## Bingo Strategies: More Games Vs More Tickets

Bingo can seem like a simple game. Many of us have what could politely be called superstitions when it comes to playing our favourite game. Some have lucky numbers. Others refuse cards with certain combinations of numbers, such as too many in sequence. There isn’t really much logic or science involved in these quirks. But feelings and hunches can be a good guide in any case. Sometimes in life we just “know” that something is right, or wrong about something.

Maybe intuition can take us so far, but can science and rational analysis provide an alternative guide to help us to improve our tactics? Bingo is based on numbers after all. And Mathematics – the purest science of all, is all about numbers too.

Let’s suppose we are already enjoying regular games of bingo. Is there anything that Maths and logic can tell us which could help us to get more wins, or bigger wins, when we play bingo? For example: to maximise our prizes, should we play more games, or play the same number of games, but buy more tickets?

One of the clear advantages of playing online, as opposed to playing in a bingo hall, is the ability to play with more tickets. There is a limit to how many tickets even the most quick witted and nimble thumbed player can daub in the real world, but online the only restriction is that imposed by the site’s rules. Everything is done for you automatically.

But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. So if you do decide that you want to increase your investment in the game to get more wins, should you buy more tickets for games you already intend to play, or just play more games?

Well the first thing to remember is that there are a lot of variables in bingo. It’s not just about the sheer luck of which numbers are called. How many players are there? How many tickets have they bought? Is there a guaranteed jackpot, or is the prize purely a proportion of the money spent on the game? Some of the answers you will know, others you can take a bit of a guess at. Is the room busy? Some sites announce the number of players (but not usually the number of tickets sold).

Overall, statistical analysis tells us that it is marginally more efficient to play more games than to buy more tickets for the same number of games. This is because if you buy more tickets to the same game, you are effectively competing with yourself. OK, the chances of winning a big prize are not very high for any single game, but if, say, you were to get two full houses from playing dozens of games, you will win two jackpots. But if you get two full houses from buying dozens of tickets in the same game, you have to share the spoils with yourself. Effectively, your two jackpots become just the one.

Of course, the chances of getting two jackpots in the same game is slim, but the slight probability of this actually happening is enough to swing the odds decisively toward the “play more games” option. One possible exception to this rule is if there is a guaranteed jackpot for a game. Here, you will need to make a judgement as to how “busy” you think the game will be. If the room seems crowded, the guarantee may be less than the jackpot would have been anyway, based on the value of the tickets bought. But if things seem a bit quiet, it may be worth buying a few extra tickets to increase your chances of the higher jackpot.

But there is another angle to bear in mind too. You are likely to get far more pleasure and excitement from playing more games than just having more tickets for the same game. Not only that, but (human nature being what it is) you may be tempted to play more games as well as forking out for the extra tickets. And buying lots of tickets AND playing more games is a fast track to losing control of your spending.

Ultimately, it is always worth remembering that bingo is supposed to be for fun. The real odds are always stacked in the site operators’ favour, simply because the Return to Player figures say so: the total amount available for prizes is less than the amount spent on tickets. But the point about bingo is that you could win. So from an entertainment point of view, you stand more chance of making some pennies with a few bingo cards than if you’d spent the same amount of money down the pub, or going to a local show, for example. You’ve got no chance of getting any money back from them.

So at the end of your bingo session, it’s probably worth assuming that you won’t even get back the money you spend on tickets. But it IS a fun game to play, and once in a while the balls may well fall in your favour. So surely the best strategy is to enjoy the entertainment, stick to your budget and enjoy the moment when your luck is in.

## What does “Random” Really Mean?

In bingo and casino games, we are reassured that games are fair by the knowledge that numbers, symbols or playing cards are selected at random. Games of online bingo, for example, must be played with a certified and independently tested Random Number Generator before any site can be granted a licence to trade in the United Kingdom.

