Updated: 7th Apr 2021
Tips, tricks and secrets! That got you excited, didn’t it!
First the bad news – online bingo is 100% a game of chance and there are NO cheat codes. Nor is there any skill involved in the actual gameplay as it all takes place automatically with no need to match numbers yourself or call bingo faster than anyone else.
When you buy a ticket to an online bingo game, the chance that ticket has of winning is quite simply 1/(the total number of tickets in play). The ball calls and card generation is done by RNG (random number generator) and at UK bingo sites, this is all strictly regulated by the Gambling Commission. There’s nothing you can do to help make the bingo ticket you are about to buy the winning ticket!
Nevertheless there’s quite a lot you can do to improve your overall chances of winning online bingo, as we will see.
First, let’s debunk a myth! Can you increase your chances of winning online bingo by choosing certain numbers for your cards? There’s certainly a lot of posts on the internet about how to pick winning bingo numbers – but as we all should know, just because something’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true! Two rather tired looking statistical theories crop up time and time again, in post after post:
Granville’s Theory – You should buy cards that are balanced between high and low, and between even and odd numbers, as the game is less likely to be won by an extreme distribution.
Tippett’s Theory – The longer a bingo game goes on the closer the average of the numbers that have been called gets to the median, so you should pick numbers that are far from the median for a short game (e.g. 75 ball with an easy pattern) or close to the median for a long game (e.g. 75 ball coverall).
For a start, can you even apply these theories to actually buying tickets in an online bingo game? No you can’t! While you can usually pass over the first set of tickets that are offered to you and choose others, they are all auto-generated and you can’t build your own.
The rules of bingo card generation are a major issue for these theories, too, as most of the things that Granville tells you to avoid aren’t possible anyway; for example, a 75 ball card containing the extreme distribution of the numbers 1 to 25 is impossible because the first column can only contain numbers from 1-15, the second column from 16-30 and so on, and while it’s true that fewer games are won by extreme looking cards, that’s because hardly any extreme looking cards are allowed in the first place. Also because of card generation rules, there’s very limited scope for varying the distance of your numbers from the median as per Tippett.
It’s almost as if the people who wrote the articles about the Granville and Tippett theories had never played a game of online bingo in their lives!
You can read about the theories of Granville and Tippett in much more detail in Is Online Bingo Fixed, but suffice it to say here that both are theories about statistical distributions (and which are perfectly valid for actual statistical distributions) but which have been incorrectly applied to bingo card number selection – because the numbers on a bingo card aren’t really numbers!
What do I mean, they aren’t really numbers?
I mean that they are functioning as labels rather than measurements.
To understand this better, let’s take an example of a number that’s a measurement – a person’s height. If you got ninety randomly selected people to line up in height order and then plotted their heights on a graph, you’d get a bell curve; there’d a be a lot of people of around average height and only a few very tall or short people. Walk along the line giving them each a bingo ball starting with 1 and ending at 90, and you’ll find the people with balls 45 – 55 are all around the same height but there’s a big difference between the height of the person with ball 80 and the person with ball 90. So here, the numbers clump towards the middle of the group and that’s where statistical analysis is valid.
If you just line the bingo balls up by themselves, though, all you have is 90 things that are exactly the same as each other apart from the number. Here’s where the number is a label, not a measurement; you can swap the numbers on several balls around and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Indeed, you can get rid of the numbers entirely and replace them with letters, symbols, colours, the word cat in 90 different languages or something completely off the wall – it makes no difference to the way the balls behave and you can still play bingo!
Don’t believe me? Here’s some examples of bingo games where the operator has indeed got rid of the numbers entirely!
Not only do the numbers you choose for your card make no difference to your chance of winning, it’s a good thing they don’t; as I mentioned earlier, opportunities to choose your own numbers in online bingo are extremely limited.
Are there other ways to increase your chances of winning at online bingo, though? Yes, yes, there are! But first of all, let’s focus on what it is you mean by winning. Do you want to win more often? Or do you want bigger prizes?
You can’t have both – so pick the one that for you, will make bingo the most fun. Here’s how it works:
RTP stands for Return To Player. In bingo, it means the percentage of the ticket sales money that is given back out as prizes. The percentage of the ticket sales money that is NOT given back out as prizes constitutes the house edge and a large slice of it goes to cover operator costs including software development, server costs, and chat hosts.
