A typical housie/bingo ticket is shown to the right. It contains fifteen numbers, arranged in nine columns by three rows. Each row contains five numbers and four blank spaces. Each column contains either one, two, or very rarely three, numbers:
- The first column contains numbers from 1 to 9,
- The second column numbers from 10 to 19,
- The third 20 to 29 and so on up until the last column, which contains numbers from 80 to 90 (the 90 being placed in this column as well).
The game is presided over by a caller, whose job it is to call out the numbers and validate winning tickets. He will announce the prize or prizes for each game before starting.The caller will then usually say “Eyes down” to indicate that he is about to start. He then begins to call numbers as they are randomly selected, either by an electronic Random Number Generator (RNG), by drawing counters from a bag or by using balls in a mechanical draw machine. Calling takes the format of simple repetition in the framework, “Both the fives, fifty five”, or “Two and three, twenty three.”
The different winning combinations are:
- Line — covering a horizontal line of five numbers on the ticket.
- Two Lines — Covering any two lines on the same ticket.
- Full House — covering all fifteen numbers on the ticket.
- In New Zealand in bonus (Super Housie) games, often three lines may be claimed – top, middle and bottom, usually with much larger prizes, are also played at various times throughout the session.
- In the UK, however, it is most common for a line game to be followed directly by a two line game and a full house game, or just by a full house game.
- In the UK’s National Bingo Game only a full house game is ever played.
- In all cases, the last number called must be in the winning sequence.
When players first come to the venue (often a church hall, rugby club or other place with sufficient tables and chairs, including in the UK many specifically designed bingo clubs) they can buy a book of tickets. Players generally play between one and six books. In New Zealand a book usually contains fifty tickets which are played over the course of the night. In UK bingo clubs, playing is divided into sessions with different books, each with a designated number of pages. Players in the UK usually prefer to buy books of 6 tickets containing all possible numbers in different combinations.
As each number is called, players check to see if that number appears on their tickets. If it does, they will mark it with a special marker called a “dabber” or a “dauber”, shown here. When all the numbers required to win a prize have been marked off, the player calls out “Line” or “House” depending on the prize, and an official or member of staff will come and check the claim:
- In the UK with the increasing computerization of bingo systems, an Auto-Validate system is often used in large clubs where a 1 to 8 digit security code is read out by a member of staff and checked against the entry for that ticket on the system. This saves the club from the time-consuming exercise of reading out every number on the ticket.
- In smaller clubs, however, each number in the winning combination must be read out. The caller will check to see if each number has been called, and if it has, he will say something similar to “House correct – please pay out”.
There will often be an interval halfway through the game. In Australia and New Zealand Super Housie tickets are played and raffles (if there are any) are drawn. In UK bingo halls it is most common for Mechanised Cash Bingo to be played.