Research I did on the game of Bingo with a twist
“We’re looking for two regular bingos, papers down.” This is something you would hear a caller say when playing bingo. Bingo is a game that has been around longer than dinosaurs judging from some of the players and is not for the faint of heart. The game is simple but the stakes are high. Bingo players are usually grouped into certain unflattering categories, however, I assure you that it is not just the elderly, troll toting players that turn out on a Friday or Saturday night in search of a piece of the jackpot winnings.
Upon entering a bingo hall, it is certain that you will first be greeted with a thick cloud of stale smoke hovering above the players like cumulonimbus clouds. The monster standing fans in the corners of the hall have collected so much dust that they are practically useless in aiding the circulation of second hand smoke, much less the air.
Bingo halls are a haven for chain smokers and caffeine freaks galore.
At a quick glance around the large room, you are likely to see several rows of long tables crammed with people eagerly marking numbers on recycled papers with their multi-colored ink daubers. Some carry bags designed especially for the game complete with pockets for ink daubers and a drawstring pouch for holding money, tape, glue, and other game necessities.
Before finding a seat, it is recommended that you stop by the desk usually located centrally for easy access. At the desk one can purchase playing cards for the nightly sessions, bingo paraphernalia and cigarettes.
“I will take two packets, one blue bingo marker and some ones please,” I say to the gentleman behind the desk. He quickly fills my order, handing my twenty dollars in ones paper clipped together.
“That will be thirty-two dollars,” he says. I take my things and begin the search for an empty seat.
Making my way through the crowded room I spot a seat in the corner and begin the ritual of making a home for the next four hours. Each person eagerly awaits the sound of the seventy-five plastic balls falling into the glass-paneled container.
There are television monitors all over the room where the balls are shown before they are actually called. This gives each person a chance to mark their papers and look them over. Once a number is called and you have gotten the required combination, you can yell, “BINGO!”
It is considered good etiquette in a bingo hall to raise your hand when you know you have bingo and then yell after your number is called. This gives the floor monitors plenty of time to make it to your seat so they can verify your win. After your game has been verified (meaning it is really a bingo), the floor monitor presents you with your winnings. This could be anywhere from five dollars to two hundred and fifty dollars depending on the game. It is also common courtesy to tip the bingo caller and the floor monitor after you win. It is not necessary and no one has been thrown out yet for not tipping, however, it is greatly appreciated. The average tip is anywhere from one dollar to five dollars depending on the win.
It just wouldn’t be bingo without hearing phrases like,
“I only needed one more number,”
“I’m in the monitor,” or
“I was so close!”
It is an unwritten rule that one must mutter a few words of disgust to the person nearest them after losing a game or show off the paper that was,
“soooo close to winning!”
As I scan the room around me I see smiles and frowns, two hundred cigarettes burning and bingo markers daubing papers at lightning speed. I wonder sometimes if the people that come in here to play really enjoy the game or if it is just an addiction that needs to be fed. I guess it is a little of both.
Bingo would not be the same without a snack bar. There is something about nerves and eating that correlates, and the bingo “industry” has capitalized on this eating frenzy. The snack bar is usually family run and consists of hot dogs, chips, desserts, salads, and other easy to make meals. It is the cheapest dinner you can get in town.
At this time, I decide to stretch and sit back to rest. I am continually watching what is going on around me. One night, a man threw his match into the trash bag taped beside him. The trash bags are for used papers, plates and cups. The bag began to catch on fire and he continued to play his game while stomping out the fire with one foot. The stomping did not seem to work and before he knew it, the entire bag had caught on fire and the game had to be stopped in order to rush the fiery bag outside. He was more willing to start a fire, than he was to lose his game.
I often wonder how people can afford to play as much as they do. Sure, a person can win quite a bit of money in one night, but if you do the math, you actually end up paying out more than you win. How else would a place like that stay in business?
The night is almost over and I have been sitting in a straight chair marking numbers for over four hours. My eyes are beginning to cross, causing the numbers to blur and I have a headache from the constant flow of cigarette smoke. I wonder why it is that I ever came in the first place and vow to never go again. There are other things I would rather do with my time. Why then, am I ready to play again the next night?
Bingo has a strange way of grabbing hold of a person. It is simply the fact that I “might” have won that keeps me coming back. I cannot afford to play anymore this week but maybe if I pawn those old gold earrings, I could play one more night. I will win the money back that I lost and go get new earrings!
These are the thoughts that circle the mind of someone who is stuck in a gambling hell. It is a smaller version of casino style gambling. The stakes are not as high, but the wallet is just as empty in the end.