The game of bingo is part of our British cultural heritage and there can’t be many people who have never played it before. If you haven’t played for money or prizes, you’ve probably played for fun. If you are one of the minority who never have, or one of the larger group who have played bingo before but never played real money bingo or slots online, this step by step guide, updated for 2023, on how to play bingo online is for you.
- What is bingo?
- Online bingo for real money
- Finding a bingo site
- Opening and funding an account
- Setting some limits
- Choosing a bingo game
- Buying bingo tickets
- It’s all about the chat
- Playing the game
- What else can I do?
What is bingo?
- Bingo is a game where each player is given a different card (or cards) containing a set of numbers.
- Cards are also referred to as tickets; strictly speaking card is the correct term in 75 ball and ticket in 90 ball but the two are generally used interchangeably.
- Numbered balls are then drawn from a pot and the numbers announced by a bingo caller.
- The player has to daub the numbers on their card – i.e. mark them off as the corresponding numbers are called.
- The aim of the game is to be the first player to call bingo after completing a set of numbers. In some games this will be all the numbers on the card – a coverall (75 ball) or full house (90 ball), in other games just a line or pattern. Many games have more than one prize; regular 90 ball bingo for instance has prizes for 1 line, 2 lines and full house and one form of 75 ball has 5 prizes, one for each horizontal line.
- In real money bingo – as played in bingo halls for decades – each ticket has a set price and the money from ticket purchases goes into the prize pot (with the house taking a cut, of course) to be paid out to players as prizes. This means that the prize or prizes for the game are determined by the total value of ticket sales.
- An exception to this rule is any bingo game with a guaranteed jackpot (where the prize money is a pre-announced sum that will be paid out regardless of ticket sales).
- Real money bingo, whether online or offline, is classed as gambling (even if all of the profits are donated to good causes) and is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. To play real money bingo, you MUST be over 18.
Online bingo for real money
- Online real money bingo is simpler and easier to play than bingo hall bingo in one important respect and that is auto-daub – meaning that players do not need to check the numbers on their cards against the calls or indeed pay any attention to the bingo game at all or even be logged in when it happens!
- Auto-daub is a necessity for online bingo as otherwise the speed and reliability of a player’s data connection (which is not under the control of the bingo site) would affect their chance of winning, which would never be allowed by the Gambling Commission.
- For players who prefer the challenge of manual daub, there are many bingo apps for iOS or Android and on Facebook that feature it (usually along with a host of power-ups and other special features) but what these apps do not and are not allowed to do is pay out real money prizes. You can also enable manual daub at some real money bingo sites but this is strictly for fun – if you fail to daub a number quickly enough the auto-daub will do it for you after a few seconds.
- While actually playing the bingo game itself online is easier than in a bingo hall as you don’t have to listen out for the bingo caller or shout Bingo, first you will need to navigate the complexities of finding a bingo site to play at, signing up and depositing and after that, deciding which bingo room to play in, entering the room and buying tickets.
Finding a bingo site
There are literally hundreds of online bingo sites to choose from – more than 150 are listed on this site with new bingo sites launched every couple of months – and the sheer amount of choice can be bewildering for a new player.
The number one thing to look out for is the UK Gambling Commission licence. Bingo sites have to have this in order to operate legally in the UK; we include licence information in our reviews but a quick way to check is to look for the Gambling Commission logo or licence number in the website footer. At least one of these will link to the register entry on the Gambling Commission website which gives details of the licence, the licence holder, which websites the licence covers and any regulatory actions.
Beyond that, there are many factors to consider depending on how much time and energy you want to spend on deciding where to play. We cover all of these in our reviews:
- The bingo software and network – this will affect what types of bingo are on offer and how busy it is. The busier the bingo rooms, the higher the variance of the bingo play – i.e. more players means fewer but bigger wins.
- The bingo software also affects the user interface i.e. how you actually buy tickets and play the game. Later in this guide, we cover this process in detail for most types of bingo software.
