Bingo continues to entertain, no matter your version of choice

Bingo is one of those seemingly safe and innocuous games that, fortunately enough, provide much fun and excitement. Some may argue that it is in fact still gambling, since real money is often involved in the game but others point out that it is in fact pretty much like lottery since no real skill is involved and winning the game is more about luck and chance than anything else. Plus, it definitely does not hurt the reputation of the game that it is most often used by churches and civic organizations in their fundraising campaigns.

The activity has grown much from its roots centuries ago. Today, it is entirely possible to play with people you have never even met on the other side of the globe, thanks to modern technology, bingo networks and even social media like Facebook. The online version was launched almost 20 years ago, in 1996, and is now estimated to be more than a billion-dollar industry.

The basics are pretty much the same though, and there are still four major types that you can choose from. The first, and most common, uses a card with a 5x5 grid, and 75 balls. The five letters of the word are emblazoned at the top, headlining each column, and a free square is found right smack in the middle. Players mark off their cards as and when a ball is drawn and called out. The winner is whoever marks off his or her card according to a specified pattern, like a diagonal line or even a totally blocked-out card.

Another version uses a 9x3 grid, with 90 balls. Each of the three horizontal lines on the grid contains five random numbers, for a total of 15 on the card, and the game has three levels: one line, two lines and a full house. Each level will have its own winner, with the full house winner bagging the most.

The third kind uses a 4x4 grid with 16 numbers, and 80 balls. The game is a cross of the first two kinds, and winning can be in various ways, such as completing two lines or covering the four corners.

Finally, there is the 30-ball or speed bingo featuring nine numbers in a 3x3 grid where the winner is the first to block out the card.

Online bingo goes mostly by the same rules with the added feature of encouraging the players to talk to each other, something rarely found in live games. There are also conveniences like automatic marking of cards and really low-cost cards, not to mention its availability at any time of the day from even your own mobile phone.