Game Features

advancing odds/scores The first couple bingo machines were fixed payout. You always got the same number of credits for 3, 4, or 5-in-line wins.

Advancing odds changed that. You can maybe increase the number of credits you can win by depositing more coins/credits before shooting the first ball (and sometimes after the first ball, on games with the stop and shop score booster feature).

A typical 3-in-line payout on an early machine with ten odds steps would be:
2 4 6 8 12 16 24 32 48 64

The first coin inserted would reset the machine to the 2 level, successive coins would increase it zero or more steps. Zero is the main reason the machines are considered gambling devices in many areas. You can deposit a coin and the odds may not increase (at least they never get worse, like on some early one-ball machines).

In the late 70's in a effort to distance the games from legal definitions of gambling devices, the advancing odds feature disappeared again on some machines. In addition, there were a few games made between 1956 and the late 70's that didn't have this feature either. These games were usually for territories where standard bingos were illegal.

animal feature The special game on Safari, it is unusual in that rather than giving you the option to take your payout after the 3rd, 4th, or 5th ball, the fifth ball actually determined whether you won or not.

See the Safari flyer.

auto-mission coin divider Not something the player sees. Behind the coin door is a mechanism that diverts inserted coins into one of two cash boxes.

The location owner has access to one, and the operator the other. The idea was to have the game automatically split the take (and to some extent allow the location to recycle coins without needing to get into the main cash box).

The split was adjustable from 1/1 to 1/5.

ball return Similar to the hold/double hold feature, but drops balls based on what section in the section scoring area they are in.
ballyhole Playfield hole #16 does something special, such as awarding an extra ball.

The ballyhole was also used to light features automatically for the NEXT game played, like enabling all the magic squares.

blue section scores A three number blue section on a magic screen layout would pay some huge amount. Early screen games usually paid based on the green odds:
- 2 in blue scores like 5 in green
- 3 in blue scores like 5 in green

Later screen games just paid a fixed amout:
- 3 in blue scores 200
- 3 in blue scores 600
- 2 in blue scores 600!

bump The bump feature was used to give the playfield a hard nudge when a button was pushed. A large solenoid did the actual jerking of the playfield.

The idea was to give the player a way to bump the ball off a post/spring without risking tilting the game.

It was only used on Hi-Fi.

colored lines Most early bingo's made no distinction on how an in-line scoring win was achieved.

When colored lines were added, though, it became more important how the in-line score was formed on the card. For example, 3-in-line on a red line could be worth more that 3-in-line on a yellow line.

On many games where you could rearrange the numbers/sections, the colored lines/sections scored independently, so you could often get a 3-in-line in yellow, then rearrange to score a 3-in-line in red using the same numbers and get paid for both wins!

corners scoring A high payout (e.g. 200 or 400) awarded for lighting the four corner numbers of the main card or super cards.

On a couple games, the "corners" were a little unusual, but the concept was the same.

diagonal scores In most bingos with in-line scoring, the five number diagonal lines forming a big X through the main card counted. Games with diagonal scores generally allowed any diagonal line three numbers or longer to score.
double duty numbers On Twist - a number could appear twice on the same magic card, so making that number lights two positions on the 5x5 card.

On Miss America games, sometimes sliding the magic lines would put the same number twice on one card, and on Miami Beach and Parade, opening the curtain/extra lines would reveal multiple instances of the same number.

double or nothing This feature was implemented differently on a few machines.

You could either take your payout, or you could try for double-or-nothing.

When attempting double-or-nothing, sometimes you played another game (usually three ball) with a specific objective, or sometimes the machine just made a few noises as it generated a random result and then paid you double or zip.

double up Appeared on a couple mystic line games. You could change the payout multiplier for the colored sections.

The gotcha was that if you made one color 2x, you would make another color 1/2x.

extended/extra time/play On games where you could move numbers around or changed spotted numbers, the game usually disabled the feature before the fourth ball was shot. Payout was generally enabled after the fourth ball was shot!

Extended time allowed the player to moved/spot numbers after the fourth or after the fifth ball was shot, so it was possible to arrange the numbers for the highest win.

Extended time was often tied to rollover buttons. The left rollover would enable after-fourth, the right rollover would enable after-fifth.