- Is there a no deposit bonus offer? These used to be lots of these but now they are quite rare. A no deposit offer allows you to try out the games without making a deposit, but you will still have to verify your age and identity before playing.
- How big is the welcome deposit bonus offer? Is it a bingo bonus, a slots bonus or a bit of each? Are there free slots spins, a free bingo room for new players or any other extras? What are the wagering requirements and are there any time limits? For your first foray into online bingo it might be a good idea to pick a site that gives you plenty of time to use your welcome bonus.
- What is the availability of free bingo and penny bingo? Playing free and low cost bingo games can make your deposit and bonus go a lot further.
- Does the bingo site have any exclusive bingo rooms or are they all networked with other sites? Networked rooms can be very busy, reducing the chance of winning. Also, if a site only has networked rooms and no exclusives, it is effectively the same as every other site on the network.
- Does the bingo site run any special promotions for its players?
- What is the player reward scheme like?
- What is the selection of slots like (and table games or scratchcards if these are of interest to you)?
- Is it a multi-product site which provides access to products other than bingo and slots? As well as sports betting, poker, lottery and eSports betting, multi-product sites such as Paddy Power Bingo offer the opportunity to place bets on such matters as the identity of the next James Bond, the winner of X Factor or – on a more sober note – the timing and outcome of the next General Election.
- Does it work well on all devices that you intend to play on?
- Is there any sense of community? Does the site have its own chat hosts and how lively is the chat in the bingo rooms?
Don’t know where to start? Try Tombola or else a well established Virtue Fusion or Entain bingo site with an attractive and easy to understand welcome offer – such as Sun Bingo (Virtue Fusion) or Coral Bingo (Entain). At these sites, there’s lots of different games to choose from, plenty of player promotions and lively, hosted chat.
Opening and funding an account
Before going through the sign-up process with any bingo site it is important to follow some basic safety precautions; you will be sending personal information, which could be used for identity theft, over the internet so do make sure that the device you are using to do so is free of malware etc and that your connection is secure. This is NOT a good time to be using public wi-fi!
The majority of bingo sites make it very easy to create an account – just click where it says JOIN NOW or REGISTER and fill in the details. These will include your name, address, email address, phone number, date of birth and occupation. Even if you are not going to make a deposit right away you will still need to supply all this information (and probably also register a debit card) in order to receive any no-deposit bonus on offer or play any games (even free or demo games). The bingo site is required under the conditions of their licence to carry out ID and age verification (which is usually done by checking your details with credit reference agencies and/or against the electoral roll) and this is why they ask for so much information. If you are not on the electoral roll or don’t have much of a credit history you may have to supply further ID before you are allowed to deposit or play. (It’s also usual for bingo sites to require further ID documents later on when your play or deposits reach a certain threshold or you want to withdraw).
You will also need to create a user name and password (and at some sites, a chat name which is not the same as your user name). Since real money is involved, it is extremely important to make sure that the password is secure – and that means difficult to guess and not the same as any of your other passwords! (Don’t worry if you forget your password though as you will normally be able to reset it via the email address or phone number you supplied when you registered).
At many bingo sites, you will find that you need to have a smartphone at some stage of this process. For example, many Dragonfish sites require SMS validation; if you try to register at one of these sites you will need to give them your phone number and opt into marketing messages so they can send a validation code by text message which you then have to type in for your registration to be accepted. At other sites – including all Jumpman sites – the smartphone is required once you’ve had your account for a while and they want to carry out full ID verification. You will then need to photograph and upload your photo ID together with a selfie to show it is yours.
Once you have created an account, unless you are starting off with a no-deposit offer you will need to deposit some money. While there are many possible ways to fund an online bingo account, by FAR the simplest is to register a debit card with the bingo site to be used for this and future deposits – and in fact, some of the best bingo sites don’t accept any other paymnet methods. The card MUST be in the player’s own name (again, this is required under the conditions of the site’s licence). It also has to be a debit card and NOT a credit card (since April 2020 bingo sites have not been allowed to accept deposits from a credit card). If you really don’t want to use a debit card, Paypal is the next best thing BUT some bingo sites don’t accept it at all and others don’t allow you to claim the welcome offer if you deposit with Paypal. If you do decide to deposit with Paypal, be aware that the deposit cannot be funded with a credit card (Paypal will block you from doing this).
