a five by five formation. All of the boxes on the grid contain numbers within them except for the very center box, which is always designated as a free space, meaning that you can mark that space on any turn regardless of what number is called out.
Across the top to card is written the word “B I N G O,” and these letters each represent a column on the card. So if a card has a column of numbers under the first letter, “B,” that read from the top to the bottom 21, 7, 18, 31 and 3, then if the bingo caller draws a ball that reads “B 7,” then the player would mark the second highest box under the “B” column.
There is also a British version of the game of bingo which consists of a device that spins 90 balls and whose cards contain 27 boxes in a nine by three grid, but for these purposes, we’ll focus on the five by five, 25-box-grid version.
The game of bingo actually traces its origins back several centuries to Italy. There and in that time, it functioned as a lottery. Today, the game has evolved to a probability exercise that quite literally involves thousands of different cards with different combinations of numbers within the five-by-five grid. This is why, within the game, there is the option for the player to buy many different cards if he or she wishes.
The object of the game is to get five marks in a row on one or more of your cards either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The way this works is that the caller will draw a ball from the mixing device, and then call out the letter and number on the ball. If what the caller calls out is represented on one of your cards, then you mark the card. If you get five in a row, then you win.
This is not to say, however, that you can win just by getting marks on any column or row all the way across the grid or up and down it. That is, if you have a mark on the top box of the B column, one on the second box of the I column, one on the third box of the B column, one on the fourth box of the G column and one on the fifth box of the B column, then you do not win even though you have a mark on each row of your card.
In order to win, the marks must be all along a single column or row. For instance, a bingo can consist of five marks all up and down the I column, but only on the I column. Or it can consist of five marks all the way across the top row. It can even consist of marks diagonally from bottom to top or top to bottom, but the bottom line is that a winning card consists of five marks in a straight line.
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