Dictionary of Bingo Terminology


Most bingo halls or parlors have a minimum number of cards that you must purchase as the price of admission. Typically you must purchase an "admission packet," which usually contains three to six cards for every regular game, and often contain some special games.

After Game(s)

The game(s) played after the end of a regular session.

Ball Gate

The one-way metal flap at the top of the ball runway which the ball passes under to enter the main playfield area.

Ball Lifter

The mechanism used to raise the ball from beneath the playfield to the ball shooter tip. Manual: A plunger below the ball shooter can be pushed in at any time to raise a ball for play. Automatic: A motor raises the ball when appropriate. On most games, a ball is raised as soon as the current ball leaves the ball gate. Some later games actually detect when a ball has fallen into a hole, and raise the next ball then.

Ball Runway

The channel along the right side where the ball is launched up by the ball shooter to enter the main playfield area.

Ball Shooter

The spring loaded plunger with a rubber tip used to launch the ball into the playfield area. The rubber tip should be replaced if torn, as pitted balls will damage the playfield quickly. The rubber tip and springs are cheap and and easy to get.


A barrier, in bingo terms, is a box section that contains playing consoles and coin slots, usually on both sides. Inside, there is a conveyor belt which moves money taken at the coin slots to a cash-box at one end of the barrier. Players sit facing each other across the barriers.


A game played with bingo cards in which the players cover squares when objects similarly numbered and lettered are randomly drawn to complete lines or other patterns. Also Bingo.


[1] A game played with bingo cards in which the players cover squares when objects similarly numbered and lettered are randomly drawn to complete lines or other patterns. Also Beano.

Bingo Board

A display board, usually electronic that "lights up" showing each number as it is called. There are 75 numbers and a "free space" in the game of bingo.

Bingo Booklets

A specific number of different colored bingo sheets all containing the same number of faces (ON's) bound together to be played one for each game at a bingo session. They are bound in the order in which they will be played.

Bingo Card

A flat card made of cardboard or non-reusable paper which contains 25 squares arranged in five vertical and five horizontal rows. The letters B, I, N, G, O are pre-printed above the five vertical columns, with one letter appearing above each column. The center space is marked "free." The printed numbers on the card correspond to the following arrangement: 1 to 15 in the B column; 16 to 30 in the I column; 31 to 45 in the N column; 46 to 60 in the G column and 61 to 75 in the O column.

Bingo Marker

A crayon or ink dauber that is used to cover the numbers on a bingo game card.


A variation of the game of bingo in which the object is to cover all the 25 spaces on your card. Usually 50 to 60 of the 75 bingo numbers have to be called to cover all the numbers on a card. But blackouts in as few as 42 or 43 numbers have been recorded in the Seattle area in the past five years. Blackouts in 48 or 49 numbers, while not frequent, are not uncommon.


A forced-air device that mixes the bingo balls and dispenses them to the "caller" who announces the number and displays it on a "bingo board."

Bonanza Bingo

A progressive coverall jackpot that is usually played as the 13th game of the session. Forty-five numbers are drawn before the session and players mark them on separate cards and set aside. There is an additional fee to play this game, usually $1. The countdown begins at 48 numbers or less and go up one number per week to 52 numbers or until won. The amount of the jackpot is determined by card sales for that game.


A Ticket.


A multi-ply card, made completely from paper or paper products, with perforated breakopen tab or tabs. The game play area of the card is covered to conceal a number(s), letter(s) and/or symbol(s); some of which have been designated in advance as prize winners.


The person who calls out the numbers as they are drawn; machines are normally used to randomly generate these numbers. Most clubs use two callers; the job of the main stage bingo caller tends to involve more showmanship than a prize or parti bingo caller's.


A playing card.

Cash Ball

A progressive jackpot that pays off with a bingo on the called number (number is drawn before the session begins). Validation is required to win the jackpot.


A form of bingo where the prize is a cash payout. This is taken from the money paid in, and must be a minimum of 50% of the available stake.


The color of each sheet in your collated bingo book.


The prize or prizes offered on some games if there is no winner in a predetermined number of calls.


This is a pattern where you must cover all numbers on the card to win.


A bottle of ink with a sponge top, used to mark bingo cards.

Dispensing Device

A mechanical or electro-mechanical device with one or more stacking columns that dispenses a charity game tickets after the player inserts the appropriate amount of coin or currency.