But what does “random” mean? There are many definitions, dependent on the context, but when it comes to mathematics and statistics, the Oxford Dictionary states that random means “… governed by or involving equal chances for each item”. So for bingo (in the ninety ball game) that means that every number between one and ninety stands an equal chance of being the first ball drawn. In the next draw, each remaining number has a 1 in 89 chance of being drawn. And so on. For roulette, every number between 0 and 36 stands an equal chance of being the next winning number.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But true randomness is a strange thing. The trouble is, humans have an inbuilt psychological tendency to look for patterns. This, according to scientists, would have been very useful when we were trying not to get eaten by sabre-toothed tigers thousands of years ago. It still is useful today: our brains can react much faster if our subconscious minds can match what our senses detect with information already stored in our memories. This is why we are “hard-wired” to detect patterns. The clearest example of this is our tendency to detect faces when they aren’t really there. Distant mountains on the Moon or Mars? Odd patterns in carpets or on wallpaper? Random dots on paper? We can see faces in them all.

What has this got to do with gaming? Well, we see patterns in numbers too, even when they truly are random. And this may lead us alter our strategy or tactics, or even to believe that things are fixed or corrupt in some way.

Let’s start with something very basic: the coin toss. Suppose we toss a real coin. Heads or Tails? We complete three sets of six coin tosses, and the following results occur: which of these patterns is truly random?

T T T T T T or H T H T H T or H T T H T H H

The answer is that all of them are. Each one of these combinations has a 1 in 64 chance of occurring. But the first two seem to us to form a pattern. Which call comes next? If we follow our natural instincts, we may think that in the first instance, maybe it is more likely to be Tails. Or maybe we think that because we have had six Tails in a row, the next coin toss must be Heads. In the second example, it looks like it may be Heads next. But the truth is, in all three cases, it is equally likely to be either. There is no REAL pattern; it just looks like it to us!

This can cause us to change our behaviour. In the National Lottery, many people choose numbers which are well spaced apart, and seem to us to be what we think of as random. 8, 15, 24, 31, 43 and 54 seem much more likely to win than 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. But it isn’t true. Each one of these combinations has an equal chance of being the six numbers drawn: about 1 in 45 million. I know that sounds unbelievable, but trust me, it’s true! The reason why it sounds so wrong is that sometimes, a “sequence” can occur randomly!

Our brains also just prefer things to be in order, and if a pattern isn’t found, we tend to create one. Look at what happens every time the National Lottery draw is made. The first thing the announcer does is to alter the sequence, because we prefer things to be in a pattern… “Here are tonight’s numbers in ascending order…”, so 39, 15, 54, 2, 53, 31 becomes 2, 15, 31, 39, 53, 54.

This effect can lead people to alter their decisions. Very often we think we see a pattern, and therefore believe that because of that, we are unlikely to win. For example, a bingo player may reject a card because there are too many numbers close together. Other times, we are fooled into seeing a pattern, and think that it must therefore end. A roulette player may assume the next number must be Even, because the wheel has just produced five Odd results in a row. The slot gamer believes the next spin must be a winner, because nothing has happened for ten games in a row. Well each and every one of these players may be right. Or they may be wrong. But there is no pattern. It’s all random!

## Bingo Vs Slots

Is Bingo Fair? discussed the widely held suspicion that online bingo is in some way “fixed”. As the article pointed out, within the United Kingdom at least, we can be sure that it isn’t. Nevertheless, one of the striking features noted was that the Return to Player (RTP) rate for bingo is far lower than it is for slots.

The RTP rate for a game tells us what proportion of our stake or ticket money is returned to players in the form of prizes. Basically, the higher the figure, the better. With slots, most games have an RTP figure around 95%. This means that a typical game may, over the long term, pay back 95% of the money staked on the game, with 5% retained by the site operator.

For bingo, the anticipated long term average RTP rate is more difficult to calculate than for slots, because of the mechanics of the game. But in general, it is certainly true that the expected return rate is far lower for bingo than can be expected from playing on slots. The actual rate is rarely published, but is widely estimated to average around the 70% mark.

There are some good reasons for this: the operators costs are far higher for putting on bingo than for slots for example. Bingo is a social game, and players generally expect lively chat rooms and a friendly experience. The game also takes time. Playing slots on the other hand, is a largely solitary experience. It is also very swift: a spin is over in seconds at most, whereas a game of bingo takes far longer to complete. It is also true that the average bingo player tends to spend far less on his or her game than the average slot player, which again means fewer profits for the site operator. So the question is, why doesn’t everyone just play slots?