After registering a payment method, the next step is to use it to make a deposit so you will have some money to buy tickets with, and in order to qualify for the welcome offer this normally needs to be at least £10, although a few sites offer a welcome bonus on a £5 deposit. During this process (or later at some Virtue Fusion sites where the welcome offer is not triggered until you have played through your deposit) you may be shown a pop-up asking you whether you accept or decline a bonus and the important thing to bear in mind here is that if you decline the bonus you will NOT be able to accept it at a later date – so pay attention! Why would anyone want to decline a bonus, you may ask? The reason is that bonuses almost always carry some form of wagering requirement so players need to be given the opportunity to opt out in case they want to avoid it.
If you need to play through your deposit in order to receive the bonus, make sure you read the terms and conditions as there may be restrictions on what you play it through on – if it says “spend £10 on bingo tickets” and you play the £10 on slots, you won’t receive the bonus.
Another thing to know about bonuses is that at many bingo sites any cash you have in your account will be used first and the bonus will not come into play unless you have no cash left – so if you are lucky with your cash and the bonus has a short expiry you may not get round to using it in time!
Setting some limits
Many bingo sites prompt the player to set daily, weekly and or monthly deposit limits before they even start to play, as part of their responsible gambling policy which is required by the regulator. Even if you do not think you would ever be tempted to deposit more than you can afford, it is a good idea to set a deposit limit just in case there is ever some kind of security breach. Once set, a deposit limit can be changed but if the player chooses to increase the limit there will be a cooling off period before it takes effect. Decreases in limits take effect right away.
Some bingo sites offer further safer gambling controls, such as stake limits (the maximum you can spend on a single slot game spin), loss limits, and the ability to block certain games or block deposits at certain times of the day. (We include information about all this in our bingo site reviews).
Choosing a bingo game
You’ve gone through the palavaer of signing up and depositing – now to play some bingo!
The next step is to open the bingo lobby and look at the rooms on offer. Each room will display information about what going on inside, including some or all of the following:
- Name of the bingo room
- What sort of bingo it is (90 ball, 75 ball or whatever)
- How long until the next game starts
- Ticket price
- Maximum ticket purchase
- Prize pool (this is the total prize money which depending on the type of bingo may be made up of several prizes)
- How many players have bought tickets to the current game
- Room jackpot (an extra prize which is paid out to the winner of a bingo game which finishes within a certain number of calls)
- Name of the chat host (if there is one)
Many bingo sites have a tabbed lobby and this allows similar bingo rooms to be grouped together – for example, the 90 ball bingo rooms may be in a different tab to the 75 ball rooms and exclusive bingo rooms (for that site only or perhaps shared with a few other sites under the same ownership) may be kept separate from networked rooms. The example shows the exclusive bingo rooms tab at Sun Bingo.
Unless the game has guaranteed prize money, the prize pool will get bigger and bigger as more players buy tickets (but the more players there are with tickets in the game, the less likely it becomes that you’ll win anything) .
The traditional British 90 ball bingo and the American classic 75 ball bingo are the most common types of bingo game, with both on offer at almost all bingo sites, but there are many other bingo variants to try out (like the 50 and 36 ball bingo games that are visible in the Sun lobby). If you are new to online bingo, 90 ball is a great place to start. Or why not try several different types out to see which one you find most enjoyable?
Buying bingo tickets
You’ve seen a room you want to play in, so touch or click on it to enter. You won’t necessarily be able to play in every room that is visible; some may have entry restrictions such as needing to have made a deposit in the last few days or reached a certain level in the player rewards scheme, and others may be cash only (not playable with bonus).