RTP in bingo is a LOT more complicated than you might think! In a bingo game where everyone paid cash for their tickets, the prize money was purely determined by the ticket sales and all the prizes were given out on the spot, the RTP could be pinpointed and would be exactly the same every time the game was run. But actually very few bingo games are that simple and once you throw things like free tickets, guaranteed minimum jackpots, multi-stake bingo and bonus feature games into the mix, the RTP can vary from game to game and your expected return (RTP across all the games you play and including any bonuses or extras) can therefore vary depending on where and when you choose to play.
Because of all these factors, the RTP of bingo games is not fixed and is rarely stated anywhere on site. One exception is at Tombola where each type of game has a minimum guaranteed RTP which is staed in the game rules (it’s usually 80%, which is pretty good going for a bingo game).
Liquidity is the total amount of money in the system from ticket sales. Variance is a measure of how different a single player’s return is likely to be from the actual RTP over a session of play. Bingo is pretty high variance anyway and the higher the liquidity, the crazier the variance gets; in other words, the bigger the prize is the less likely you are to win because you’ll be competing against larger numbers of other players. There are certainly some steps you can take to tip the balance towards lower variance and more frequent wins.
Traditional 90 ball has 3 prizes per game – 1 line, 2 lines and full house – whereas in a 75 ball coverall there’s only one prize. While the prizes will be bigger in the 75 ball game, you’re nearly three times as likely to win something in the 90 ball game (nearly, not exactly, because players can win multiple prizes). Here are some other bingo games with extra prizes:
and here’s some you might want to avoid if you like to win often as they only have one prize
The best bingo sites for winning more often have plenty of bingo games from the first list, making it easy to avoid games from the second list if that’s what you want.
If you minimise the number of other tickets in play, your own tickets will have a bigger chance of winning. To do this, you need to look for low liquidity situations which means playing at quiet times such as early morning, and/or in rooms where there’s no pre-buy. If you play in a room where there’s a minimum guaranteed prize, and it’s not busy enough for ticket sales to increase the prize, you may occasionally even get a slightly better RTP. Consider a coverall game where tickets are 10p and the guaranteed minimum prize is £4; if the game RTP is normally set at 80%, the prize would stay at £4 until ticket sales had reached £5 or more and then start to increase with ticket sales, so if you were one of only six players who each bought 6 tickets for a total of £3.60, the RTP would be more than 100%. You’d also have a 1/6 chance of winning. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen often as operators are constantly reviewing and adjusting guaranteed minimum prizes to maintain the house edge (otherwise, they’d go out of business!)
Another way to increase your chances of winning is to buy more tickets than everyone else but not only can it be very expensive to buy the maximum tickets for every game, although you can usually see how many other players have bought tickets for the game you can’t see how many tickets they bought. A less costly alternative is to do it the other way round and ensure that other players aren’t able to buy more tickets than you. To follow this strategy, seek out bingo games where everyone has the same number of tickets – or even just one ticket each – and therefore has an equal chance of winning. There’s certainly no shortage of single ticket bingo games on the UK market, but almost all of them are to be found at Virtue Fusion bingo sites or Tombola and there are none at Dragonfish or Pragmatic Play.
The gold standard for winning more often is BOB at Mecca Bingo which is both equal chance and low liquidity; everyone plays with 10 tickets which are typically 5p each (so a very reasonable 50p a game), and there’s a maximum of 25 players per game. If more than 25 want to play they just open another room, and this happens automatically behind the scenes. Mecca say that if you play BOB for an hour, there’s a 72% chance you’ll win at least one game, and that’s with the usual arrangement of just one prize per game; sometimes they bump it up further by running a promotion which adds a one line prize.
HexaBingo is a multi stake single ticket game at Unibet with just three players per game, offering the highest chance of winning you’ll find in any online bingo game anywhere. The prize, which is randomly determined between ticket purchase and the game starting, is most commonly 2x stake but can be up to 1000x stake, which introduces the whiff of a big prize into an equal chance, low liquidity game – something no-one else has really managed to do. The minimum RTP of HexaBingo is 66.66% and in any game with a prize other than the minimum 2x stake it is 100% or more. The only drawback to HexaBingo is the lack of social chat (there’s plenty in Unibet’s other bingo rooms though).
Spirit Twister Bingo was introduced at Virtue Fusion bingo sites in April 2021. It’s like BOB in that it’s 50p a game and there’s a maximum of 25 players, but as it’s a Swedish 75 ball bingo game there’s 5 prizes in each game not one. The addition of a multiplier to the full house prize, chosen just before the game starts, introduces soem variance and makes the game more exciting.
To maximise your expected return, you need to understand exactly how various circumstances can affect the RTP of bingo games. We already talked about one of them – a game with a minimum guaranteed prize which ends up being more than the ticket sales – but there are several others (some to do with the games themselves and some to do with associated promotions), and most of them reduce rather than improve the RTP.