Well it’s not just all about money is it? As already outlined, bingo is a social game. Bingo players expect a social experience, and paying for all those friendly chat hosts is expensive. I suppose you could have chat hosts for slots, but it’s unlikely they would be very popular. Even in the real world, where slot machines are lined up in rows just inches apart, communication between players is unlikely to go much beyond the occasional cursory glance or brief raised eyebrow if your neighbour strikes it lucky. Besides, if slot sites provided chat, the players would have to pay for it, and the RTP for slots would have to fall to similar levels to that of bingo.

But there are other factors too. Really, whether we spend money on bingo cards or slot spins, one of the major components of what we are paying for is entertainment. Sure we want to win some money. Sure it’s nice when we win a major prize, whether from a full house or a good line combination. But looked at from the entertainment point of view, despite its lower RTP rates, bingo can still be seen as better value for money.

Slots have the potential to pay out more, but it’s far easier to lose money too. You can buy bingo tickets from as little as 1p. Let’s say you buy a ticket for 10p. Bigger sites tend to have a new game starting every few minutes, so even if you are a speed freak, dodging from room to room, it’s easy to limit the amount you can spend. Of course, many if not most online players buy more than one ticket per game, but even so, you are going to get some time and entertainment for your money, even if you don’t win.

Now let’s look at slots. A spin is over in a second, or maybe two. And they don’t come cheap. In practice, as players tend to prefer to play with all available lines, the minimum stake per spin is likely to be 20p – 25p. It would be easy to play say, 20 spins a minute, giving you a minimum stake of around £4 – £5 per minute. And that is just a minimum. Many players choose to stake more.

So for slot players, the higher RTP rate means it can be a more efficient way to play from a financial point of view. Prizes tend to be bigger too. But on the down side the stakes and potential losses are higher, and each spin is over in seconds.

Bingo players may get a lower potential prize pot, and a smaller proportion of their ticket money returned in winnings, but they get a social experience, and more time as a proportion of money spent to enjoy the game.

So, at the end of the day, you pay your money and you make your choice… And in any case, on most bingo sites and many casino sites, you can choose both. As long as you stick to your budget, why not enjoy the best of both worlds?

## Introductory Bonuses: Are They Worth It?

Just about every online casino and bingo operator offers a “free” introductory bonus for joining their sites. From the site promotors’ point of view, it’s a no-brainer. The idea is to entice you to spend your hard-earned cash with them, rather than another site. After all, games are much the same wherever you play them, so any way of differentiating themselves from the competition and encouraging you to be loyal to them is, from their point of view, brilliant.

Really, there are two different kinds of introductory bonus. There is the free, “no deposit” cash, where you are given, usually a tenner, but sometimes more, just for signing up. This must be spent on games on the site. Or there is the deposit related bonus, where you are given money to spend on the games on site as a proportion of the amount you pay in. For example, a matched deposit offer (or 100% bonus) means that if you pay in £10, the site will give you another £10 to play with as well. Many sites offer far more: up to £60 in additional bonus cash to go with your tenner. There is usually a minimum deposit amount (£5 or £10 is typical) and a maximum too.

Sounds like a good deal. What’s the catch? Well, of course, you are right to be a little cautious, because nothing is ever truly “free”. There is indeed a catch, and that catch is what the sites like to call “wagering requirements”. Typically, for bingo, you will be required to spend around 4 x up to 10 x your deposit + bonus before you can withdraw any winnings. So if the requirement is 4 x, and you deposit a tenner, you will need to wager at least £80 (4 x £20) before cashing out. If you choose to play on slots, the requirement is higher, because the operators’ profit margin is lower on slots. So if you use your bonus to pay for spins, the requirement will typically be 10 x or even 20 x your deposit + bonus.

For casino sites, the requirement is usually around 30 x to 40 x your bonus, and sometimes your deposit + bonus. This is again because the profit margins for slots are slimmer. Furthermore, if you use your bonus cash to play casino table games, spending here does not usually count 100% toward your requirement, so you have to spend even more.

It is worth noting that the TV casinos charge even more. Some demand that you pay in at least 99 x your deposit + bonus. Deposit £10 and claim your “free” £20, and you would have to deposit the best part of £3,000 before making a claim (well someone has to pay for the studio, the presenters and all that TV time).