Note that the rollovers themselves were features that were not always enabled, but had to be bought at mystery intervals using coins/credits.

extra balls Almost all the bingo's are five ball games, and you have the option to try and get up to three extra balls by playing credits or depositing coins after the fifth ball is shot.

The likelyhood of getting extra balls decreases as the payout odds/feature levels increase, and getting successive extra balls is less likely than getting the first one.

In some games, it's impossible to get an extra ball 50% of the time if certain features are lit!

extra lines Similar to the magic curtain, but only one additional horizontal line at the top/bottom of a 7x5 card is exposed when a panel slides open.
futurity This may be the single best feature to have on a bingo for home use. The OK game level was actually based on the green odds level. To get the best possible OK game, you needed to have the green odds at maximum, which is pretty tough (and expensive) to do.

The futurity feature allowed you to accumulate OK games in an additive fashion until you got to the maximum game. The futurity count on the backglass displayed a number between one and twelve. The orange section award on the magic screen would add 1,2,3,5,9,or 12 to the futurity count. When you can get the futurity count up to 12, then you can play the machine with practically everything enabled, all odds at/near maximum, extended/extra time/play at maximum, etc.

Unless you are really unlucky, you should rack up a huge payoff when finally playing your futurity game.

gate Appeared only on Mystic Gate.

The rebound rubber could be lifted up so the ball would pass beneath it and then deflect sideways out across the second row of numbers on the playfield, letting you bypass holes 1-6.

"Gate" was also used on the backglass to describe the purple section on Golden Gate and Silver Sails.

golden game A special award on a couple of the magic screen games.

The golden game is a special no extra ball possible game similar to an OK game, but rather than shooting balls for the usual in-line scoring or section scoring, you are limited to a magic screen that only has gold colored sections.

You need to put either two or three balls in the same section to win a payout displayed on the backglass.

hold/double hold The player could drop all the balls in the even or odd numbered holes and shoot them again. Double hold let you do it twice.

This was implemented using offset holes in the shutter panel where the panel would slide up and sideways to release the correct balls.

It's a pretty neat feature!

in-line scoring On most games, you win credits by getting a minimum of three adjacent numbers lit in a vertical/horizontal line or the two corner-to-corner diagonal lines of the 5x5 card.

A couple games also included some extra 3-in-line and 4-in-line diagonals, and a few games also had 6-in-line scoring on 3x6 (18 holes) or 4x6 cards (24 holes).

The other major scoring style is section scoring.

kumbackey "Allows players to play off replays immediately or at a later date".

Ok, what that means is there is a switch on the side of the cabinet that can be turned by a key. Every time you closed the switch, one credit is added to the replay register.

It's pretty handy if you don't have the machine "misadjusted" to allow free play, as you can quickly add credits to the game without putting in coins.

When the games were operated, it was supposed to allow you to take your winnings in the form of an IOU. When you came back at another time, the location could put your credits back on the game using the key.

There was an interesting other use. Many late model games restricted the total number of coins you could insert into the machine for one game, but there was no restriction on the number of credits you could play. So instead of putting in coins, toss the bartender some bills and let him put the credits on, then you can play as many as you want per game.


Used on many United games, the letters in the game name could be progressively lit by hitting enabled rollover buttons or sometimes special playfield return holes (so the ball could drop through and be shot again).

Like Bally's futurity, lite-a-name was tracked by a unit in the machine that did not reset between power cycles, so it could take many days/players to fully light the game name.

When the name was completed, the usual reward was an in-line payout at the current score levels. That can change the way you play the game - if you only have one letter left to light, you may want to get the scores high and the feature enabled, and that's what you go for rather than a win on the card(s).

magic cards Using a concept similar to overlapping/shifting cards, the Twist used a unique mechanism.

The standard in-line scoring pattern was displayed on the backglass, but the card behind it is actually 5x15 big. You are only seeing a 5x5 view of it. You score in whatever 5x5 view you push the R-button in.

The same number may appear more than once on a card. The marketing people dubbed this double duty numbers.

It is actually a magic screen mechanism that has the numbers attached to the screen panels. The purple highlight in the pic is the viewable area.

magic curtain The card is 5x9, but 4 lines are initally hidden by vertical panels (like a rolltop desk slats). The screen slides right at mystery intervals revealing the additional numbers beneath, thus increasing the possible scoring combinations.

Miami Beach was the only machine to use this concept as the main feature of the game.

magic lines The first feature that mechanically moved numbers!

