Bingo (British Version)

Since the 1960s, bingo has been one of the most popular gambling games available to players in the UK. From the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act 1960 to 2005, the number of bingo halls increased yearly, displaying its huge popularity.  It is a game of chance where players can purchase bingo cards with randomly selected numbers on them. These numbers are marked off as the bingo caller announces each number. When a player gets a win, they call ‘BINGO!’ to claim their prize.

Bingo (British Version)

The History of Bingo

The concept of bingo was first introduced in Italy in the 1530s. It was known as ‘Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia’ as it was connected to the Italian lottery. The game then became a hit in France, where it was referred to as ‘Le Lotto’. While today bingo is more commonly associated with the working classes, back then, it was a game for the aristocracy. By the 18th century, it had spread across the entirety of Europe. Tombola was another very popular game and was even used to teach German children history, spelling and multipliers.

British Bingo History

It is not known exactly where the term ‘bingo’ came from, but it is thought to have derived from British slang. The game started to pick up widespread popularity in the UK in the 1920s. It was often played at carnivals and fairs, where Hugh J. Ward marketed it to the masses. However, the design of the bingo card did not come until later, as the bingo card as we know it today was designed in 1942 by Erwin S. Lowe.

Larger cash prizes were legalised after the introduction of the Betting and Gaming Act 1960. This is where bingo and bingo halls took off and became a staple in modern British culture. Huge bingo brands such as Mecca were launched at this time, and Eric Morley’s Mecca Leisure Group opened up dance halls offering bingo games nationwide. One of the most famous venues of the 60 locations bingo was introduced to was the Lyceum Ballroom. The Rank Organisation also became a large bingo operator during this time and launched bingo nights across their cinemas, including at the Blackpool Odeon, their largest cinema.


British Bingo Cards

What many players love about bingo is how simple it is to play. The most common type of bingo played in the UK is 90 ball bingo. With this type of bingo, players can purchase bingo tickets, each containing 27 spaces with three rows and nine columns. Each column has a set range of numbers it can contain and there will be up to three numbers in each column. Every row has five numbers with four blank spaces.

Column Set Number Range
Column 1 1 – 9
Column 2 10 – 19
Column 3 20 – 29
Column 4 30 – 39
Column 5 40 – 49
Column 6 50 – 59
Column 7 60 – 69
Column 8 70 – 79
Column 9 80 – 90


Tickets are created as ‘strips’, and there are six bingo tickets on a strip. Every bingo number will appear across this strip. This means that when a player purchases a strip of bingo tickets, each time a bingo number is called, they will be marking one off their bingo tickets.


How to Play British Bingo

Bingo is a simple game, but players should be aware of how to purchase tickets, bingo lingo, bingo winning combinations and how the game plays.

How to Purchase Bingo Tickets

Purchasing bingo tickets at a bingo hall can be done in just a few simple steps. Visit the welcome desk at the bingo hall to buy a book of tickets. Here, you can specify what bingo games you want to play.

Games at most bingo halls in the UK are divided into ‘sessions’. This can include the ‘early session’, ‘main session’ and the ‘late session’. The main session is normally the most popular at bingo halls and players can enjoy around 11 pages of bingo, plus a half an hour break.

Bingo Lingo

After purchasing your bingo cards, the game can begin. The bingo caller will announce the prizes up for grabs and then the bingo ball numbers as they are called. When you hear the words ‘eyes down’ this means the game is ready to begin. There are three ways that bingo ball numbers may be randomly selected:

  • A mechanical draw machine
  • Drawing counters from a bag
  • Via random number generator software

One of the most famous aspects of bingo is the British bingo lingo that is used when announcing bingo numbers. The bingo caller will usually announce the number in its official form, such as ‘one and two, twelve,’ then call it via the special bingo lingo.

