Why Do Americans Prefer 75 Ball Bingo and Brits 90 Ball?

Vector illustrations of “Bingo!” lettering against colourful background

If you look at a bingo card in the US, you might be confused, as it’s quite different to the ones that we play bingo games with here in the UK. In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between the 90 ball and 75 ball versions of bingo, and give some insight into the game’s history on both sides of the Atlantic.

Insight into the history of bingo in the US and the UK

All games develop over time, and within a certain culture, they often grow without anyone keeping track of their origins. So, it’s difficult to know exactly where bingo games started, but various sources indicate that the game we know today began in Italy, before moving up through Europe to the UK.

The British history of bingo

The general consensus is that bingo began in Italy as a lotto game in the 16th century, and then moved into France, where it became very popular with the aristocracy. After that, it seems to have made its way into the UK, where it has evolved to become the fast-paced pastime that we know and love today.

Why the UK plays 90 ball as opposed to 75 ball is not very clear. Some say that British soldiers stationed on the island of Malta during World War 2 played the game there and then brought it back home. As bingo games exploded in popularity after the war, a possible Maltese influence on the rules does indeed make sense.

The American history of bingo

In the US, as the story goes, the version of the game played today originated as a form of entertainment at carnivals around the country. A budding entrepreneur called Edwin Lowe came across the game, which was then known as Beano because the numbers were marked out with dried beans. He was so captivated by the game that he took it home to show his friends.

While playing the game with some particularly eager pals, one of them shouted out “Bingo!” instead of “Beano!” and the name stuck. Lowe went on to start a successful toy company and commercialised the game throughout the country, as well as another popular card game called Yahtzee.

What is 90 ball bingo?

Black and white 90-ball 9x3 bingo cards scattered on top of each other

As the name suggests, 90 ball bingo, which is predominantly played in the UK, is played with 90 balls, which means that the game involves all the numbers from 1 to 90. The number of balls is just one of the differences though, as one of the main differences between the UK and US version is the tickets used to mark down the numbers.

In the UK, the tickets are long thin strips, which come in packs of six, with 27 spaces on each. Each strip is made up of 3 rows and 9 columns, with each column representing a group of numbers. In other words, the first column is for numbers 1-9, and so on.

Each row has five numbers and four blank spaces. The tickets are arranged in a way that guarantees that you will get all of the numbers across the 6 tickets. Just like other versions of bingo, it is played by marking off the numbers called out, with winners claiming prizes if they mark off winning patterns.

In online bingo games, this process happens automatically, so you don’t need to worry about marking off the numbers yourself. This also means you have more time to get involved in the banter going on in the online chat!

What is 75 ball bingo?

Red 75-ball 5x5 bingo cards with red chips

Once again, the number of balls in the game differs here, but the structure and use of the cards in the US 75 ball version is also very different to the ones used in the UK.

In the US, cards are made up of 25 squares in a 5×5 grid. What’s specific about the US version of the game is that there is a “free” square in the middle, often marked by a star symbol, that helps you make up rows of numbers, either horizontally, diagonally or vertically. As in the UK, players are also on the lookout for patterns, which include a “postage stamp” and getting numbers in all four corners of the ticket.

Instead of playing with packs of 6 tickets, the US version of the game actually includes several variations, with different numbers of cards used for each one. These include games such as U-Pick’Em, Shotgun, Bonanza and Table bingo.

Many of these versions are also available as online bingo games.

Why does each country prefer a different version?

If we look at the history of bingo in each country, it’s clear that somewhere along the line the game entered both countries and developed in different ways. A gaming historian might be able to piece together all the details, but all that really matters is that there are so many different versions to play!

In fact, even if you are based in the UK, you can give the 75 ball version of the game a try.

Try out your favourite version of of the game with Booty Bingo

Whether you prefer the 90 ball or 75 ball version, there’s a bingo game for you at Booty Bingo. So why not sign up and see which online bingo games you like best?