If a game has a fixed prize which isn’t affected by ticket sales, the RTP will depend on how many tickets actually end up being sold. In most (but not all) cases the RTP will end up lower than it would have been if the prize had been determined by ticket sales in the normal way, because the sheer size of the prize on offer encourages players to buy lots of tickets in advance.
The same is true of a game with an attractive tangible prize like a car, iPad or holiday voucher. These prizes may be very tempting but you may very well be reducing your expected return by playing them (as well as having next to no chance of winning because of the very large number of tickets in play). If you wait until the last minute to buy tickets for games like these you may be able to gauge whether it is worthwhile by looking at the number of players in the room first.
Sliding jackpot games have a huge headline prize which attracts lots of ticket sales, but is only paid out if bingo is won in a certain number of calls; if it isn’t, the prizes is reduced and keeps “sliding” with every call until it reaches a guaranteed minimum. Because players tend to look at the headline prize rather than the minimum when deciding whether to buy tickets, and the chances of the headline prize dropping range from extremely low to almost non-existent, sliding jackpot games usually end up having a really terrible RTP as compared to other bingo games.
Let’s say you decide to participate in a promotion whereby you’ll receive free spins or free bingo tickets after spending £10 on bingo. Congratulations, your expected return on that £10 just went up as you’ll be receiving the tickets or spins (or rather, anything you end up winning from them) as well as whatever you win from the bingo! The RTP of the games you play the £10 on doesn’t change as the extra expected return is from somewhere else. But what about the RTP of the games you use the free tickets on?
Well, it turns out that free tickets (and in some cases bonus) can be a bit of a problem for both RTP and the chances of winning. In a bingo game where the prize money is determined by cash ticket sales, using free tickets will increase the number of tickets in play without increasing the size of the prizes. So when other players use free tickets in a game where you’ve bought tickets for cash, your chance of winning goes down without the size of the prize you can win going up and your expected return is therefore lower.
To stop this from happening, you’d need to avoid paying cash for tickets for any games where there are free tickets in play; this is easier said than done as that information isn’t public. It’s possible, though, to make an informed guess; for example, if there’s a big promotion going on awarding free tickets that can be redeemed in games where the ticket price is 10p or less (as is common at Virtue Fusion bingo sites), it seems reasonable to assume that most of them are going to be used in 10p games. A game with a 1p ticket price is unlikely to have many free tickets in play (as it would be a bit of a waste to use them on 1p tickets) and a game with a ticket price of more than 10p won’t have any free tickets in play at all.
BOGOFs are another type of promotion that sound great but can actually reduce your expected return if not treated with care.
If the operator gives everyone twice as many tickets as usual but keeps the prize money the same, there’s no effect whatsoever on either RTP or chances of winning. However, playing in a BOGOF room without taking advantage of the promotion efficiently can reduce your chances of winning. If you don’t buy enough tickets to get the BOGOF, or you buy more than the number of tickets you need to get the BOGOF, the chance of winning skews towards other players who bought the exact number of tickets required because they end up with twice as many tickets for the same money and you don’t. For example, if the offer is “Buy 6 get 3 free”, if you buy 6 tickets you end up with 9 tickets, if you buy 5 tickets you end up with 5 tickets and if you buy 11 tickets you end up with 14 tickets.
What about free bingo rooms? Well, free bingo is an excellent illustration of why RTP isn’t everything! Free bingo has infinite RTP as there’s no money from ticket sales for the operator to take a cut of. Time is also money, however, and free bingo is really only for the VERY patient.
Nevertheless, someone has to win. Therefore, if you are given entry to a free bingo room as a reward or promotion it certainly makes sense to take advantage of that if it’s convenient to do so.
Some free bingo games at Virtue Fusion bingo sites have a “Superbooks” option whereby you can pay to upgrade your tickets to play for a bigger prize. As these pay tickets are instead of rather than addition to the free tickets you can claim, your chance of winning remains the same, but you’ll be playing a game with an RTP that is lower than the infinite RTP of free bingo. So not a great buy.
In Rainbow Riches Bingo community jackpots drop when the leprechaun reaches certain spaces on the rainbow track, and in Coronation Street Bingo there is an extra bingo card where the number on which full house is called is daubed at the end of each game. In both cases, when the jackpot is close to dropping (1 or 2 steps from the pot of gold in Rainbow Riches or 1TG on the golden card in Corrie) the room gets much busier with lots of players buying tickets in the hope of snagging the jackpot. The RTP is a bit skewed towards games where the jackpot has a chance of dropping, but the liquidity also goes up so the size of the prizes go up and the chance of winning goes down.