Once inside, the next decision you will need to make is how many tickets you are going to buy for the game and this can be anything from 1 to the maximum allowed. Different bingo rooms have different maximum ticket purchases but because auto-daub makes it possible for players to manage lots of tickets, the maximum can be as many as 120 (and even at 5p or 2p a ticket, that soon adds up). Playing with a small number of tickets can be frustrating as none of them may get anywhere near bingo making for a dull game, but playing with a large number of tickets can get very expensive very quickly; it is up to each player to find the balance that works for them and a good starting place for 90 ball bingo is a classic strip of 6 tickets (see below).
For players who prefer to play with a small number of tickets, multi-stake bingo may be a good choice , especially the games where there’s one ticket per player only. Spirit Twister at Virtue Fusion and BOB at Mecca Bingo are other options – all players have the same number of tickets.
To buy tickets, you can click on the tickets you want then press the Buy button, or select the number of tickets you want from the Buy screen either via preselected purchase amounts or via a slider or similar.
BE CAREFUL at this stage as at many bingo sites – all Dragonfish bingo sites for example – have tickets preselected as a default and it’s all too easy to buy more than you intended by mistake.
If you don’t fancy the game that’s about to play (tickets too expensive, perhaps?), some bingo sites also have an option to buy tickets for future games (as detailed below).
Here’s what the ticket buying process looks like on the most popular types of bingo software:
Buying bingo tickets at a Pragmatic Play bingo site
At Pragmatic Play bingo sites you can either click on the tickets you want or hit the Buy Tickets button and select the number of tickets using the plus and minus buttons in the Buy area. After pressing “Buy 6 tickets” a second click is needed to confirm and this means it is not possible to buy the wrong number of tickets by accident (though it’s possible to forget to confirm and have the purchase not go through at all).
What the Pragmatic Play 90 ball rooms don’t have, but many other bingo sites do, is the option to buy a strip of tickets (or multiple strips of tickets). A strip is a set of 6 tickets which includes each of the numbers 1 – 90 once and only once. Play with a strip and you’ll get to daub one of your tickets with every single call.
If you want to buy tickets for a future game at a Pragmatic Play bingo site, simply hit the Pre-buy button instead of the Buy Tickets button. This opens up a screen where you can view the schedule and buy tickets for any game in any bingo room up to 4 weeks in advance. You may not be able to pre-buy if you’re playing with bonus rather than cash.
Buying bingo tickets at a Virtue Fusion bingo site
At Virtue Fusion you’ll see the ticket purchase interface as soon as you enter the bingo room, and it can also be popped up during play to enable you to buy tickets for the next game. No tickets are preselected, the preset purchase options start at just 6 tickets and any other number can easily be selected by using the slider. After hitting the Buy button you’ll be shown the number of tickets you are buying and the total cost and asked to confirm the purchase, so there’s very little scope for accidental purchases.
The Virtue Fusion ticket purchase screen can be a little confusing at first as the details of prizes and player numbers at the top (where it says “Topaz Room”) relate to the game that is currently in play and NOT the game you’d be buying tickets for, but once you know just to look at the ticket purchase window itself (just below where it says “Buy tickets for the Next Game”) all becomes much clearer.
If you want to buy tickets for a future game, hit the Schedule button at the top of the screen. This opens up a screen where you can view the schedule in all bingo rooms and buy tickets up to a week in advance.
Buying bingo tickets at a Gamesys bingo site
At Gamesys bingo sites you hit the Buy button to open the Ticket Shop window where you get to select the number of tickets you want, either using one of the preselected amounts or hitting Other for a drop down menu which shows every available quantity of tickets. Again, the preselected amounts include some suitably modest numbers of tickets.
The Gamesys interface is arguably the easiest to use as it’s the only one where you can buy tickets for upcoming games as well as for the next game without having to go elsewhere on site. Bulk Buy lets you choose a number of tickets to buy and a number of consecutive games to buy them for, starting with the next game. Schedule Buy lets you choose games from the schedule to buy tickets for, but only up to 24 hours in advance.
