DaveL is a former professional bingo caller with a wealth of advice for new and amateur callers.
I spent a good few years as a professional bingo caller in the UK, during which time I called thousands of bingo games and hundreds of thousands of bingo numbers. Once people find out about my bingo-calling past, I'm often asked to call at school bingo nights or other special events. I'm also often asked for advice by other people who've been put in the position of needing to call a game of bingo.
With the game being a popular fundraiser, people from all walks of life often find themselves in a situation where they need to call the numbers for the game. Despite its inherent simplicity, it can be a daunting task for people. With that in mind, I've constructed this little guide to give potential callers a few tips and pointers. Whether the local school PTA has roped you in to calling the numbers at a prize bingo night or the local social club want you to run their weekly cash game, these tips are for you.
75, 80 or 90 Balls: Bingo Variants
It's important to first of all ascertain what sort of game you will be calling. In the UK, it's most likely to be the 90 balls, 15 numbers to a ticket games. It could also possibly be an 80 ball shutterboard game with 16 numbers to cover. These are both played in the retail bingo halls of the UK. US players will be more familiar with their 75 ball game with 24 numbers to cover per card.
We'll cover the US game elsewhere; as I know the UK game best, I'll concentrate on that. That's not to say you can't use these tips with the 75 ball game, because you can. There is a different calling style, however, but the mechanics are pretty much the same whichever game you play with a proper live caller.
Simple Calling Tips
When you first start calling, it's easy to get flustered and make a complete mess of it. These simple tips will help you along and get things going smoothly.
- Familiarise yourself with the equipment before you start—whether it be a terminal or a roll cage, you don't want to accidentally cancel the game halfway through.
- Don't be afraid to have a joke with your audience. If you can make them smile now, they'll be more forgiving if you make a mistake later.
- Always warn players what game you're about to play—"We're looking for the line on the pink ticket, looking for the full house, etc."—and also warn the players you're about to start calling, too. For example, "If we're ready, we're looking for the next number, which is . . . "
- Have a glass of water or something stronger close to hand, but not too strong. Your throat will quickly become dry as you call the numbers, so keep it lubricated.
- Listen for a shout; however, if you've already started calling a number, you must finish it before attending to the claim. If the player called house late on the number before the one you just finished calling, they have lost their claim.
- Breathe slowly and steadily. Try to keep a simple rhythm in your speed of calling.
- Try to vary the tone of your voice as you proceed. If you don't, you will soon sound monotonous and send the players to sleep rather than waking them up with the thrill of a win!
- Remember, the caller's rulings are final; if people don't like it, then that's up to them.
- Don't forget to reset the equipment before you start your next game!
- Most of all, have fun as you're going along; otherwise, it can soon turn out to be a real drag.
These simple tips will help your bingo game go with a swing. If you want to pep it up more, though, and you're in a situation where it's applicable, you can use the old-fashioned bingo rhymes to get players enjoying their games as much as you!
Bingo Numbers and Their Rhymes
In the retail world of bingo, these rhymes are no longer used as they slow the game up too much. They are, however, still used in a number of places such as charity events and social clubs. There are a number of variants here in these rhymes, and some which you won't use. Remember the popular ones, and you'll get a smile from your players.
Check first before you start you calling career to see if the rhymes are required or not. If you're having a bit of fun down at the church hall, they might be acceptable. If you're just stepped on stage at the local bingo hall, they won't. Also, don't be afraid to make up some of your own number rhymes, and alter those that you think need updating or pepping up. There's no hard and fast rules about these rhymes, so have fun with them.
As well as the rhyme version of the number, I've also included the way you'd say the numbers in a commercial game, without the rhymes. Rhymes are listed first, followed by the clean pronunciation.
- 1 Kelly's eye | Blind one - On its own, number one.
- 2 Me and you | One little duck - On its own, number two.
- 3 You and me - On its own, number three.
- 4 Knock at the door - On its own, number four.
- 5 Man alive - On its own, number five.
- 6 Tom's tricks - On its own, number six.
- 7 God's in heaven | Lucky seven - On its own, number seven.
- 8 One Fat Lady - On its own, number eight.
- 9 Doctor's orders - On its own, number nine.
- 10 Tony's Den - One oh, ten.
- 11 Legs eleven - All the ones, eleven.
- 12 One dozen | A monkey's cousin (rhymes with "a dozen") - One and two, twelve.
- 13 Unlucky for some | Devil's number | Bakers dozen - One and three, thirteen.
- 14 Valentine's Day - One and four, fourteen.
- 15 Rugby team | Young and keen - One and five, fifteen.
- 16 Sweet sixteen | Never been kissed - One and six, sixteen.
- 17 Often been kissed | Dancing Queen - One and seven, seventeen.
- 18 Key of the door | Coming of age - One and eight, eighteen.
- 19 Goodbye teens - One and nine, nineteen.
- 20 Getting plenty | Blind 20 - Two oh, twenty.
- 21 Key of the door - Two and one, twenty one.
- 22 Two little ducks - All the twos, twenty two.
- 23 Thee and me | The Lord is my Shepherd - Two and three, twenty three.
- 24 Two dozen - Two and four, twenty four.
- 25 Duck and dive - Two and five, twenty five.
- 26 Bed and breakfast | Half a crown | Pick and mix - Two and six, twenty six.
- 27 Little duck with a crutch | Gateway to heaven - Two and seven, twenty seven.
- 28 In a state | Over weight - Two and eight, twenty eight.
- 29 You're doing fine - Two and nine, twenty nine.
- 30 Burlington Bertie | Dirty Gertie | Speed limit | Flirty thirty | Blind 30 - Three oh, thirty.
- 31 Get up and run - Three and one, thirty one.