Drag Arms

The drag arms are a couple of metal bars leaning up against cams on the front of the control unit. They periodically stop a couple of the cams from rotating briefly, and in the process alter the positions of the cam lobes between themselves and the rest of the control unit. The net affect is to randomize the timing of certain events during the cycling of the game, such as the amount of time the spotting wipers turn.

Early Bird Game

A bingo game played before the start of a "session." But sometimes the Early Bird game is merely the first game of the session. The first game of a session is more commonly known as a Warm Up.


Is the individual bingo sheet containing 24 numbers plus the free space in the middle.


Bingo cards printed on thin sheets of paper. There are usually three cards printed on a single sheet but flimsies are also printed in one, two, four, or six or 9-card formats. Typically a flimsy sheet costs one or two dollars and a win on a flimsy on a "special" game usually pays quite a bit more than a win on a "regular" game. Also called throwaways in some areas.

Free Space

The space in the center of a bingo card. It does not have a number assigned to it. It is always "wild." Cover it on all your bingo cards when you start a new game.


An electronic dauber system used to play multiple packs at once. These usually require a rental fee and only one is allowed per player

Game Board

An electronic display board, usually attached next to the "Bingo Board" that looks like a bingo card and shows what variation of bingo you are playing on that particular game on the program. Some examples include Four Corners," "Chevron," "Regular," and "Blackout.".

Game Family

The sum of all games of the same ticket type and same name.

Hard Card

A bingo card printed on heavy cardboard material usually with shutters to cover each number as it is called. A bingo card contains 24 numbered spaces and one "free space." The numbers are arranged in five rows or columns of five numbers each. The numbers in the "B" row contain five numbers between 1 and 15, picked at random. The numbers in the "I" row contain five numbers between 16 and 30. The numbers in the "N" row contain four numbers between 31 and 45 and the "free space." The numbers in the "G" row contain five numbers between 46 and 60. The numbers in the "O" row contain five numbers between 61 and 75. Players have thousands of unduplicated cards to pick from. Some manufacturers print unduplicated series of 6,000 cards. There are also series of 9,000 cards available. Hard cards and "flimsy" cards have a series number printed on them. Card number 1252, for example, will always have the same numbers in the same spaces. Hard cards are fast becoming a thing of the past. Soon they may even be collector's items!

Hardway Bingo

Bingo in a straight line without the use of the free space.

Inlaid Card

A pre-printed number card, usually in 4x4 format. It is usually laid into a table, and black discs are used to cover the numbers as they are called out

Instant Bingo

A breakopen ticket which contains only the letters B, I, N, G, O; bingo card faces; bingo numbers; and no other symbols. Winning tickets may incorporate letters spelling the word B-I-N-G-O, or contain a complete, pre-designated bingo pattern, i.e., vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line.


The prize offered on a "flimsy" game or "special" game. Sometimes the jackpot is progressive and grows every day or every week. Often the numbers needed to win are progressive, too. As numbers are added, the pot becomes easier to win..

Late Night Bingo

Bingo that starts late at night, usually about 10:00 pm. Also Moonlight Bingo.

Lucky Jar

Also "Cookie Jar," a container with cash. You win the contents of the Lucky Jar if you bingo on the "lucky number." The "lucky number" is usually the first number called at the beginning of a session. Money is added to the jar every time the lucky number is called or if the "caller" makes a mistake in announcing the game. Usually you can win the Lucky Jar only on "regular" games. There is no lucky number in play on "special" throw-away games.

Main Stage Bingo

The main event of a session of bingo, and the one expected to draw the most customers. Players purchase a page (or book) of pre-printed bingo tickets to use as game boards.


Much more complex than the reflex unit, the mixers are used to do "proportioning" during the current game. From a player's perspective, proportioning simply means that the higher your scores/features go, the less likely it is that the game will give you extra balls or increase the scores/features even more.

Money Ball

A number drawn before the game that will double a player's winnings if bingo is hit on that number.

Moonlight Bingo

Bingo that starts late at night, usually about 10:00 pm. Also Late Night Bingo.

Multiple Winners

If two or more players bingo at the same time, the cash prize is divided among them.


A group of bingo displays which takes its name from its shape - it has a narrow tubular base, and a wider head with the machinery used to play the game and collect money from players. Customers sit around the mushroom to play, and there are usually 6 to 8 positions at each.

Mystery Intervals

This was bally marketing speak for the idea that something may or may not happen when a credit is played or a coin is deposited. The not-happening is what makes the games gambling devices in many jurisdictions. generally, something would improve initially as each coin/credit was played, but as the scores/features got better, it became more likely that cycling the machine flashes the lights but nothing else happens.


Nine numbers in a block on one card.

