Bingo Books Review
Bingo books are a great way to learn about the game. Although, when compared to the canons of competing casino games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat, the game of bingo hasn’t inspired the same level of prolific work being penned.
Whereas a poker player may have hundreds of titles to choose from in terms of instructional and strategic material, bingo players have a much smaller selection with which to work. One reason for this dearth in bingo writing is the game’s simplicity, as there just isn’t all that much to say about the game’s complexities once the rules have been explained.
A game of pure chance, in which players have little to no ability to control the overall outcome, bingo isn’t built to be analyzed by experts in statistical probability or game theory. From a strategic perspective, the entire pursuit can be distilled into one prime rule: purchasing more bingo cards gives you a better chance of winning. Other than the volume of cards put in play, gambling authors have little to discuss when covering bingo, which has led to a lack of meaningful titles.
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Read with Caution
Generally speaking, any book promising to teach readers “systems,” “patterns,” or other such techniques for improving your odds at bingo is selling snake oil and nothing more. Fortunately, a few bingo books have emerged over the years which tackle this problem head on, explaining to readers in no uncertain terms exactly how bingo works, and why it can’t be beaten.
Additionally, the lively atmosphere and close-knit culture found in bingo halls, parlors, convention centers, churches, and club halls throughout North America also lends itself to fictional works. Bingo halls provide the setting for a few choice novels, allowing authors to use this nearly universal game as a way to ground narratives in reality.
Below, you’ll find a list of widely read bingo books, in chronological order, along with biographical information for the author and an objective review of the content contained therein.
Best Bingo Books
How to Win at Bingo
Joseph E. Granville | 1977
Better known as Joe Granville, the renowned stock market analyst and financial industry expert published several books in his area of expertise, including “The Warning: The Coming Great Crash in the Stock Market” (1985) and “Granville’s Last Stand: Secrets of the Stock Market Revealed” (1995).
Hidden among Granville’s library of work, however, is an interesting volume titled simply “How to Win at Bingo.” Although some readers are convinced that the bingo book was originally published under the more inflammatory title “How to Cheat at Bingo,” no evidence substantiating this assertion has turned up as of yet.
In any event, Granville’s sole contribution to the world of bingo literature clocks in at 145 pages, with much of the content focused on the author’s theory on selecting the most “optimal” letter number combinations. As the brain behind the concept of “on balance volume (OBV)” Granville’s theorization had previously revolutionized the stock market prediction industry, so it’s not surprising that he sought to apply the same analytical approach to bingo, which was enormously popular in the late 1970s.
Unfortunately, the bingo strategy espoused by Granville can be boiled down to a simple misstatement of facts, as the author advises players to avoid bingo cards containing numbers that share the same last digit. According to Granville, “60 percent of the first 10 balls picked up feature different last digits,” and the foundation of his strategic approach is to simply avoid cards with number arrangements like 12, 22, and 32, or 48, 58, and 68. The theory holds that these cards, bearing several numbers with the same last digit, offer a reduced chance of becoming the winner.
In reality, the result of each ball draw is wholly independent of previous and subsequent draws, and Granville’s “How to Win at Bingo” simply doesn’t hold water.
When viewed as a historical relic, however, Granville’s work represents one of the first bingo books ever written, and fans of the game who enjoy collecting memorabilia may find a certain level of value in adding the title to their personal library.
The Art of Playing Bingo and Winning Consistently
B.A. Hartwell | 1980
Little is known about B.A. Hartwell, author of “The Art of Playing Bingo and Winning Consistently,” but the title represented his only entry as a published writer.
Accordingly, it’s no surprise to find that Hartwell’s treatise on bingo strategy is based on bunk advice and appeals to superstition. Within the slim volume, Hartwell expounds on his “patented approach” to selecting winning cards in advance, using the “Master Board” to chart the results of previous draws, and other dubious methods of “tilting the odds in your favor.”
Of course, in 1980 advice such as this may have been capable of deceiving hopeful bingo players into parting with the purchase price. In the Internet age, however, readers can easily determine that no evidence whatsoever can be presented to back up Hartwell’s claims.
Bingo books like “The Art of Playing Bingo and Winning Consistently” have long defined the bingo literature genre, with opportunistic “authors” like the mysterious Hartwell cobbling together a few superstitions to form a persuasive ploy. Anybody who gambles money or plays a game possesses the desire to win, and while it may be tempting to believe that games of chance such as bingo can be “beaten” reliably, the fact remains that nothing found in Hartwell’s book should be considered accurate or informative.
Gambling Times Guide to Bingo
Roger Snowden | 1986
Another author of virtually unknown pedigree, Roger Snowden also penned a bingo book titled “Bingo! Winning Is the Name of the Game: A Guide to Winning Bingo, Baccarat, Black Jack, and Many Other of Life’s Essential Gambles” in 1979, along with “Bingo: Patter and Patterns Wit and Wisdom” in 1994.
