For a brief time in my mid-20s, I had a love affair with Las Vegas. The lights! The cheesiness! The penny slots! The ridiculously sweet, giant, frozen adult beverages! I visited four or five times in a span of a few years, though never for more than 2 days. 48 hours in Vegas is bliss. 49 is sadness.
During one of my first trips, I stumbled into a relatively dilapidated casino on the strip (I believe it was the Frontier). It wasn’t the casino’s strip club or the mechanical bull that drew me in – it was the giant billboard outside that screamed “PLAY BINGO!”
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love random experiences. And playing Bingo in Vegas seemed pretty random.
It also turned out to be really hard.
After shelling out $10 for several sheets of Bingo cards and a special Bingo ink pen thing called a dobber (also spelled dauber) , I sat down with my friends at a card table and got ready to start winning. It was fairly obvious from the outset that this Bingo was not the same Bingo I played a child. For starters, we were instructed to play 12 boards at a time. So if the caller yelled out “B-6,” you had to search the B-column on 12 different cards to be sure you marked all the 6s.
The Bingo master (or whatever his title is) called out letters and numbers at an alarming pace. It takes at least 12 seconds to search 12 cards, and he gave us about 4. The only sound in the room was the dull thud of hundreds of dobbers hitting cards over and over again. At one point, a cocktail waitress walked through the room, offering free drinks. When she got to our table, I shooed her away. This was stressful business, and there was no need to add alcohol to it.
A few times, I stole a glace around the room and noticed that no one else seemed to look as frantic as my table of four. We were the youngest people in the room by about 40 years, but Bingo apparently levels the playing field. Experience matters.
Several older ladies sipped pina coladas in the corner, laughing as they played. Meanwhile, a drop of sweat rolled down my face. I dobbed more numbers.
Suddenly, I had five in a row on one of my cards. Oh my gosh, was this real? I looked up quickly at the overhead board, and sure enough, all my numbers had been called. “I think I have Bingo,” I whispered to my friend.
“Seriously?!” she answered. “Dude, yell it out!”
There were a couple of audible groans and the sound of other players tearing up their cards to prepare for the next game.
“WE HAVE A POSSIBLE WINNER!” yelled the Bingo master. “A POSSIBLE WINNER!”
Two little old Bingo referees came running over to my table to check my card. I looked at the payout sheet. Holy cow! $500!
There was a pause. The referees looked at one another.
“NOT A WINNER,” one yelled.
The second one confirmed that “THERE IS NO BINGO.” Was that really necessary? Like my wound needed salt?
“You need to pay attention to the type of game we’re playing,” one of the referees hissed to me.
The type of game we’re playing? Isn’t this Bingo? I played this game three thousand times as a child. Sure, it was usually in the car on long road trips, and we were looking for telephone poles and tractors to cross off on our bingo boards – but the point is, I understand the rules to Bingo.
But it turns out that adult Bingo and childhood Bingo are two different animals.
“In adult Bingo,” the referee explained in a very condescending tone, “you don’t play for five in a row. You play for a pattern.” So, for example, you might not win until you have two parallel Bingo lines on the same card. Or perhaps you have to make a giant X on your card, with two diagonal Bingo lines crossing one another. In the game we were playing, we were supposed to build a frame around the outside of the card. “And in fact,” the referee told me, “we have not even called enough numbers yet for anyone to win.”
The old people glared at me and fished their torn cards out of the recycling bin. I wished I could disappear into the floor.
I was not a possible winner again that day. Though even if I had been, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to yell “Bingo.”
Anyway, my amusement with the experience of Bingo far outweighed my embarrassment, and I returned to that same hall at least three more times. And then sadly, the casino was imploded to make room for some new fancy schmancy casino that probably does not have a mechanical bull or a Bingo hall. That’s okay because it was about that time that I decided I’d had my fill of Las Vegas.
But I hadn’t had my fill of Bingo! So imagine my delight when I learned about a Bingo hall that’s within 5 miles of my parents house… hello, new favorite Colorado activity! (Mountains?? What mountains?) A few weeks ago, while in Denver on business, I dragged my mom, dad and aunt to check out the Sunday afternoon Bingo hall action.
I’ll cut to the chase – none of us were winners that day. None of us were even possible winners. But on the positive side, we also did not humiliate ourselves.
This Bingo hall also took things to a new level. There weren’t just Bingo cards to purchase. There were scratch off cards and Derby cards and Fireball cards. I had no idea what any of those things were and having learned my lesson the hard way, I passed on all of them. It would have been easy to drop $50 in about 2 minutes with all the various games we could have played.
Plus, there was this:
Things I’ve learned from playing Bingo:
1) It is OK not to be a winner, or a possible winner. The experience of Bingo is well worth the price of admission.
2) The game is a lot less stressful when you understand the rules, and when the Bingo master reads slowly. In fact, if he reads too slowly, it can get rather boring.
3) It is possible to buy a carrying case for your dobbers. Order from this site and they also throw in a cushion for your bum. Because nothing is worse than trying to play Bingo on a hard chair.
4) Even better – here’s a pattern to sew your very own dobber bag!
5) Getting old is going to be AWESOME.