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Bingo (pronounced bing-go) is essentially a table-based game of numbers. A player uses a purchased bingo card (he or she may purchase more than one card) that has a five by five matrix of 24 randomly arranged numbers (the center square is marked "free"). The first column (from the left) is labeled "B", the second as "I", then "N", "G" and "O" (spelling "bingo"). The "B" column can contain any five numbers from 1 to 15, "I" with 16-30, "G" with 46-60 and "O" with 61-75. The "N" column, having the free square will have any of 4 numbers from 31 to 45.

The host of a bingo session draws a ball from a rotating container (similar to those of earlier lottery games) and announces what number was drawn (for instance, I-17). The players who sees the number on his or her card then, marks the number typically with a wide light-colored felt-tipped pen. The host goes on drawing balls until (1) a pre-defined number of balls are drawn or (2) a player eventually obtains a set of marks that match a pre-determined pattern on his or her card. If a player indeed matches the predetermined pattern, he or she needs to shout "bingo" to signify the match. Upon confirmation that the card does meet the winning requirements, the game ends and the owner of that card wins the indicated prize. It doesn't matter whether or not other boxes other than the required pattern are marked. As long as the pattern was matched, it is considered a win.

The patterns can vary and the payouts also vary depending on the complexity of the pattern. Some low payout patterns can be a single horizontal, vertical or diagonal line. Higher payouts are for patterns that require more boxes to be covered. For example, a "+" pattern that crosses the free square has an 8-square mark requirement. So would an "x" pattern require 8 numbers to be drawn. A "checkered" pattern or a pattern where every other box needs to be marked requires 12 boxes to be marked. The highest payout pattern is a blockout or in other words, marking all of the numbers on a single card. Other patterns can be thought of to provide more options for the players.

As bingo was compared earlier to the lottery game, it is worth noting that the game actually evolved from a 1530 Italian game called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia " or "lotto" for short. In late 18th century France, the game was called "Le Lotto". In the late1920's, the game reached the U.S. The U.S. version of the game was originally called "beano". It was called as such because beans were used to cover the numbers on a card. In latter years, eventually its name evolved into bingo.