And remember that free “no deposit” offer we mentioned. These usually come with further strings attached, called conversion rates. These mean that even if you win when spending your bonus money, your prize will be capped, typically at around 4 x your bonus. So accept a free tenner, and your winnings will be limited to £40 maximum. Any further amounts will most likely be void.

What’s more, most sites (and indeed the TV casinos) also put a time limit on things too, so you will generally need to fulfil your wagering requirements within 28 days.

So, with all these strings attached, from the player’s point of view, is it all worth it? It can be, so long as you are fully aware of the terms and conditions and are happy that you can fulfil them. After all, it really is extra money you wouldn’t have had to play with otherwise. But the strings mean that you are effectively committed to spending much more of your own cash than you may have realised.

Always remember that if you are not happy with the terms, sites will invariably give you the option of refusing the bonus. Some will make this easy; others will require a fair bit of faffing and form filling before you can reject their kind offer.

But always check the terms and conditions before signing up. These are accessed in a variety of ways according to the specific site you are visiting, but usually via a link on the promotion details. Some sites are a bit naughty and make you wade through their main Terms & Conditions pages to find them. Many consider this tactic to be a bit of a warning flag: the best sites are clear and up front about their rules and regulations.

Remember that you are in control. You don’t have to tick that box, (or untick it, whichever the case may be). You decide if you want the bonus or not. Besides, there is also a further consideration. Some sites (only a very small minority at the moment, but slowly growing) offer a bonus with no wagering requirements at all. Yes, apart from a commitment from you to agree to “fair gaming”, you can claim your winnings as soon as you have made a deposit and played with some of your own cash. You can’t withdraw the accrual bonus cash, but you can claim any winnings derived from using them, without any further commitment of any kind.

So always remember, you have a choice.

## Bingo Evolves

There are now loads of different formats of bingo to choose from. Traditionalists will still prefer to play the two original forms of the game. The British and European side of the Atlantic (I’d better name both in these days post the Brexit referendum) generally opts for the 90 Ball version, while the other side of the pond prefer their 75 Ball variant. Both are usually available on bingo sites aimed at United Kingdom based players. Other forms of bingo are widely available. The vast Live Bingo Network’s team of sites also offers 80 and 50 ball varieties of the game, and many other sites also offer some unique and exclusive formats.

All of these formats have been around for some time, but when it comes to creating new and innovative forms of the game, there are in fact quite a few restrictions. The most obvious issue is that there are some stringent rules and regulations which define what bingo is, and what it must be. To gain a licence to offer online bingo to UK based players, site operators must satisfy the industry’s regulatory body, the UK Gambling Commission. This body enforces a precise definition of what bingo is: the 1978 Royal Commission Report specified that “Bingo is a lottery played as a game”, and separated it from casino games, for which operators must apply for a different licence.

The Report also specified that “bingo must be played as an equal chance game” “Bingo must involve a degree of participation” and that “Bingo games must have a clearly defined end point”. A further clarification was issued in 2009, but this was largely concerned with new bingo machines, rather than the type of bingo played in halls or online. Given all these parameters, games designers and innovators do face considerable restrictions which they have to abide by to continue to call a game “Bingo”. Nevertheless, designers have been able to be quite creative when it comes to designing new and imaginative forms of the game.

The first new format, which has been around for so long now, it has become almost as standard as the original 90 and 75 Ball forms. “Speed” bingo is on offer on many sites. Often also referred to as Swedish” bingo, it is, as the nickname implies, a much faster form Bingo, with games reaching the Commissions “clearly defined end point” much more swiftly than the more traditional versions. It certainly suits players looking for a faster pace, and has become very popular as a “modern” alternative.

But two more recent designs have also burst upon the bingo scene, which are really attracting those players who are looking for something different. The first of these is “Slingo”. This is a kind of hybrid of slots and bingo. In a way, this name is a kind of a sneaky way of getting round the Commission’s rules. It clearly sounds like bingo, but does not use the word, so it can avoid the Commissions censure.

