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

The original Dabbing (Picture: Getty)

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.

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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.

Far from being outdated, many online bingo sites see millions of hits from all age groups (Picture: Getty)

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.

It won’t be long until the halls are reopened (Picture: Getty)

‘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

  1. Kelly’s Eye
  2. One Little Duck
  3. Cup of Tea
  4. Knock at the Door
  5. Man Alive
  6. Tom Mix
  7. Lucky Seven
  8. Garden Gate
  9. Doctor’s Orders
  10. Cameron’s Den
  11. Legs 11
  12. One Dozen
  13. Unlucky for Some
  14. Valentine’s Day
  15. Young and Keen
  16. Sweet 16
  17. Dancing Queen
  18. Coming of Age
  19. Goodbye Teens
  20. One Score
  21. Royal Salute
  22. Two Little Ducks
  23. Thee and Me
  24. Two Dozen
  25. Duck and Dive
  26. Pick and Mix
  27. Gateway to Heaven
  28. Over Weight
  29. Rise and Shine
  30. Dirty Gertie
  31. Get Up and Run
  32. Buckle My Shoe
  33. Dirty Knee
  34. Ask for More
  35. Jump and Jive
  36. Three Dozen
  37. More than 11
  38. Christmas Cake
  39. Steps
  40. Naughty 40
  41. Time for Fun
  42. Winnie the Pooh
  43. Down on Your Knees
  44. Droopy Drawers
  45. Halfway There
  46. Up to Tricks
  47. Four and Seven
  48. Four Dozen
  49. PC
  50. Half a Century
  51. Tweak of the Thumb
  52. Danny La Rue
  53. Stuck in the Tree
  54. Clean the Floor
  55. Snakes Alive
  56. Was She Worth It?
  57. Heinz Varieties
  58. Make Them Wait
  59. Brighton Line
  60. Five Dozen
  61. Bakers Bun
  62. Turn the Screw
  63. Tickle Me 63
  64. Red Raw
  65. Old Age Pension
  66. Clickety Click
  67. Made in Heaven
  68. Saving Grace
  69. Either Way Up
  70. Three Score and 10
  71. Bang on the Drum
  72. Six Dozen
  73. Queen B
  74. Candy Store
  75. Strive and Strive
  76. Trombones
  77. Sunset Strip
  78. Heaven’s Gate
  79. One More Time
  80. Eight and Blank
  81. Stop and Run
  82. Straight On Through
  83. Time for Tea
  84. Seven Dozen
  85. Staying Alive
  86. Between the Sticks
  87. Torquay in Devon
  88. Two Fat Ladies
  89. Nearly There
  90. Top of the Shop

MORE: Save £1,378 in a year with this bingo money challenge

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