What have you heard about bingo? When I learned about American Bingo last week, I first thought of slow-moving people absent-mindedly stabbing at pieces of paper while a bored man rattles off numbers. I figured it was a pastime reserved for retired folk.
I had no clue how wrong I was.
What if I told you, with all honesty, that one of the most intense, exciting and downright fun nights I’ve had in Austin took place in a bingo parlor? Well hold on to your hat – it’s true. The Austinots recently took a trip to American Bingo at 1919 East Riverside Dr. and learned how crazy a night of bingo can be.
Here’s what I mean:
We pulled up to a massive building, feeling like deer in headlights, and the first person we met was the infamous “Bingo Gringo.” He stood at the door and welcomed us inside. The Gringo really rolled out the red carpet for every bingo player, and I could tell that he took pride in it. Turns out that he contains a wealth of information when it comes to Texas, bingo, and how the two relate to one another.
For example, did you know that bingo is the only form of gambling that is legal in Texas (aside from horse racing)? All that, and the Bingo Gringo could sing! You wouldn’t believe how well this guy can hit those high notes.
I took a walk around the parlor before taking my seat. The first thing you will notice about American Bingo is how it’s divided in half. A glass wall divides the smokers and the non-smokers, and each room has its own ventilation system. Both rooms were occupied by groups of friends hanging out, drinking beer and playing some bingo.
The second thing you will notice are all the signs hanging from the parlor walls. I couldn’t help but read every one. My favorite signs describes all the different charities that American Bingo benefits. A lot of people don’t know that American Bingo has very close relationships with many Texas charities. For example, we played for the Scottish Rite Learning Center of Austin. It was nice to know my money was going to a good cause.
I chatted with the people around me as the night progressed, and I learned about the effect American Bingo has had in the Austin area. American Bingo regularly holds raffles and contests that help community members.
They give away everything from free gas cards to free rent waivers and iPads. This place is serious about helping people. As a student, I know I could definitely use any one of those things. I watched one lucky guy win a thousand bucks in free gas. They blew the streamers and played music for him – the whole nine yards.
I stopped chatting eventually, though. My bingo game began to demand my full attention. It’s hard to describe the intensity of a long game of bingo.
Remember that this was a Friday, which is $1 beer night, so this place was packed. Every person around me was dotting their pages or computers as fast as they could, hoping to score a bingo.
Why? Well, American Bingo doesn’t deal in small change. I saw a guy take home around five hundred dollars because of one lucky bingo.
Every new game of bingo is another chance to win big. Eventually I knew, I knew, I knew, that my numbers were coming up. I was one number away from winning two times – on my first night! But even losing is fun, since playing is so inexpensive. You just grab another sheet and wait until the next game starts.Each round of bingo is a few games. After each round, you have an intermission. This is a time to breathe and grab a bit to eat.
I could have stayed all night long (and I practically did!) because they have everything I could need. They have food and drinks, fun times and great people. What else could you want from a Friday night?