How to play 90 ball Bingo

In this article we look at the specific game of 90 ball bingo. This is the game common to the UK (and Aus and NZ) and used to be called ‘housey housey’ (see the history of 90 ball bingo) If you are used to playing bingo in the UK in bingo clubs and halls this is probably the form of the game you have met. The aim, as always in bingo, is to make the pattern(s) before anyone else does as the numbers are called out. See the introduction to playing bingo for a general introduction to Bingo and some things common to the variants of the game. Read about how to play 90 ball bingo below.
This variant of the game is called 90 ball bingo because that is the number of balls in play! Numbered 1-90. The balls are randomized and come out of the machine (if a machine with balls is used) in any order. Often these days a random number generator is used (in live bingo as well as online bingo – see introduction to playing bingo), but the term ‘balls’ for the number carrying objects is still used – and the game variant online is described as 90-ball bingo even though there are no physical balls involved. The numbers are often represented on a graphic of a ball in the game screen to retain the link to the physical form of the game. The numbers are called out as they appear. In a bingo hall there is a caller who does this, and a visual display of some sort as well. Online there is the visual indication of the number (often represented on a graphic of a ball) and an audio feature calling out of the number too, imitating the real life game.
The 90 ball bingo card
90 ball bingo
Above we see a typical 90 ball bingo card – often called a ticket especially in online games (where there isn’t a physical card). It has a 3 by 9 grid of numbers with each row of 9 squares having 4 blanks and 5 numbers. The columns can contain any number of numbers or blanks, 0 to 3. The first column can contain numbers from the range 1 to 10 (or 1 to 9), the second column from the range 11-20 (or 10 to 19) and so on up to the ninth column containing numbers from the range 81 to 90 (or 80 to 90). The slight difference in which numbers go in which columns doesn’t matter, as long as each row contains 5 numbers and 4 blanks – the allocation of ranges of numbers to columns is for convenience in marking off the numbers rather than being integral to the probabilities of the game.
Tickets are always (as far as I know) sold in strips of six – a typically strip of 6 tickets (or cards) is shown below. This is unlike 75 ball bingo and 80 ball bingo where you can purchase an arbitrary number of cards from one upwards, and the cards are unrelated so that the same number can appear on more than one card.
Strip of six 90 ball bingo cards

One strip will contain all the numbers from 1 to 90, and thus a number will be marked off a strip each time as they are called out. The blanks already count as being marked off in terms of making lines – and the aim is to be the first in the game to completely fill one line. After that the next prize goes to whoever completely fills two lines (on one ticket!) first. Then finally the main prize to whoever completely fills three lines (all 15 numbers) on one ticket or card – this being the ‘full house’. If you are extremely lucky you can therefore win all three prizes in one game, although this is unlikely.
With online rooms the software will often darken the blank squares to match already marked off ones making it easier to see the lines, as can be seen in the representative images below. The bingo room’s cards, especially online, are usually less plain than the ones shown here!
Possible one line bingo wins

Possible two line bingo wins

Full house

There is sometimes a variable prize for the full house, depending upon how early it is hit – this can be a simple jackpot if the full house is hit in fewer than so many balls, or it can be a sliding scale as more balls are called – for more details of progressive and jackpot games see progressive jackpot bingo games.
Of course it is very unlikely that the balls will come out in exactly the right order than a single line (or two lines) is filled with no other numbers being called – thus the card will not look as neat as those above. There will be different numbers ‘to go’ on different lines all over the various tickets and strips you hold. This needs a close eye kept on it certainly in live bingo, as you try to work out what numbers you need to make a ‘Bingo!’ and listen out for them! All part of the fun of course. However with online games most rooms have a feature that keeps an eye on the ‘nearly there’ cards for you – see playing bingo online for more information.
Having said that it is arguably easier to work out how close you are with the lines of 90 ball bingo rather than the more complex patterns in 75 ball bingo or 80 ball bingo. See those pages for information on how to play those variants of the bingo game.
Further articles on playing bingo
Introduction to playing bingo
How to play 75 ball bingo
How to play 80 ball bingo
Playing bingo online
Progressive jackpots in bingo
Bingo jackpots and pre-buy cards