Like knitting, Bingo is one of those old-ladies-darning sort of activities that's poised for a serious comeback. In fact, the website has already predicted its arrival, saying "Bingo was once considered to be the game of 'Little Old Ladies,' but it is now attracting younger people of both sexes. The reason being is that people are looking past the dull cliche that it is a boring game." [sic]

To some, though, Bingo is not just a fad; it's a way of life. So before you head out to one of outer Portland's fine Bingo establishments, first you've got to know a little about the game.


It's important to remember if you're going to a packed Bingo parlor, you must actually play the game to sit at the Bingo tables; otherwise, you're taking up space where a player could sit, losing money for the parlor and pissing off potential contestants. (And if there's one type of person you don't want to piss off, it's a hardcore Bingo player.)

Another thing that will piss off your fellow Bingoites is if you're in the middle of a small hall, and you're yammering your mouth off. It's okay to talk, of course, but be mindful of how loud you're talking, and during which game you're doing it. In a slow-paced, low-stakes postage stamp game, it's okay to talk; in a Las Vegas style Speed Bingo t-off game it's not, because there's more concentration involved and the prizes are hotter. Also, don't call out "Bingo" unless you're absolutely sure you have it; if you don't, you'll hear an entire roomful of people groaning at once and that's not a pretty sound.

Bingo halls usually have special non-smoking sections, but it seems that virtually every hardcore Bingo player has cigarettes burning from every orifice, at every possible moment. Because of this, and Oregon's stringent smoking-in-establishments laws, minors under the age of 18 are not allowed in Bingo parlors. What a drag. Heh heh.


Sadly, the Bingo card--the flat piece of board with numbers marked by sliding red windows--has gone the way of the dinosaur. In its place are the new, disposable "cards": sheets of flimsy paper that are marked with an ink tube called a dauber, and discarded after each use.

Practically every devoted Bingo player owns a "Bingo bag": a tote or duffel specifically designated for carrying Bingo-pertinent paraphernalia. These items can include, but are not limited to:

• Bingo Daubers (usually in various colors; some are double-sided for multiple card marking)
• Bingo Glue (used to temporarily tack paper card to table so player doesn't have to hold it down)
• Lucky Charms (many Bingo players are superstitious; lucky items can range from rabbit's feet to guardian angel figurines to elaborate talismans)
• Used, losing cards (to show friends and family how close player came to winning)

The tote itself is often unremarkable, but at many halls, one may purchase a drawstring Bingo bag complete with Bingo card pattern and special compartments for daubers.


All right, now you're ready for some Bingo. For the most part, Portland's Bingo halls aren't actually in Portland proper, so prepare yourself for a drive.

All Star Bingo: SE 146th & Stark, 255-7094
The enormous All Star Bingo is the most exciting, because they're open until 4 am every day for Speed Bingo, in which the caller chooses the numbers twice as fast. Stakes are high and players are intense, and it's usually pretty crowded until about midnight, so prepare for a wait.

Actually at Portland's Bingo halls, it's always a little crowded, as an 8 am visit to Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Bingo, 8725 NE Sandy, 255-6002, proved. DAV is a nice place--it's smaller and closer-in than All Star Bingo, and they have a grill that makes cheap food (Grilled cheese for $2.50? Don't mind if I do.). DAV has more of a "Catholic" atmosphere--cleaner and less smoky, it is a place for winning, but for some reason the emphasis seems less on gambling and more on community. Even still, DAV is open from 8 am-10 pm, and on Thurs-Sat, there's a special Speed Bingo session from 10 pm-3 am, with some games worth around $1000.

If you're willing to travel a little farther, other official Bingo halls include Summit Bingo ("new heights in gaming excellence"), 18141 NE Glisan, 618-9117; and Beaverton's beautiful Sunset Bingo, 4830 SW Western, 520-8600.