BINGO! Players try their luck at winning big at Manhattan’s American Legion

Daubers are used to mark the spaces on the Bingo cards. They are regulated by the state of Kansas. (Photo by James Copeland).

by James Copeland

The sound of balls rattling in a spinning cage, quiet murmuring from the crowd and rustlings of potato chip bags were punctuated by the sound of the next call, “B-9!” Bingo was the name of the game.

Unknown to many Manhattan residents, there’s a vibrant Bingo scene going on in town, and it’s not just retirees playing this game. People of all ages, races and backgrounds come together to play throughout the week. And the winnings? They’re substantial. Almost all the regulars at the Legion have won a few hundred dollars at least once.

People come here to have fun. They come to spend time with friends and family. Winning is fun, but most aren’t here specifically for that. They come for the camaraderie and fellowship. It’s a colorful experience, and the regulars welcome newcomers and are happy to help a newbie through their first few rounds.

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Naree Strege shows off her winning “special blackout” cards after winning $500. Inside her bag of daubers, Strege brings along her lucky elephant, chimpanzee and warthog figurines.(Photo by James Copeland)

Mike Oppy, Bingo coordinator at the American Legion, called the second round of Bingo games. Oppy said it takes five to six volunteers to successfully pull off an afternoon of Bingo.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re planning on going to a Bingo game for the first time:

  • Bring cash and a variety of bills. You’ll probably want to buy extra cards for special games and cash is the only way to do this.
  • Bring a dauber if you have one, otherwise you can buy or borrow one. You are required to use a dauber by the state.
  • Snacks are encouraged. Almost everyone brings something to snack or sip on.
  • If you think it will help, good luck charms are common and can include just about anything, but animal figurines and trolls are popular.
  • Rule sheets are provided, and if you have questions or need help, ask one of the volunteers or sit next to a veteran. They are usually more than happy to help.
  • Bring the kids! There’s no minimum age to play Bingo.

The following video should give you a good idea of the pace of a typical game of Bingo. Not all games are the same, so be prepared if you play one of the speed rounds where they just call numbers. That will put you under pressure!

Manhattan is home to the American Legion and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and both host Bingo multiple times a week. The Legion plays Sunday at 1:45 p.m., Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. The Eagles play Monday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

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Brenda Catzenberg won a total of $37.50 after playing 15 games. She keeps a “Lucky Bingo Troll” with a Green Bay Packers helmet around for help during gameplay. (Photo by James Copeland).