Number of Booklets Per Set

9000 divided by ON's. (The number of faces per page.)


A player is said to be "on" when one or more cards they are playing lacks only one number for a "bingo."

On the Way

Or "games on the way." The bingo game(s) played on a blackout game prior to the blackout and on the same card. First the preliminary game(s) are played and then more numbers are called until there is a blackout.


Refers to the number of bingo faces per sheet. A 6 ON would have 6 faces per sheet.


Short for participation bingo, a type of slot bingo or cash bingo where the prize is cash (and depends on the number of players, since it is at least 50% of the money paid in). The most common boards used for parti bingo are inlaid cards and hand-held shutter boards.


The shape you need to cover on your card with called out numbers, usually it is a straight line


[1] The side of a breakopen ticket which may display the game name, form number, graphics, winning symbols, letters or numerals, prize amounts, number of winners at each level, and price per card. This side of the ticket is also referred to as the "Face".

Pod Top

This is the unit which sits on top of the barrier and contains the mechanisms used in the game - typically the coin mechanisms, valid & credit displays, and claim buttons. Most pod tops have the equipment for 4-6 playing positions. Also Saddle.

Prize Bingo

Until recently, this game was only played for a set prize or vouchers.

Profit Slip

A sheet of paper included in each set of game tickets detailing the selling price per ticket to players, number of tickets, ideal gross receipts, payout/profit information, prize breakdown by denomination, and sometimes, game play instructions.

Progressive Game

A seal card -style game with a designated jackpot that, if not won, is carried forward and added to the jackpot of the subsequent sets of the game until won. Here's how a progressive game works

Rainbow Pack

A paper pack that allows players to play for three or four different prize denominations at once.


A button on the foot rail with a single letter R on it. In order to score your wins, you need to push the R-button. On games where you could rearrange winning combinations via things like the magic screen, you need to push the R-button for every winning combination you set. The main reason for the R-button was to have more control over when scoring happened, and it had the nice side effect of reducing wear in the game, as the search disc was held stationary until the R-button was pushed. On earlier games where the search disc was rotating constantly, the contacts on the search disc and the search relays would wear away.

Rebound Rubber

The rubber disk mounted at the top left of the playfield that the ball bounces off if you shoot the ball hard enough.

Reflex Unit

A simple mechanism in the game which stepped up when credits were won and stepped down when credits/coins were played. As it stepped up/down, electrical circuits in the game were broken/made. The circuits were used when playing for increasing the scores/features or extra balls. Bally marketing speak referred to the reflex unit as "proportioning the game". What that really meansis that as credits are awarded, the game is less likely to give you extra balls or increase the scores/features. As credits are played off/coins deposited, the game gets more generous. The reflex unit does not reset between games, so if you win big, leave the game and let someone else loosen it up with their money!


The series of blank lines preceded by a numeral, letter, or symbol combination that appears on a coin board, seal card, or tipboard and is the place where players holding a ticket with the corresponding numeral, letter, or symbol combination sign their names.

Reno Trip

A blackout played for a Reno Trip for Two as the prize. The trip usually includes air fare, hotel accommodations, and ground transportation. Winners have a choice of taking the trip or a cash alternative, usually about $250 to $300.

Replay Counter

A mechanical unit inside the machine that keeps track of how many credits the player has been awarded for various wins. In early games, there is one of these units.

Replay Register

The three or four digit unit that shows the player the number of credits they have. Not to be confused (much) with a replay counter.


Random Number Generator; the machine used to pick the numbers for a game of bingo. Most are electronic.

S / I Cards

Score/Instruction cards. The score cards defined the payouts for 3,4, and 5-in-line/section, and the instruction cards gave minimal info on what the features did. Many games also have a third/fourth card which explained unique features of the game, or indicated the OK game/red letter game guaranteed minimums.


This is the unit which sits on top of the barrier and contains the mechanisms used in the game - typically the coin mechanisms, valid & credit displays, and claim buttons. Most pod tops have the equipment for 4-6 playing positions. Also Pod Top.

Score Disc

The score disc is a stepper unit that lights the odds lamps, determines payout amounts, and adjusts the odds of getting features. As the scores advance, the chances of lighting additional features reduces.

Seal Card

A board or placard used with charity game tickets which contains a seal or seals, which when removed or opened, reveal pre-designated winning numbers, letters, symbols or monetary denominations. The seal card also may contain a register and serve as the game’s flare card.

