For the past three years, David Lowes has been running British Bingo at various locations around town. Would you believe that, up until last night, I had never been? There was always a conflict. A trivia night here, a poker night there, a favorite bartender I go see… I never got the chance to go, until last night when Dave started a new Monday bingo night at the Blind Bear.
British bingo is different than American bingo in several ways. In American bingo, you usually play one game per card, with the card divided into five columns with the numbers 1 through 75. A bingo in American games is usually made by getting five in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
On a British bingo card, however, there are six games:
Each colored area on the card is a separate game. British bingo uses the numbers 1 through 90 (90 being called “top of the shop”) and you have fifteen of those 90 numbers on your card per game. Rather than getting five in a row, you play for a “full house,” meaning you try to be the first to mark off all 15 of your numbers. As in American bingo, when your card is done you yell “BINGO!” and take it to the host, who checks your card.
Dave has his own computer system that draws the numbers for him. There’s a new number every eight seconds, which means you really have to pay attention – if you get distracted and miss one of your numbers, you won’t be able to complete your full house. If you ask nicely Dave may pause the game and read out the numbers that have already been called. They are also visible on Dave’s computer monitor.
There’s a British bingo lingo Dave uses to call out the numbers:
“Dirty knees, 33.”
“Snakes alive, 55.”
“Knock at the door, number 4.”
“Monkey’s cousin, 12.” (one dozen)
“Crutch and a duck, 72.”
“Nearly there, 89.” (because 90 is “top of the shop”)
Some of the numbers have special meanings:
“Doctor’s orders, number 9.” (prescription for a World War II laxative pill)
“PM’s den, number 10.” (The British Prime Minister lives at 10 Downing Street)
“56, was she worth it?” (5 shillings 6 pence was at one point the price of a marriage license)
Dave commented on his accent, “It’s the Queen’s English.” Dave’s particular type of British accent is that of Northwest England. He hails from about 40 miles southwest of Scotland.
As I played the first round, I didn’t seem to be doing very well. Late in the game, though, I hit a succession of numbers to score the first ever BINGO at the Blind Bear.
Prizes are Blind Bear gift cards. The first four games pay out a $10 card, the fifth game pays a $20 card, and the sixth and final game pays a $40 card.
There definitely isn’t time for chit-chat with friends while games are going on, but Dave keeps the games moving quickly and there are breaks after the second, fourth, and fifth games to give you time to chat with your friends, run to the restroom, or get another drink.
Dave hooks his automated bingo system up to one of the TVs to use as a monitor. I wondered if bar patrons would mind that one of the bar TVs was being used for bingo when Monday Night Football was on, but it was still on the other TV as well as the TV by the pool table, and no one had an issue with it.
The nice thing about bingo is, you don’t have to use your brain a lot the way you do in other bar games like trivia and poker. if you have the number, you cross it off. If you don’t have it, you do nothing. If you know the numbers 1 through 90, you have all the smarts needed to play.
Dave finished right on time, at exactly 10, so those who have 8-to-5 jobs have plenty of time to play and still get a good night’s sleep. Since there are six games, run in succession, you can get there an hour and a half late and still have a shot at a $40 prize.
Dave calls British Bingo
- Mondays at Blind Bear, 8:00
- Tuesdays at Bardog (downstairs), 8:00
- Thursdays at Slider Inn, 8:00
Check it out if you’re looking for something fun and different to do.