Bonus feature games as found in bingo games such as Age of the Gods Bingo and Fluffy Favourites Bingo can also skew the RTP if they don’t run in every game and/or have bigger prizes in some games than in others.
In an escalator jackpot promotion, the number of calls within which bingo must be called for the room jackpot to drop is gradually increased until the jackpot drops, coupled with a guarantee that it will drop within a certain time frame. For example, the number of calls could start going up at 6pm and go up by 2 an hour, with the jackpot guaranteed to drop by midnight; if it didn’t drop during the evening it would be added to the full house prize in the last game to end before midnight.
Escalator jackpots are often community affairs, with the jackpot split 50/50 between the full house winner and the rest of the tickets in the game. So what effect does this have on RTP and expected return?
The result – critical mass! It’s busy, it’s complex, it’s high liquidity – but should you come across one of these community jackpot promotions nearing its end (the last hour or so) without the jackpot having dropped, your expected return from buying tickets for all the remaining games is likely to be substantially higher than usual (of course, you still may not win anything apart from your share of the jackpot).
When an operator launches a new bingo product – whether it’s new bingo software, a new non network bingo room or a new bingo game – the RTP can often work out quite a better than usual. This is because the operator may temporarily subsidise it in order to get players to try it out, by setting the minimum guaranteed prize at a higher than usual level or running fixed jackpot games when they haven’t yet attracted enough players to make all the prize money back from ticket sales. Note that it has to be a new bingo product, not just a new bingo site.
A new bingo product, then, may represent a better proposition for players than an established one, but usually not for long. When Gala Bingo launched their Bingo Beats game, for example, the prize levels were tweaked after just 24 hours!
Very occasionally operators have been known to get it spectacularly wrong and two examples of this stand out above all others.
One, dating back to 2013, was the utter fiasco of a new bingo product that was Bingo Godz, the biggest flop in bingo history. Along with another Bede Gaming powered site Castle Jackpots, it managed to lose a whopping £2 million in just 18 months. Quite a lot of that went on setup and on a massive TV advertising campaign (the timing of which forced the site to launch before the special features were ready) but it also went on inflated prize money, day after day, to try and tempt players into their bingo rooms. Most of those players didn’t hang around, and why would they after finding none of the much touted gamification features were available?
The other massive oopsie was a colossal blunder with a fixed jackpot by none other than Playtech, who decided to run a million pound bingo game as a special promotion for Christmas 2016 on the Virtue Fusion network. It was a community jackpot game and £100,000 of the prize money was to be split equally between all non winning cards…..and that community element is how come we know just how big an oopsie it turned out to be!
Tickets for the game were priced at £2 each with a maximum of 18 per player, so to cover the £1 million prize money for the game Playtech needed to sell at least 500,000 tickets to at least 27,778 different player accounts (that wouldn’t necessarily be to 27,778 different players as many players have accounts at several different Virtue Fusion sites and might buy tickets at more than one of them). Was this realistic? On the face of it, yes – at that time there were reportedly up to 60,000 active players on the network every day.
Unfortunately for Playtech, they didn’t do a good job of publicising the game and it wasn’t particularly easy to prebuy tickets. The game took place in the network 90 ball room rather than having its own dedicated bingo room, so there was no opportunity to publicise the game in the bingo lobby, only on the promotions page which players might not remember to check. Tickets had to be bought from the schedule up to 7 days in advance and this relied on players knowing where and when the game was to take place and not being too busy (an issue given that the pre-buy period started just before Christmas). They then dug the hole still deeper by giving away more than 10,000 free tickets in player promotions across the network; who’d buy tickets at £2 each when you’ve already got a fistful of free tickets?
So just how deep was that hole? Well, each losing ticket collected £1.13 from the £100,000 community jackpot, so even allowing for a substantial number of 1TG and 2TG winners that’s less than 100,000 tickets in play….and that’s an £800,000 hole, and a mistake that will never be made again. The two lucky players who shared the full house prize collected £250,000 each, one of the best online bingo payouts in history – maybe even from a free ticket!
It’s been a few years, now, since an operator made such a miscalculation, but there’s always the possibility that it will happen again in the future.
How, then, can you increase your chances of winning online bingo? It really comes down to playing the right games at the right times to strike a balance between winning big and winning often that works for you, and understanding how promotions affect your chances. Online bingo is all about entertainment and if you choose the games with lots of prizes and participate in the promotions, you’ll find it becomes even more entertaining. Happy bingo-ing!
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