Buying bingo tickets at a Dragonfish bingo site
At Dragonfish bingo sites, 24 tickets are preselected and the other options are 48, 72 and 96 tickets. If you want fewer, you will need to deselect the tickets (some of which are offscreen) by clicking on them or by repeatedly hitting the minus button.
To select 6 tickets, you’ve either got to click the minus button 18 times or deselect both the strips on screen then hit the right arrow (purple in the example) to reveal the strip offscreen to the right then deselect that too; it’s even more of a pain on mobile. The Buy button shows the amount you’ll be spending on the preselected tickets but there’s no confirmation screen so if you’re in a hurry, it’s all too easy to hit it without thinking and buy 24 tickets when you really only wanted 6.
The Dragonfish bingo software does not include a schedule buy option – you can only buy tickets for the next game in the room you’re in. When Dragonfish run a guaranteed jackpot game, they put it in a room of its own so players can buy tickets ahead of time.
Buying bingo tickets at a Relax Gaming bingo site
There’s a similar risk of accidentally buying too many tickets at Relax Gaming powered sites where there’s also a large number of tickets preselected, but at least they have a slider so it’s much quicker to change to the number you want. Relax are also notable for selling tickets for some of their 75 ball rooms in strips of three (these work just like the 90 ball strips that were mentioned earlier, with each number used once and once only across the three cards).
Buying bingo tickets at an Entain bingo site
The Entain ticket purchase screen pops up automatically when you go into a bingo room and whenever a game ends. No tickets are preselected. You can use the presets, the slider or the plus and minus buttons to choose how many tickets to buy for the next game and there’s a confirmation button so again, little risk of accidental purchases.
Use the Pre Buy button at the foot of the screen or from the menu to view the schedule and buy tickets up to 12 days in advance.
Buying bingo tickets at Tombola
The Tombola ticket purchase interface is probably the easiest of all to use. In 75 and 90 ball rooms you’re shown a picture of what tickets you can buy – simply select the option you want and confirm. Many of their other games are single ticket, and there you just choose from the available stake levels.
Tombola don’t have schedule buy, so if you want to buy tickets for one of their big games (apart from the £100K monthly game Britain’s Biggest Bingo) you will need to be in the bingo room shortly before the game starts.
If you’d like to know how any of these ticket purchase screens look on mobile there’s more information in our Guide To Mobile Bingo.
During the ticket purchase phase, you’ll also see a counter ticking down the time until the game starts. Once they’ve bought their tickets, some players fill this time playing online slots (a few of which are often available as minigames inside the bingo room) and some presumably go off to make a cup of tea. At many bingo sites there is also the opportunity to join in one of the things that makes online bingo so special, and that is the chat with other roomies (bingo players in the room).
It’s all about the chat
Bingo has always been a sociable activity, even before it went online, but the nature of online bingo (and its auto-daub feature) make it potentially even more sociable than offline. Because online bingo games bring a group of players together who may be of different ages, from different backgrounds and different parts of the country but share a common interest and because they can chat while they play without jeopardising their play, it is an ideal opportunity to strike up a conversation with people you would never come across in real life – espcially if faciliated by a good chat host.
Not all bingo sites have sociable chat. Most Pragmatic Play bingo sites (PlayOJO, Heart Bingo and a couple of others are the exception) have no chat at all. At Dragonfish the chat is the same across the network with the same chat hosts and includes players from many different bingo sites.
If you would prefer just to chat with other players at the same bingo site, for more of a community feel, this is available at Virtue Fusion sites, at Gamesys sites and at perhaps the best site for community and chat, Tombola. Many bingo rooms constantly run chat games to help keep the chat lively (see below for more information about these). A really good chat host or chat moderator (acronym CH or CM) keeps the chat welcoming and lively even when there isn’t a chat game going on.
