National Bingo Day – A history of the game and bingo calls

Eyes down, dabbers up – today, 27 June, is National Bingo Day.

Despite its reputation as something of a senior citizen pastime, the game has always had a special place in British culture and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon, with fans including the likes of Matthew McConaughey.

And when you can become a millionaire from playing the game, who wouldn’t fancy a chance?

Even though technically National Bingo Day is only being marked in the US, today is still a great excuse to learn who came up with bingo and how it became so popular in the UK.

How did bingo start?
It’s difficult to trace a definite origin of bingo, but most stories suggest that the game first began in Italy, originating from their traditional lottery game ‘Il Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia’ in the 1500s.

From there, the game was picked up by wealthy Frenchmen in the 1700s, who played a version known as ‘Le Lotto.’

This version featured 27 squares, laid out in three rows and nine columns. With numbers from 1-90 randomly arranged in the boxes, it’s this iteration that has grown into the game played in bingo halls and online today.

William and Catherine play bingo with care home

Like today’s version, ‘Le Lotto’ saw a caller pick a wooden number token and read the number out loud.

If players had this number on their card, they’d cover it and the first to cover an entire horizontal line would be crowned the winner.

The term bingo – and the act of yelling out bingo when you had a full line – was thought to come from North America.

A traveller and toymaker, Edwin Lowe, saw people playing the game as it had grown from Le Lotto, in which they’d try to cover a line horizontally, vertically or diagonally with beans once the number had been called out.

When the lines were full, they shouted ‘beano!’

He decided to make his own version of the game, introducing it to friends in New York using a rubber numbering stamp, a card board and dried beans.

As the game grew in popularity, it’s said that someone excitedly yelled Bingo instead of beano – and the bingo we know today was born.

Can bingo halls open on 4 July?
For anyone missing the game, Mecca – one of the biggest Bingo companies in the UK – confirmed 36 of their halls will reopen on 4 July.

The rest will have a staggered reopening throughout July and August.

Jonathon Swaine, managing director of retail at Mecca Bingo, said: ‘We want to reassure the Mecca Bingo community that we are working together to take every precaution necessary to create a safe environment in which to play the nation’s favourite game.

‘We’re also investing in new entertainment formats in our clubs, to give everyone even better experiences. We are excited to reopen our doors, welcome back our communities and hear “House” called once again.’

The list of Mecca halls reopening can be found here.

Where did the bingo calls come from and what are some common bingo calls?
As the game was quickly picked up and became a popular pastime in the UK, we put our own spin on it.

The numbers got nicknames, given to them through a combination of rhyming slang, historical references (for example – number 9 is Doctor’s Orders, because that was the slang given to laxatives by the troops) and tongue-in-cheek references.

To this day, bingo callers will call the numbers out in their own way – and it’s become something of a twee tradition.

Common bingo calls

Kelly’s Eye
One Little Duck
Cup of Tea
Knock at the Door
Man Alive
Tom Mix
Lucky Seven
Garden Gate
Doctor’s Orders
Cameron’s Den
Legs 11
One Dozen
Unlucky for Some
Valentine’s Day
Young and Keen
Sweet 16
Dancing Queen
Coming of Age
Goodbye Teens
One Score
Royal Salute
Two Little Ducks
Thee and Me
Two Dozen
Duck and Dive
Pick and Mix
Gateway to Heaven
Over Weight
Rise and Shine
Dirty Gertie
Get Up and Run
Buckle My Shoe
Dirty Knee
Ask for More
Jump and Jive
Three Dozen
More than 11
Christmas Cake
Steps
Naughty 40
Time for Fun
Winnie the Pooh
Down on Your Knees
Droopy Drawers
Halfway There
Up to Tricks
Four and Seven
Four Dozen
PC
Half a Century
Tweak of the Thumb
Danny La Rue
Stuck in the Tree
Clean the Floor
Snakes Alive
Was She Worth It?
Heinz Varieties
Make Them Wait
Brighton Line
Five Dozen
Bakers Bun
Turn the Screw
Tickle Me 63
Red Raw
Old Age Pension
Clickety Click
Made in Heaven
Saving Grace
Either Way Up
Three Score and 10
Bang on the Drum
Six Dozen
Queen B
Candy Store
Strive and Strive
Trombones
Sunset Strip
Heaven’s Gate
One More Time
Eight and Blank
Stop and Run
Straight On Through
Time for Tea
Seven Dozen
Staying Alive
Between the Sticks
Torquay in Devon
Two Fat Ladies
Nearly There
Top of the Shop