One year after the release of his first bingo book, Snowden launched his own monthly periodical known as the Bingo Bugle in 1980, printing out of Tacoma, Washington and offering readers a free product. By 1986 the Bingo Bugle was distributed within 41 communities throughout the United States and Canada, reaching a circulation base of over 1 million readers. During a 1986 interview with the Boca Raton News, Snowden offered the following assessment of the Bingo Bugle and its widespread appeal:
“We think in excess of 53 million people play bingo annually, which would far and away outstrip the number of people who go to major league baseball games each year. I see bingo as a tremendous growth industry … it is a tremendously potent fundraiser, from synagogues to Elks Clubs to battered women’s associations. The Bingo Bugle took off like gangbusters … there is an appetite among players, and there was a void in the media market. I think bingo players, like other gamblers, like to read about winners.”
Writing for the Gambling Times magazine’s “Guide To…” series, Snowden published the “Gambling Times Guide to Bingo” in 1986. The book represents a comprehensive overview of bingo, including a detailed history of the game, a primer on basic rules and gameplay, a glossary of relevant terms, an explanation of bingo equipment, and a discussion on strategy.
Like nearly every bingo book author there, though, Snowden simply can’t help himself when it comes to advising players about supposed patterns in the numbers and winning systems. Fortunately, the emphasis on these unproven methods of increasing one’s edge doesn’t form the bulk of the book’s 194-page length.
By simply skipping through the passages on patterns and systems, and sticking to the nuts and bolts of bingo, the “Gambling Times Guide to Bingo” offers readers one of the most thorough glimpses into how the game works.
The Bingo Palace
Louise Erdrich | 1994
As a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, author Louise Erdrich is primarily known for producing works of fiction, including novels, short stories, and poems – most of which are loosely centered around the same group of Chippewa characters.
Erdrich’s debut novel, “Love Medicine,” was published in 1984, followed by “The Beet Queen” in 1986. Since that time, she has published 15 novels in total, with “LaRose” hitting bookshelves this year.
With “The Bingo Palace,” Erdrich focuses on the subtle ramifications wrought by the development of a tribal casino and its associated bingo hall. While the titular bingo palace itself serves primarily as a backdrop, providing a place of employment for the high powered antagonist and a general setting for some of the more climactic scenes, the plot is actually a classic tale of unrequited love.
For those interested in bingo only, the most interesting aspect of “The Bingo Palace” is Erdrich’s insistence on using the novel as a platform to disseminate her fierce opposition to tribal casinos and gambling enterprises such as bingo. From a plot perspective, the construction of a new and improved bingo “palace” to replace the existing tent-like structure threatens to desecrate a sacred plot of land considered to be spiritually significant to the Chippewa people. In an emblematic line from the novel, Erdrich writes:
“Our reservation is not real estate, luck fades when sold. Attraction has no staying power, no weight, no heart.”
While many critics considered Erdrich’s emphasis on the negative consequences of casino gambling to be out of character for the author, other readers appreciated her honest representation of the issue from a personal perspective. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what happens to the employees and players at your local tribal bingo hall once the evening ends, reading “The Bingo Palace” can provide a telling glimpse into a world unseen by the vast majority of American and Canadian bingo enthusiasts.
Bingo! How to Improve Your Odds
Andrew Bowser | 2001
A freelance writer based in New York City, Andrew Bowser has contributed articles about bingo to several industry publications, including Bingo Business, Casino Magazine, Casino Executive, and The Gaming Journal.
With his first (and as of today, only) foray into writing a full-length bingo book, Bowser’s “Bingo! How to Improve Your Odds” would appear to be yet another money grab at first glance, one purporting to teach readers some system or another which claims to make bingo beatable.
Fortunately for readers, Bowser mostly sticks to the facts and approaches bingo strategy in a straightforward, honest manner. He takes the time to instruct players that tracking the previous results from each ball, and searching for cards containing letter number combinations which appear to be “due,” exerts no impact at all on your eventual results. By avoiding the temptation to tell readers what they want to hear, and explaining instead that every individual game of bingo represents an independent event based on randomization, Bowser does a great service to the bingo book genre.
Other useful tips advocated by Bowser in “Bingo! How to Improve Your Odds” over the course of 80 pages include how to assess your odds during each game (divide the number of cards you’re playing by the number of cards in the room), the importance of purchasing additional cards, common superstitions to avoid (like holding your cards over to the next game), and ways to remain alert during marathon sessions.
Overall, “Bingo! How to Improve Your Odds” offers readers an informative examination of bingo’s deeper layers, while also grounding all advice dispensed in an honest presentation.
The Basics of Winning Bingo
Avery Cardoza | 2002
Back in the 1970s, when casino security was easier to bypass, Avery Cardoza frequented casinos and card rooms throughout Nevada. He was playing underage at the time, and taking a bit of a risk in doing so, but the young Cardoza quickly flourished on the casino floor. As an advantage play blackjack specialist, Cardoza was capable of counting through the deck with ease, giving him a leg up on what was already one of the most equitable games in the house.
