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What do beans have to do with our favorite game?


We all know the thrill of that moment you only have to cross out that one last number on your bingo card. Sometimes it makes you feel cold, other times it makes you sweat. Eye on the prize and only one number to go. Number 28, number 4, number 8, you’ve crossed them all. You only need number 12 to fill out the card. You hear the balls rolling in the bingo machine. The person behind the machine picks up the microphone and says……12. Your heart skips a beat when you rise from your chair and shout:


Say what? Don’t you mean bingo? Well, now we shout out ‘BINGO’ but when the game first became popular it was called beano. The very first bingo game was invented in Italy in the mid-1500s. People could play this Italian lottery with cards with numbered squares. The winning number was drawn out of a sack? Sounds familiar? The France people liked the game as well and around 1770 there was someone who invented an alternate version. There were till numbers on the cards but now there were three horizontal rows and nine verticals. Numbers were drawn from a sac and the first person to cover a horizontal line was the winner.

The introduction of the bean

The numbers game wasn’t played in Europe only. In 1900 in the United States of America, the game was becoming more and more popular. It was mostly played at carnivals. There were fewer numbers on the cards and players covered the numbers on the cards with beans. Hence the shout out ‘Beano!’. But how did it become ‘Bingo’? Nobody is sure, but legend has it that a toy maker called Edwin S. Lowe wanted to create his own version of the game after seeing it in New York. Lowe wasn’t some random toy maker, this was the same man that invented Yahtzee. He played his updated beano game with a group of friends and one of the men got so excited when the last number was drawn that he shouted Bingo! Instead of Beano. The toymaker liked this so much he called his version of the game bingo. He also hired a Columbia University math professor to make the game better. The professor increased the number of combinations in bingo cards. Lowe’s company was eventually sold for $26 million in 1973. Bingo had a lot to do with the success of the toy company.

Nowadays we still play bingo. In the States, in France, in Italy, in The Netherlands and we can even play bingo online at The advantage of playing online is that you can shout whatever you want, nobody cares. Do you want to yell ‘BINGO’? Go ahead. Do you want to yell ‘BEANO’? Go ahead. There are many versions of the bingo game. It is played in casinos, retirement homes and even churches. It is not sure if the game is still being played with beans somewhere in the world.

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