Number Bingo Lingo
1 Kelly’s eye
2 One little duck
3 Cup of tea
4 Knock at the door
5 Man alive
6 Half a dozen
7 Lucky seven
8 Garden gate
9 Doctor’s orders
10 Prime Minister’s Den
11 Legs eleven
12 One dozen
13 Unlucky for some
14 Valentine’s Day
15 Young and keen
16 Sweet 16 and never been kissed
17 Dancing queen
18 Coming of age
19 Goodbye teens
20 One score
21 Key of the door
22 Two little ducks
23 Thee and me
24 Two dozen
25 Duck and dive
26 Pick and mix
27 Gateway to heaven
28 In a state
29 Rise and shine
30 Dirty Gertie
31 Get up and run
32 Buckle my shoe
33 All the threes
34 Ask for more
35 Jump and jive
36 Three dozen
37 More than eleven
38 Christmas cake
39 39 steps
40 Life begins
41 Time for fun
42 Winnie the pooh
43 Down on your knees
44 Droopy drawers
45 Halfway there
46 Up to tricks
47 Four and seven
48 Four dozen
49 PC
50 Half a century
51 Tweak of the thumb
52 Danny La Rue
53 Stuck in a tree
54 Clean the floor
55 Snakes the alive
56 Shots bus
57 Heinz varieties
58 Make them wait
59 Brighton line
60 Five dozen
61 Bakers bun
62 Tickety-boo
63 Tickle me 63
64 Red raw
65 Old age pension
66 Clickety click
67 Stairway to heaven
68 Saving grace
69 Favourite of mine
70 Three scores and ten
71 Bang on the drum
72 Six dozen
73 Queen bee
74 Hit the floor
75 Strive and strive
76 Trombones
77 Sunset strip
78 39 more steps
79 One more time
80 Eight and blank
81 Stop and run
82 Straight on through
83 Time for tea
84 Seven dozen
85 Staying alive
86 Between the sticks
87 Torquay in Devon
88 Two fat ladies
89 Nearly there
90 Top of the shop


Bingo Winning Combinations

Bingo is a simple game and there are a limited number of ways to win. Winning combinations that you may achieve in 90 ball bingo games include:

Winning Combination Winning Combination Explained
Four corners Players must mark off each of the numbers in the four corners of their bingo ticket
One line Five numbers on one horizontal row must be marked off
Two lines 10 numbers on two horizontal rows must be marked off
Full house Every number on the ticket must be marled off


Each game will be different and so it is important to check before you play what winning combinations the bingo caller is looking for. Each game will usually start with four corners or a line and then progresses until the last winner gets a full house and the largest prize available. Remember, you must be sure that you have a winning combination before calling ‘bingo’, otherwise you will annoy other players by time-wasting.

Bingo Gameplay

As the bingo numbers are announced, players can check each of their cards and mark off any that have been called. In the world of bingo, this marker is known as a dauber. Pens or pencils are also welcome at some venues.

When a player completes a winning combination, such as a line or a full house, they can shout ‘BINGO.’ The card will then be checked to ensure the player has a winning combination.


What Is Electronic Bingo?

At bingo halls across the UK, electronic bingo is available now. This is an option for players who want to play bingo with more cards than the standard six per game. The game is played on an electronic terminal where the numbers on your cards are marked off automatically, in a similar way to how online bingo operates. The bingo tickets that are most likely to win are then shown on the screen, to make it even easier for players to keep track of.

These terminals are normally small and hand-held. Players can top up their credit on their bingo account to purchase these tickets. The rest of the gameplay is still the same as playing with a strip of paper tickets as you need to call ‘bingo’ for a win and have the ticket checked. Any winnings will then be credited to your bingo account. Other games are available on these terminals, such as slot games.


The National Bingo Game

The National Bingo Game has been in operation since 1986 and is open to play in the vast majority of bingo halls. It is operated by the National Bingo Game Association with Buzz Bingo the UK’s largest distributor of this game.


The Future of Bingo

While the number of bingo halls increased yearly until 2005, unfortunately, they have been in decline. Many bingo halls have been closed, and revenue has seen a steep decline. According to the Bingo Association, this decline can be attributed to the 2007 smoking ban, higher taxes and more players moving to online bingo sites in the UK.

The future of bingo is set to move more online in the coming years. New, faster and overall better technology has made online bingo easier than ever to access and play over the past two decades. What’s more, many players are now looking to access their favourite bingo games on the go. Online bingo allows players to directly access these games from their mobile devices and enjoy games anytime, anywhere.

Last updated: Jan 24, 2023

Lillian Grey

183 Articles

Lillian Grey is a long time online bingo and slots player who started putting her thoughts down on digitial paper around 2008. Having been covering the industry for quite some time, she is able to spot the good from the bad when it comes to online bingo. An ever present at indsutry conferences and events, Lillian likes to meet fellow bingo enthusiasts to share stories and ideas, with maybe a glass of wine (or two) involved! When not covering the ever changing world of online bingo, she likes to read a good book and go for family walks in the forest.

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