Search Disc

A large unit inside the game that is used to detect winning combinations. It works by controlling a set of five or more search relays. As the unit operates, it closes the search relays when balls are in the particular holes it is looking at. If the correct number of search relays are closed, the search stops and payout circuits are activated. After payout completes, the search continues for more paying combinations. Higher payouts can actually get broken into two pieces - payout for a 3-in-line, a pause, then the remainder of the payout for a 4-in-line or higher.

Search Index

The search index assembly is mounted underneath the control unit cams just to the left of the search disk. It consists of a coil, some switches, and an arm. In it's inactive state, the arm is lowered away from the search ratchet, and the search wipers are free to turn (unless held by something else). When a winner is detected and payout is needed, the search index coin is activated and the arm engages a tooth on the search ratchet, thus causing the search wipers to stop on the winning contacts until the payout is complete.

Search Ratchet

A gear connected to the search wipers which the search index can engage to stop the search wiper unit from turning.

Search Relays

The search relays are used in conjunction with the search disc to detect winning combinations of lit numbers. It's the search relays that make all the clicking noises heard on the early bingo's. The amount of clicks increase as more balls are in playfield holes.

Serial Number

The minimum five-character number printed by a manufacturer on each set of charity game tickets. Each ticket in a set contains the same serial number.


Indicates the number of unique faces that a single set will contain.


An entire evening or daytime program of bingo consisting of "regular" games usually played on "hard cards" and special games played on "throwaways" or paper sheets. A session usually lasts somewhere between two and a half hours and three hours and 15 minutes.


9000 bingo faces numbered in sequence and all one color.

Shutter Board

A hand-held plastic board with pre-printed numbers, usually in a 4x4 format. These numbers are marked off by closing shutters over them.

Shutter Panel

A thin wooden board mounted to the bottom of the playfield. When slid away from the player, holes in the board would allow the balls to drop beneath the playfield onto another sloping board, which would direct the balls into the ball trough. The shutter panel normally closes when the first ball lifts the ball gate on a completely reset machine. Complete reset of the machine requires all balls to be in the ball trough, so if you power off a game with a ball in the ball runway, then power on and start a game, shooting the first ball will not close the shutter. Once all the balls are beneath the playfield, reset is complete and shooting the next ball will close the shutter.


Six numbers in a block on one card.


A game played on a flimsy sheet: Bingo cards printed on thin sheets of paper. There are usually three cards printed on a single sheet but flimsies are also printed in one, two, four, or six or 9-card formats. Typically a flimsy sheet costs one or two dollars and a win on a flimsy on a "special" game usually pays quite a bit more than a win on a "regular" game. Also called "throwaways" in some areas.

Speed Bingo

A variation of regular bingo. Numbers are called very quickly and you can bingo in as few as three numbers. Usually played before or after a regular session.

Split Pot

A bingo game in which the winner splits the sales of the game (the pot) with the bingo hall or "house."


A number being lit on the bingo card without a corresponding ball being it the hole. Usually spotting occurred before the game started, but some games used the roll-over buttons to spot numbers.

Stage Displays

Most large bingo clubs use electronic displays to show information to the customers - from the current called number and ticket sales to prize money and advertisements.


An electronic dauber system used to play multiple packs at once. These usually require a rental fee and only one is allowed per player.

Texas Blackout

A variation of bingo. The first number called will be either odd or even. If the first number called is "even" then all the even numbers on all your cards are "wild." Cover all the even numbers. If the first number called is "odd," cover all the odd numbers. The game then proceeds to a blackout.


Usually called Flimsies: Bingo cards printed on thin sheets of paper. There are usually three cards printed on a single sheet but flimsies are also printed in one, two, four, or six or 9-card formats. Typically a flimsy sheet costs one or two dollars and a win on a flimsy on a "special" game usually pays quite a bit more than a win on a "regular" game.


These are printed pages on which the main stage bingo is played. They are laid out in grids, and normally come in books. Some tickets have bar-codes which describe the numbers on them and are used to help check claims.

Total Faces per Collated Set

9000 times the number of colors or UP's.


Refers to number of sheets that are used to made your book.


Eligibility required to win additional jackpot amounts. Price varies by number of cards played.

Warm Up

A bingo game played before the start of a "session." But sometimes the Warm Up game is merely the first game of the session. Also Early Bird.

Wild Number

Usually played on a double bingo that leads into a triple bingo. The first number out of the hopper determines the wild number - for example, if 42 is drawn, all numbers ending in 2 should be marked off.

Wrap Up

Name of the last game of a "session."

Complete list of specific games we cover in our dictionary of gambling slang and terminology


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