In this game, you play with a bingo card, which has 25 numbers on it. These numbers are arranged in five rows of five numbers. However, instead of numbers being called in turn in the conventional manner, there is a row of numbers at the bottom of the card which you spin, like on a five reel slot. If these numbers match, you can mark them off on the card, just like bingo. Basically, you have up to twenty “spins” to cover all the patterns or numbers on your card. There are some other features which are more like you find on slots: like special characters called Jokers or Devils, which either add to, or reduce your chances of winning. This game is becoming very popular, and is well worth a try for players looking for something new to try.

Meanwhile, another variation on the traditional game has started to appear. This time, instead of a hybrid bingo / slot game, it is playing cards which replace the traditional bingo numbers. This 52 “ball” game is pretty much played the same way as bingo, but instead of numbers, each bingo card consists of five playing cards.  The caller then announces playing cards drawn randomly from the 52 card pack. If they appear on your ticket, they are marked.  The first player to cover all 5 playing cards on a ticket then wins the game. This game can be played at Blighty Bingo and you can buy up to five tickets for each game.

So despite all the rules and regulations, games designers are coming up with new forms of the game. Why not add a bit of variety to your bingo sessions and give them a try?

## Is Online Bingo Fair?

Sometimes it seems as if the Gods of bingo are against you. You keep buying tickets day after day and the same names come up as winners. Except it’s never yours. Surely it’s a fix? How can it all be fair when you never seem to get your fair share of wins?

Well, there are lots of ways to look at why this seems to happen so often, but the most important thing to remember is that in the United Kingdom at least, yes, online bingo IS fair.

How can we be so sure? Well this is because all bingo sites legally allowed to trade in this country must be registered and licenced by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. This is a UK Government backed organisation which is responsible for the regulation of gambling in this country. And one of the many things that the regulator demands is that all licenced online bingo operators must use software which contains a certified Random Number Generator (RNG).

What’s more, operators of online bingo sites can’t just SAY they use an Random Number Generator, they have to demonstrate this by having their system tested by a reputable independent body such as iTech Labs or eCOGRA. A few bingo websites even publish their testing data as further proof of their fairness. Often you will see the testing company’s logo at the bottom of the home page, or referred to in the Terms & Conditions.

But even if the test results are not published, and even if there is no logo anywhere on the site, all you have to look for is that the UK Gambling Commission logo is displayed, or that it is mentioned in the legally required small print at the bottom of the page, which details where the site is licenced and registered. This is because it is a legal requirement that fully tested RNG bingo software is used by the site before a licence will be granted.

Ok, ok I hear you say, but how is it that I’m sat here with nothing to show for my hard earned cash, when other people often seem to get win after win? There are lots of possible explanations, but perhaps the most crucial is this…

Not all the money spent on tickets is returned to players in prizes. The actual proportion of ticket money returned is called the Return to Player rate (RTP). The actual rate can vary between games, according to how many players there are, at what stage the game is won, whether there is a guaranteed prize, whether a proportion is held back for a progressive win and so on. But on average, the expected long term RTP for bingo is estimated by experts to be around 70%.  This means that for every pound you spend on bingo tickets, on average, at least 30p is retained by the operator.

Now at first glance, that sounds like a lot. As a comparison, the average slot game will probably pay back around 95% of money staked in prizes.  Now far be it for us to defend those greedy bingo operators, but there are some very valid reasons for this. Part of the money you spend has to go toward meeting the site operator’s costs. And these include: site design and software licencing fees, website hosting fees, marketing, site promotions and bonuses, commission payments to referral sites, banking fees, support staff to deal with queries and withdrawals, plus friendly hosts to provide the chat. Ticket sales have to pay for all this infrastructure, plus the fact that the poor bingo operator will also expect to make a small profit.

So perhaps a good way of looking at things is that you are in effect, paying for the entertainment. Just like pubs charge more for their beer and spirits than supermarkets: because you are paying for the publican’s rent, rates, staff, heating, lighting and general ambience. After all, no-one would want to drink in Tesco’s, even if it were legal. And if you drink at home YOU are paying for all those other things anyway. So when you buy a pint or glass of wine in a pub, you are paying for the ambience as well as the alcohol. So when you buy online bingo tickets you are paying for the chat and the entertainment as well as the tickets!