A smoky haze fills the air of the B12 bingo parlor. Patrons young and old stamp their bingo cards with a paint pen, hoping that the next number called will give them the chance to yell “bingo” at the top of their lungs.
This isn’t the bingo you played during the dreaded indoor recess in elementary school. At B12, a bingo means big money. The pot starts at $300 and goes up to $700 as the game gets more complex.
Rather than spending a regretful night on Sixth Street, students should consider bingo as the new weekend night go-to. A set of five games only puts you back $5, and you could end up leaving with money for groceries (or beer).
B12 has a smoking and non-smoking section, so if you want to get away from the nicotine-infused air, enter from the side door, head to the cashier and purchase your bingo cards.
Starting with a set of 12 bingo cards is the way to go for a novice. Anything more can get hard to handle all at once.
Find a seat and crack open a beer. B-12 is BYOB, but the game gets intense, so that beer of yours will probably go untouched.
Seasoned bingo players know to get one of the parlor’s computers as well. The computer has another set of bingo cards on it and automatically highlights the squares as numbers get called. It warns you if you are one number away from a bingo and lights up when you have a bingo.
But bingo no longer means the classic five numbers in a row. At B12, the first game is B-N-O bingo, in which you must have all the numbers in the B,N and O columns shaded. It then gets harder with block of 9 in which you must have a square of nine numbers shaded and Las Vegas triple in which you must have three five-in-a-row numbers shaded.
Olivia Generali has been playing bingo for about 18 years. According to Generali, bingo is the best way to relieve the stress of a long work week.
“Most people here are really nice,” Generali said. “I just like to come with my friends and it’s great because sometimes I win, although I don’t win as often as I’d like to.”
Though it is fun to go to bingo with friends, you must be sure to pay attention to your cards. With 12 (or more) games going on at once, it can get difficult to see if you even have a bingo. As the man over the speaker calls the next bingo number, another that he has not yet called is shown over a television screen. This allows bingo players to shade in their bingo squares and look over their cards before the number is actually called.
You can only yell bingo once the number that creates your bingo is called. Thus, you must constantly be aware if you are about to bingo and when to call it out. If no one hears you call bingo, or you call bingo after another number has been called, it no longer counts.
Pre-nursing sophomore Emily Anderson suggests that new players sit next to those who look like they have more experience in order to ask questions as they are playing.
“It was really overwhelming at first,” Anderson said. “But once you get the hang of how everything works, it’s a lot of fun. I will definitely be coming back to play again now that I know how to play.”
And the more times Anderson keeps coming back to B12, the more money will be donated to charity. Bingo was legalized in Texas in 1980, making it the oldest form of legalized gambling in Texas. Proceeds that the bingo parlors make go to charitable organizations.
At B12, proceeds are donated to the Job Training Institute, Northwest Sertoma Club, Knights of Columbus and AIDS Care and Assistance DBA Rites of Passage. Only certain authorized, licensed organizations such as B12 are allowed to conduct bingo games in the state of Texas.
Biology and Spanish junior Sara Diamond did not win any money during her first bingo outing, but she got close to yelling “bingo” during many of the games.
“I had so much fun, but you have to get here early and get your bearings,” Diamond said. “At first I had no idea what to do, but you get into it once you start playing.”
Generali is happy to see more of a younger crowd showing up at the bingo parlor.
“I have a son, and I would rather have him here playing bingo than out doing God knows what somewhere else,” Generali said. “Sometimes it gets a little crazy here, but it’s mostly just a lot of nice people having a good time.”