- 32 Buckle my Shoe - Three and two, thirty two.
- 33 Dirty knees | All the feathers | Two little fleas | Sherwood Forest - All the threes, thirty three.
- 34 Ask for more - Three and four, thirty four.
- 35 Jump and jive - Three and five, thirty five.
- 36 Three dozen - Three and six, thirty six.
- 37 A flea in heaven - Three and seven, thirty seven.
- 38 Christmas cake - Three and eight, thirty eight.
- 39 Those famous steps - Three and nine, thirty nine.
- 40 Naughty Forty - Four oh, forty.
- 41 Time for fun - Four and one, forty one.
- 42 That famous street in Manhattan | Whinny the Pooh - Four and two, forty two.
- 43 Down on your knees - Four and three, forty three.
- 44 Droopy drawers - All the fours, forty four.
- 45 Halfway house | Halfway there - Four and five, forty five.
- 46 Up to tricks - Four and six, forty six.
- 47 Four and seven - Four and seven, forty seven.
- 48 Four dozen - Four and eight, forty eight.
- 49 PC (Police Constable) | Copper | Nick nick - Four and nine, forty nine.
- 50 Bulls eye | Blind 50 | Half a century - Five oh, fifty.
- 51 Tweak of the thumb - Five and one, fifty one.
- 52 Weeks in a year | Danny La Rue - Five and two, fifty two.
- 53 Stuck in the tree - Five and three, fifty three.
- 54 Clean the floor - Five and four, fifty four.
- 55 Snakes alive - All the fives, fifty five.
- 56 Was she worth it? - Five and six, fifty six.
- 57 Heinz varieties - Five and seven, fifty seven.
- 58 Make them wait | Choo choo Thomas - Five and eight, fifty eight.
- 59 Brighton line - Five and nine, fifty nine.
- 60 Three score | Blind 60 | Five dozen - Six oh, sixty.
- 61 Bakers bun - Six and one, sixty one.
- 62 Tickety boo | Turn on the screw
- 63 Tickle me | Des Eerie - Six and three, sixty three.
- 64 Red raw | The Beatles number - Six and four, sixty four.
- 65 Old age pension - Six and five, sixty five.
- 66 Clickety click - All the sixes, sixty six.
- 67 Made in heaven | Argumentative number - Six and seven, sixty seven.
- 68 Saving grace - Six and eight, sixty eight.
- 69 The same both ways | your place or mine | Either way up | Meal for two - Six and nine, sixty nine.
- 70 Three score and ten | Blind 70 - Seven oh, seventy.
- 71 Bang on the drum - Seven and one, seventy one.
- 72 A crutch and a duck | Par for the course - Seven and two, seventy two.
- 73 Crutch and a flea | Queen B - Seven and three, seventy three.
- 74 Candy store - Seven and four, seventy four.
- 75 Strive and strive - Seven and five, seventy five.
- 76 Trombones - Seven and six, seventy six.
- 77 Sunset strip | Two little crutches - All the sevens, seventy seven.
- 78 Heavens gate - Seven and eight, seventy eight.
- 79 One more time - Seven and nine, seventy nine.
- 80 Gandhi's breakfast | Blind 80 | Eight and blank - Eight oh, eighty.
- 81 Fat lady and a little wee | Stop and run - Eight and one, eighty one.
- 82 Fat lady with a duck | Straight on through - Eight and two, eighty two.
- 83 Fat lady with a flea | Time for tea - Eight and three, eighty three.
- 84 Seven dozen - Eight and four, eighty four.
- 85 Staying alive - Eight and five, eighty five.
- 86 Between the sticks - Eight and six, eighty six.
- 87 Fat lady with a crutch - Eight and seven, eighty seven.
- 88 Two fat ladies | Wobbly wobbly - All the eights, eighty eight.
- 89 Nearly there | All but one - Eight and nine, eighty nine.
- 90 Top of the shop | Top of the house | Blind ninety | End of the line - Nine oh, ninety.
Questions & Answers
Question: What if you call the wrong Bingo number but quickly correct yourself and call the correct number?
Answer: I've done that many times whilst calling in a large club. Most of the time the audience know you've made a mistake as they're looking at the screens which the numbers come up on. You have to make sure you stop, point out the mistake and give people the opportunity to correct it or make a note if they've marked the number you said rather than the number you have in your hand / on your screen.
Question: How many numbers should be pulled on a turn of the basket?
Answer: Depends on the basket. We never used them as callers, but in a smaller game where it is used, I would suggest one at a time, as there can be no argument about them being taken in the wrong order.
Question: When calling Bingo, how many seconds should I wait before calling the next number?
Answer: Entirely depends on your audience. In a school setting it could be as much as 10 seconds, in a retail club, as little as one second.
Question: I am going to be calling out Bingo forpatients in a hospital setting. Any suggestions?
Answer: Perhaps go slower to ensure everyone's ability to keep up.
Question: Do you say the number first or the rhyme first for Bingo?
Answer: In retail clubs they don't use the rhymes - where they do, it depends on the rhyme - IE Maggie's Den, number 10 - rhyme first. 5 and 9, the Brighton Line - rhyme second. There's no hard and fast way!
Question: How much time should you wait in between calling out Bingo numbers?
Answer: Depends on the settings and circumstances. In a UK retail club, it's barely a second between numbers. In a social club, it may be a bit longer. In the USA with their 75 ball version its longer again, a good few seconds I believe. In a school with kids, you may be waiting ages!
Angel on April 12, 2020:
Thank you for the article!!
Shivanand b on June 17, 2018:
Nice to read them as rhymes..
Steve on October 29, 2016:
Love these Bingo Rhymes! Thanks for posting.