By 1981, however, Cardoza’s prowess as a card counter had come to the attention of local authorities, and he found himself added to the state’s notorious “blacklist.” Banned entirely from stepping onto any casino property in Nevada, Cardoza’s reputation as a feared advantage player eventually prompted him to explore California, but by then, the book on him was already out.
In search of an alternative source of income, Cardoza decided to distil his personal knowledge on how to beat the house, forming publishing house the same year he was barred from casino play. His imprint, known officially as Cardoza Publishing, was devoted to providing instruction and strategy advice for popular casino games. Largely delivered by guest authors, most of whom hailed from the community of professional gamblers and game theory analysts Cardoza once belonged to. Cardoza Publishing’s bingo books proved to be an immediate hit with readers.
Cardoza’s first foray as a published author was “Winning Casino Blackjack for the Non Counter” (1981), which was soon followed by dozens of related titles examining all casino games.
With “The Basics of Bingo” – the first of three titles put out by Cardoza himself in 1991 – the author applies his balanced approach to gambling strategy to a game which couldn’t be further from blackjack, Cardoza’s area of expertise. At just 48 pages in length, as opposed to more than 300 pages for his blackjack titles, it’s clear that Cardoza’s familiarity with bingo is perfunctory at best.
Written with the beginner in mind, the book covers bingo basics in depth (as the title suggests), without delving into many deeper issues. For experienced players, not much of merit can be gleaned from Cardoza’s contribution to the bingo canon, but if you’ve never played the game before, “The Basics of Winning Bingo” should get you well acquainted with the ins and outs of how things work.
With that said, however, many reader-generated reviews found online have noted that the bingo book includes several typos and instances of erroneous information, even in the second and third editions printed. If full fledged accuracy and professional presentation are deal breakers for you as a reader, this book may not be the one for you.
Keep Grandma Off the Streets: Tales from the Bingo Hall
Matthew Del Mei | 2013
Presented as a collection of 25 interconnected short stories, each centering around the lives and times of employees and players at a nondescript bingo hall, “Keep Grandma Off the Streets: Tales From the Bingo Hall” invites readers to explore the goings-on behind the scenes of their favorite haunt.
The bingo books author, blogger Matthew Del Mei, spent a portion of his pre-professional life working in a bingo hall. Blessed with a literary mind, Del Mei absorbed the trials and tribulations displayed there on a daily basis, eventually compiling his observations to form “Keep Grandma Off the Streets.”
Each of the book’s 25 short stories hews to the same loose theme of bingo as a metaphor for life but throughout each vignette the tone shifts from humorous to dramatic, entertaining to introspective. The following passage, excerpted from Del Mei’s story “Drama Queen,” exemplifies the author’s philosophy on the game of bingo:
“‘When I first started working here I said one year, maybe two. I would just save up some money for school and then I would get out. I’d find something else. Maybe not as good, but at least more in my field. But…’ Amy trails off.
‘But before you knew it, six years had gone by,’ I say. ‘And your whole life was here.’ Amy nods.
‘Then the next thing I knew, it was ten years. Bingo has a funny way of grabbing hold of you. Love it or hate it, it’ll stick with you forever.’”
A refreshing departure from the often dry reads offered by general bingo books, “Keep Grandma Off the Streets” should be a treat for anybody who has spent a long evening at the local bingo parlor. Filled with spot on references to the bingo culture, a genuinely interesting cast of characters, and a clear focus on the important role that bingo plays in the lives of millions of people, this book makes a great gift for your favorite bingo fan.
The Bingo Queens of the Oneida: How Two Moms Started Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin
Mike Hoeft | 2014
A work of historical nonfiction, “The Bingo Queens of the Oneida: How Two Moms Started Tribal Gaming in Wisconsin” examines the role played by bingo in launching the tribal gaming movement.
The author of the bingo book, Mike Hoeft, previously worked as a journalist for the Green Bay Press Gazette, but the urging of his wife he decided to pursue his passion project:
“It’s a true story that’s largely unknown to the general public. For years (my wife) Patty told me somebody ought to write a book about the two women. I thought someone else would write it. I was busy with my career as a newspaper reporter.
“Then I went through a serious health scare with lymphoma cancer in 2009. Time was suddenly precious, and I felt this was a story worth telling now. When I recovered from chemo, I decided to quit my job on the newspaper so I could write the book. It was kind of a risky move to be jobless. But I’m glad I did it. As I started interviewing people, the more intrigued I became by the story. It went much deeper than I thought.”
Hoeft’s book tells the tale of Sandra Ninham and Alma Webster, two Oneida women who were inspired to run bingo games as a way of generating funds for tribal initiatives. The idea was born in 1976, well before the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 made tribal casinos a staple of the industry.
Combining eloquent prose and thorough historical research, Hoeft traces the lineage of the Oneida tribe back through time, while continually demonstrating how the success of Ninham and Webster’s bingo operation worked to preserve an age-old society facing slow decline.
Bingo players who have spent any time in a tribally run bingo game will surely appreciate Hoeft’s commitment to exploring the game’s beneficial impact. And after all, most of us wouldn’t have a bingo hall to visit if not for the efforts of the original Bingo Queens.