Chat can be a bit intimidating at first due to all the bingo slang and acronyms in use, but don’t be put off – usually everyone is very friendly and the lingo is easy to pick up. The main thing to bear in mind with chat is that if you close the bingo room, even if you come back almost immediately you may not be able to see the previous messages any more – so if you like to chat, find a room with a lively conversation and/or an enjoyable chat game and stay in there.
Playing the game
Once you’ve bought your tickets and the game has started there is no need for any further player input. As the balls are called, the bingo software marks off numbers automatically. If you have several cards to the game it automatically sorts them to place the cards that are closest to a win at the top and (usually) marks them 1TG, 2TG etc at the appropriate time. The TG stands for “to go” – a card that is 2TG needs two more numbers to be marked off to win the next prize.
If you are lucky enough to win a prize the winnings will be automatically credited to your account (regardless of whether or not you are in the bingo room when the game plays) but before you can take your winnings out you will need to complete any wagering requirements that are associated with bonuses you have accepted (if you don’t, you will lose the rest of the bonus). For example, if you originally deposited £10 and received a 300% bingo bonus with a 4x wagering requirement, £120 worth of bingo ticket purchases (4 x £30) would be needed to release winnings from playing with the bonus. Some bingo sites have no wagering requirements but this normally means a less generous welcome offer.
What else can I do?
Apart from playing bingo and chatting there are several other things to do at online bingo sites:
These are number, word or trivia games with loyalty points or small bonuses to be won; to get the prize the player has to have bought tickets for the bingo game that is going on at the same time as the chat game, and there may be further entry restrictions such as having made a recent deposit. Dragonfish sites are popular with chat game aficionados as any hosted room will always have a chat game running, with the rules of the currently selected game visible in the chat when you join the room and in the chat room header. Virtue Fusion sites also run chat games, but on a more occasional basis with the chat host announcing them from time to time.
The most cutting edge chat games are to be found at Gamesys, where games like Blox Blitz appear in a window in the chat and can be played competitively against other players.
Big operators like Mecca Bingo and Buzz Bingo do occasional live feeds with video and audio streamed inside bingo rooms. Mecca have done a number of prize draws and quiz games this way and it certainly adds massively to overall entertainment value. Buzz now have a live feed every evening, with a presenter who comments on the bingo games as they are played and congratulates the winners in the chat!
With one exception (Tombola, which has its own proprietary games instead) all bingo sites have a selection of well known online slot machines for their players to try and this mirrors the arrangement found at bingo halls where slot machines are available in the lounge area. At most bingo sites a few slots are available as minigames inside the bingo rooms (so players can still keep an eye on their bingo cards and the chat) and there’s a bigger selection in the lobby and/or in a separate tab.
These are the sorts of games you’d find at a casino and include baccarat, roulette, blackjack and so on. Some big name sites have versions that run in real time with real live croupiers (these can be found in the Live Casino section).
Also to be found filed under Live Casino, these games typically involve a real live host spinning a giant wheel and players betting on the outcome.
If you’ve played the UK Lotto scratchcards these will be familiar – scratch to reveal the symbols and match three to win.
Daily free games
Daily free games often come with a guaranteed win of something, even if it’s just loyalty points or a deposit bonus code. Bingo sites which have these as a permanent fixture will have some sort of deposit or wagering related qualifying condition. For example, the free daily game at Heart Bingo requires players to have made at least two deposits, one of which has to be in the last 14 days.
The majority of the promotions you will encounter offer some kind of extra for depositing or playing a certain amount (perhaps in a bingo room or on a slot you haven’t tried before); in its simplest form this would be a bonus or free spins but it could also be prize draw entries or access to a restricted entry bingo room. Occasionally you may come across promotions such as photo or caption competitions that are free to enter and nothing to do with bingo or slots play; these are most commonly run via social media so if this sort of promotion is of interest to you remember to check Facebook and Twitter for updates (some bingo sites also have an Instagram presence).
A good bingo site, then, is curiously like a real live bingo hall even though there’s no skill involved in playing because of auto-daub. The side games, the community and the extra entertainment that you’ll find at these sites can make the online bingo experience every bit as enjoyable as the offline!