What Are The Rules of Tombola?

Tombola is a very popular and common game that originated in Italy. It is considered the Italian version of bingo, although it is now very popular in various countries. There are plenty of similarities but also some striking differences between the two.

The game is so popular in Italy that the vast majority of residents there say that Tombola is a must on Christmas Eve. It is on that day that all the relatives play a few rounds of Tombola together. Usually, in gatherings like this, the adults don’t call a prize if there are children around, so the youngest can win. So, you probably know everything there is about bingo, but what are the rules of Tombola, and how do you exactly play the game? Let’s find out.

What Are The Rules of Tombola?

The Structure of the Game

Unlike the standard bingo game, where you can secure wins horizontally, vertically and diagonally, in Tombola, only horizontal wins count.

Each Tombola card has 3 rows and 9 columns, and only 5 of the 9 columns contain a number. Other columns in the game are intentionally left blank. So, the column structure in Tombola is as follows:

  • Column 1 – has numbers from 1-10
  • Column 2 – has numbers from 11-20
  • Column 3 – has numbers from 21-30
  • Column 9 – has numbers from 81-90

As you might imagine, numbers in Tombola are pulled out of a rotating drum. Alternatively, if you play this game at home, you can pull out the numbers from a bag. The person in charge of pulling out the numbers from the rum is called the Tombolone. That person has a master card on which numbers from 1-90 are written in a sequence.



Once the game has started, the Tombolone will pull and announce numbers from the rotating drum one at a time. They will then announce the number.

As each of the numbers is being called out by the Tombolone, players will mark their cards on their cards. You can purchase as many cards as you wish, although some sites limit the number of cards. This game is different from bingo because bingo is where players can win in multiple ways. Keeping players interested for the duration of the game even if they are doing badly.

The pot in Tombola will be divided into 5 smaller prizes, with each prize going to the winner of all 5 individual rounds that complete the Tombola game. Those 5 rounds of a classic Tombola game are:

  • Ambo – this is the first person who covers 2 numbers in a row
  • Terno – the first person to cover 3 numbers in a row
  • Quaderno – the first person who covers 4 numbers in a row
  • Quinto – the first person to cover 5 numbers in a row
  • Tombola – finally, this is the first person who will cover all 15 numbers on the card

When you cover at least 2 out of 5 numbers in a horizontal row in Tombola, you will need to call out Ambo. Once you do so, the game will stop, and you will be able to collect the prize. As we mentioned above, the prize will vary depending on where you play the game.

Now, the game will continue, and the prizes will be collected by the winners of the Terno, Quaderno, and Quinto rounds. The winner of the game is the person who finally covers all their numbers and calls out Tombola. As you might imagine, the prize pot for the Tombola round is much bigger than the previous rounds. Tombola is a very simple game, with it also having the potential to be very rewarding, so you won’t have a problem navigating through a round of the game.


Final Thoughts

Tombola is a game that has a long history in Italian culture, and judging by the above-mentioned rules, it is easy to see why it is so popular among people. It has a very nice social element, so you can imagine how fun the family gatherings can be whenever this game starts.

You can play this game in many formats, whether online or offline, with your friends or at special Tombola gatherings. However, if you play the game, remember to gamble responsibly and not go over your budget, as stated in the guidelines of BeGambleAware. All in all, The rules of tombola are straightforward, so you can start playing immediately and enjoy the fun gaming experience.

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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