How Does Online Bingo Work?
This article is all about playing bingo online for real money - specifically how it works, and what's going on in the background. It does assume that you already know the general idea behind the game of bingo, so if you're unfamiliar with the basic concepts then you may want to have a read of our how to play bingo article.
In our last section we briefly mentioned bingo networks. A network allows players from different bingo sites to play in the same games, take part in the same chat and generally share resources. The reason for this is simple - player liquidity.
For Example: If there are 10 bingo sites each with 20 players online at one time, then the maximum number of players each room could possibly have in a game is 20 - which isn't great for prizes or chat. But if these 10 sites pooled their players, there would be a total of 200 available to play the games. Resuting in much bigger prizes and a generally more active site for everybody.
Bingo websites that operate on the same network also use the same software - so bingo sites that offer Virtue Fusion games all use the same bingo software, produced by Playtech. Again this isn't a bad thing as it results in more reliable software.
Even though groups of sites operate on the same network and software, it actually doesn't mean that they all offer the exact same games. Many sites run exclusive rooms either with special promotions (such as free bingo or other offers) or even completely unique games. Gala Bingo, for example, offer Coconut Island - a special 50-ball game that is exclusive to Gala.
Once you've picked a bingo site, registered a clever nickname and funded your account it's now time to start playing. The first thing you're going to need to do is choose a room to play in. The rooms are split into a number of different game types - the most common being 90 ball and 75 ball bingo. The number in the game name refers to the number of bingo balls used. So a 90 ball game has balls from 1 to 90. We go into the different games types in more detail in our bingo games article.
After loading the room you want to play in you'll now be able to buy tickets. The price of a ticket will vary from game to game with the cheapest games being just 1p a ticket (excluding free games which are, well.. free). The most expensive games may run into a couple of pounds per ticket.
Your main choice in many rooms is how many tickets you want to buy - and the more tickets you buy, the more of a chance you have of winning the game. Again the maximum number varies from game to game, but it's usually 36 or 72.
Just like in a high street bingo hall, you can't pick your numbers like you can with the lottery. Instead you'll be presented with a series of cards with the numbers pre-printed on them. Some bingo sites allow you to choose specific cards by clicking them, but this is purely option - you can just choose the number of tickets you want and leave it completely up to chance.
Playing The Game
Once the game starts the balls will be drawn automatically. As the numbers on your card are drawn, your card will automatically get marked off and the order of the cards will rearrange so that the ones with the least numbers outstanding are on the top of your list.
If you prefer to mark the numbers off yourself, many bingo sites have the option to 'self-daub'. This means you'll need to click the numbers as they're drawn. But don't worry - even if you miss one, the prizes are awarded to the correct player automatically based on what's on the tickets, regardless of whether you're auto-marking or self-marking.
Winning The Game
What you have to get to win a prize will vary by game. First there's the standard 1 line, 2 line and full house which you seen in the more traditional 90 ball bingo - get a line and you win the prize. For pattern bingo games, often found in 75 ball bingo, you'll need to match a pre-defined pattern which changes each game.
If more than one person wins on the same ball then the prize is shared between the players. For example, if two players both call house on ball 45 and the prize is £20, each player would receive £10.
Jackpots & Special Prizes
In addition to the regular prizes many games offer additional jackpots or awards if certain conditions are met. Jackpots are usually triggered if a full house is called in under a set number of balls (such as less than 30 balls). The less balls allowed the harder it is to win, and the bigger the jackpot. Some jackpots even awarded prizes to everyone playing when the jacpot hit, not just the main winner.
Other special prizes are awarded if you call house on your 'lucky number', if you lose but were only one away (known as 1tg - or 'one to go') or if some other unique criteria is met.
Random Number Generators (RNG's)
When playing an online game of bingo, there are no physical bingo balls to be drawn. This leaves us with an important question - how are the numbers picked?
The answer to this lies in some very complicated computer software which is able to randomly select one of the balls by generating a random number. This software takes an external random feature (such as static or noise) and passes it through an algorithm which pops out a number. For the purposes of this article we'll leave it here, but if you want to read more about how RNG's work, see this article.
Are Random Number Generators Fair?
Yes, very much so. Provided that the software behind the bingo network uses a suitably complex and truly random RNG, then every ball has just as much chance of being virtually drawn as any other - making it a fair game. In fact, you're more likely to come across some kind of bias in the physical world such as slightly different ball weights or dents or chips which affect the chance of them being drawn.
Futhermore, almost all reputable bingo networks will provide regular third party audits of their RNG and the results that have been generated. So if something were amiss it would be quickly picked up.