After all, they call 90 ‘top of the shops‘, don’t they? Well yes, they do – and it is, in 90-ball bingo, but that is not the only type of bingo out there.
In a game dominated by numbers, it can be harder than you’d think to put an exact figure on how many are involved in a single game – and here’s why…
There’s also 80-ball bingo, where the game card is usually separated into four differently coloured columns, and unsurprisingly, this involves the numbers from 1 to 80, with each column containing numbers from 1-20, 21-40, 41-60 or 61-80.
In 75-ball bingo, you’ll usually see a 5×5 grid with the letters B, I, N, G and O across the top, and here the numbers on your game card will range between 1 and 75.
You might also see ‘Swedish variant‘ bingo on offer – this is also a 75-ball game, but with slightly different rules than the 75-ball version played in the UK.
In principle, the main types of bingo commonly offered online always involve 75, 80 or 90 balls, unless you find a site with its own uniquely developed bingo game that has a different set of rules.
In practice, it’s not just about the total number of balls that are in play; to you, as a player, it might be about the numbers that appear on your card or ticket.
On a single 90-ball ticket, that means only 15 of the available numbers will be displayed, along with some blank spaces that are basically meaningless to whether you’ll win or not.
On an 80-ball bingo board, you’ll typically have 16 numbers, representing one in five of the total balls in play.
And in 75-ball bingo, you have a 5×5 grid with the centre square usually given for free, leaving you with 24 numbers in play.
Buy more tickets for any one game, and the total number of numbers that are in play for you will obviously increase – and usually, if you buy a complete 90-ball strip, you’ll have every number from 1 to 90 somewhere on your tickets.
This doesn’t increase your chances of winning on any one ticket, but it gives you more chances to win overall, and makes every number count towards that aim.
In 75-ball bingo, there is usually a pattern in play – which means to win, you might need to only cover the four corners of your card, or you might need to cover a cross or S-shape, or you might need to cover every square on your card (literally called a ‘coverall’ in most cases).
Obviously, covering all 25 squares of a card is more challenging than covering the four corners, and in very rare instances probability dictates that a four-corner pattern will be completed within the first four or five calls.
This is very unlikely, but still possible – and, according to probability, inevitable if enough truly random games are played in a row.
As such, particularly in pattern-based 75-ball bingo, you’re likely to see some games completed in what seems like very few calls, while others will keep going until almost every number has been drawn.
Number of Players
You might not think the number of players in a room could have any bearing on the number of balls involved in a game, but there is one way that it can affect how many balls are drawn in any one game.
That is simply because, the more players there are in a room, the likelier it is that somebody will win in relatively few calls – say, in 35 calls rather than 45.
As such, if you’re playing at a particularly busy site, you’ll probably see fewer balls drawn in total, and longer gaps between the games, just because the wins will be coming faster in each game.
Once again, this doesn’t change the odds on any one of your tickets directly – it just means you’re competing against a larger field of opponents.
Weirdly, there are certain numbers that always stick out when you see them come up in a bingo game, including the classic ‘lucky’ 7 and ‘unlucky for some’ 13.
The number 10 is usually linked with Downing Street, and whoever is the current prime minister – although to many players it is still ‘Maggie’s Den’ in honour of Margaret Thatcher.
Number 90 is, of course, ‘top of the shop’ in 90-ball bingo, but that description can equally well apply to 80 or 75 in the relevant other variants of bingo.
You’ll often hear 89, 79 or 74 referred to as ‘nearly there’, too – a reference to the fact that it is only one number away from being ‘top of the shop’ in the appropriate variant.
The number 2 is ‘one little duck’, while 22 is, logically enough, ‘two little ducks’, and the number 8 has the equivalent link with the rather politically incorrect statement ‘one fat lady’
‘Legs eleven’ is perhaps a little more politically correct, although you might disagree if you hear this called in a real-world bingo hall, as it is often met with wolf whistles from the players.
Fans of the metric system will need to know their 12-times table for the numbers 12, 24, 36, 48 and so on, which are often called ‘one dozen’, ‘two dozen’ etc.
And as for the multiples of ten, well, the zero in 10, 20, 30 and so on is often thought of as a missing eye, giving them the moniker of ‘blind 30’.
These kinds of traditional bingo calls are often not reproduced on online bingo sites, where you’re more likely to hear a clear voiceover telling you simply which number has just been drawn, but they will remain part of the legacy of the game – and show how certain numbers are still revered by bingo callers and players alike.