Old Lady Smackdown aka Bingo: Part One: Players Get Ready To Rumble

One of the many side effects of being raised Catholic is that Bingo becomes a part of your life. I never figured out what Bingo had to do with religion, but I have never met a Catholic who hadn’t played the game at one point or another. In case, you have never played, here is what you need to know:

Bingo is a game of chance played with randomly drawn numbers which players match against numbers that have been pre-printed on 5×5 matrices. The matrices may be printed on paper, card stock or electronically represented and are referred to as cards. Many versions conclude the game when the first person achieves a specified pattern from the drawn numbers. The winner is usually required to call out the word “Bingo!” which alerts the other players and caller of a possible win. All wins are checked for accuracy before the victory confirmation at which time the prize is secured, and a new game may start.

I hadn’t touched the stuff since I was released…err…graduated from Catholic high school, but a few of my co-workers at the time convinced me to play Bingo with them one night. I started calling it, “Old Lady Smackdown.” Spoiler alert: I was smacked down by these old ladies all night. Let me walk you through the scene.

It is a Tuesday night around 6:15p in Burbank, California. You park your car amid Lincolns, Cadillacs, Mercurys and other marvels of Detroit engineering. This is the first parking lot you’ve seen in years without a single minivan or SUV. These cars have metal bumpers and don’t know the meaning of the word “airbag.” After traversing the parking lot, you head to where you think the door is.  You can’t quite tell due to the cloud of smoke provided by a batch of women that have been smoking longer than you have been alive on the planet.

Once inside, you fumble for your money because the cashier is making biting comments at those unprepared. Your hand shakes as you give her your $20, which is the minimum for the evening. The cashier mumbles a robotic “good luck,” which you don’t believe, and hands over the ticket stub proving you paid. A crooked finger points into the gym where a throaty voice says, “in there for the early bird game.” You move quickly because she is ripping into someone who wants to know how much the ink blotters cost.

The two women at the early bird check-in look even surlier than the cashier if that is possible. You hand them your $5 for the early game with an extra buck for the power ball. She snaps, “how do you expect to win if you don’t hand me your stub?” You find it, she snatches it out of your hand, stamps it, and scowls at you until you scurry off to find a seat.

The gymnasium is full of tables, and the tables are full of people who have a minimum of three decades on you. You swear you hear a few chant “fresh fish” under their breath, but shake it off as imagination. The temples to the bingo gods are everywhere despite this being a Catholic school gym. Rows of different colored ink blotters, good luck charms, decks of cards, snacks and little sheet holders in various arrangements fill the tables. You spot a Buddha and laugh wondering if he has any power here.

The women look at you as you walk by. Their piercing glances seem to be either summing you up or giving you the evil eye or both. You look for a seat, but everything says “reserved” until a nice older man lets you know that you can sit near him since the regular woman who typically sits there isn’t coming. You hope it’s because she was busy and not for, you know, other reasons.

Baffled by the brown paper bag at your place, you realize by looking around it is the trash bag for your discarded bingo sheets. You settle in your folding chair and are all set to stamp the free spot when you are stopped by a woman with an ominous tone, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” You are about to ask why when she throws you a program. “Look at the first game.”

With a fast scan of the sheet, you see the lists of games with terms that make no sense. Corner Stamps, 3 Card 6 pack, Small Kites, Crazy Stamps, and 6 Card Hardway Bingo. You look up to the board and see that there is a bingo card lighting up in the acceptable winning formations, so you learn while you wait for the first Bingo game to begin.

To be continued Friday with Part Two: The Many Rules Of Bingo

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2 comments

  1. BINGO ODDS OF WINNING – depends on the rules and not the numbers pulled/called.

    At one time the only untaxed unregulated gambling in the City of Chicago was parish Bingo.
    A good sized parish gym could hold a couple of hundred people all sitting on folding chairs with tables in front of them. Aside from the mechanics of choosing a ball with a number printed on it plucked mechanically from a wire cage it was a true game of chance which could not be rigged. The bingo cards sold had randomly printed numbers on them. Due to the volume of cards and numbers a winning number might be the winning number on several
    cards. The first person to call BINGO! out loud, with a verified last/winning number, won the untaxed prize amount.

    ODDS? There was only one winner per game. The odds are dependent on how many people are playing the game. 434 players means the odds are 434-to-1 to win. 26 players means 26-to-1 odds to win.
    Makes sense? It gets more subtle. What about the person who plays 25 cards? Better odds to win? NO!
    Bingo is a true random number game of chance and a player is in competition with other players and the winning player must be the first person to call BINGO. A player with one card has the advantage of winning over a player with multiple cards. The single player will more quickly recognize their winning number and call out Bingo micro seconds before a player who has to take perhaps a second to scan all cards and calls out Bingo.

    CASINO bingo with wimp rules of all winners sharing the pot simply favor the person with the most cards purchased. While still a true game of chance the Casino profits with the purchase of multiple cards and it is not a game that requires a lightening fast response like the games at the old Blessed Agnes of Bohemia Parish games in Chicago.

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