The numbers on the bingo card were on strips that could be moved one position by turning knobs/pushing buttons on the foot rail.

Usually, the numbered strips were the vertical columns of the card, and they could be shifted up/down one position. When a column was shifted up, the top number "wrapped" and became the bottom number. The bottom number wrapped to the top when shifting down.

Miss America introduced horizontally shifting lines that used two 5x5 cards next to each other. A number could be slid from one card to the other.

12 8 14 3
3 12 8 14
14 3 12 8
8 14 3 12
The third type of magic line is the cleverest. It is a horizontal line consisting of four numbers. The numbers would shift right through all four positions. When a number fell off the right side, it reappeared on the left. For example, here is the four possible magic line positions on Cypress Gardens:
magic number doubling On a few six card games, scores are doubled on certain cards if you make a ball in the "magic number" hole.

The magic number is randomly chosen before the first ball is shot.

magic numbers A variation on magic squares.

Six numbers are connected together with a chain, and they wind around such that a number can appear in any position within a 2x3 rectangle.

magic pockets A mechanism is under the top line of playfield holes which allows you to physically move the balls left or right one hole every time a button is pushed.

A ball in hole #1 cannot be pushed left, so if a ball in hole #2 is pushed left, and there is a ball in hole #1, #2 has no place to go. It rolls down the playfield to land elsewhere.

Similarly, holes #6 and #7 have the same effect when shifting balls to the right.

magic screen First introduced in Carnival Queen, the numbers on the card are stationary, but a moving metal screen is slid across them.

The screen has in-line scoring and irregularly shaped colored section scoring. In the sections, rather than needing 3,4,or 5-in-line, you can get 3,4, or 5-in-section to score. While some sections have numbers that are in a line, to win in a section, the lit numbers DO NOT need to be adjacent!

Screen Home Position Screen Position B Screen Position E Screen Position G

In the screen home position, the standard three color in-line scoring is available. As the screen is slid left, the in-line scoring is replaced with section scoring. At position B, the scoring is a combination of both methods. By position E, in-line scoring is gone completely.

Also notice how in position B, the green diagonal is now over three numbers that could not be a diagonal winner on the screen in the home position, but only three numbers are in the diagonal line!

magic squares Some of the numbers on the bingo card are are mounted on wheels (behind the backglass), and pushing buttons on the foot rail allows you to rotate the wheels to rearrange the numbers into paying combinations.

A 1 9
19 4
A 9 4
1 19
The wheels have 4 numbers mounted on each. Here is the standard layout for magic square A. The first table shows the "home" position of the numbers, and the second table shows the numbers rotated one position:

The 4-number squares were initially used in the corners of the card, so people also called the feature "turning corners".
mystic lines First appearing on Border Beauty, this new game type took the section scoring idea from the magic screen games and got rid of the in-line scoring that had been on every bingo up until now.

While they were at it, they removed five holes from the playfield, and decided four colors (red/yellow/green/blue) were better than three.

Mystic Line Home Position Mystic Line Winner

The nasty trick was that one number in each color group was white with a corresponding colored star. That number counted as the fifth number in the color only, otherwise it only counted as a lit star. (e.g. the four blue lit plus the blue star would pay 5-in-blue. Two blue lit plus the blue star is worth nothing).

So you really have five balls and you have to get at least three out of four in the color to win.

Unlike the magic screen games, the color sections were stationary and you moved the numbers behind the metal panel that had the color pattern painted on it.

The main card is 4x5 (four rows, five columns). The center column was a Magic Line - it could be moved up or down one position. The two columns on the left could be swapped with themselves, and so could the two columns on the right.

Keeping in mind the popularity of the OK game feature, they added this as a standard item on almost all mystic line games, and called it the Red Letter Feature. 3 or 2 balls in the star numbers would award the red letter game.

In addition, all mystic line games had a 3 or 4 star numbers score some fixed number of credits.

next game award A great idea from the one-ball games. Something you do on the current game will enable a feature automatically on the next game. Are you going to play again?...of course!


next play guarantee The pressure to make the games appear less like gambling devices produced this interesting Twist.

Lighted panels on the backglass would tell you what the next coin played would do: advance odds, award features, etc.

You didn't know how much the scores/features might advance, but you were guaranteed at least one step.

nickel-quarter play A nickel is big money is 1954, but chump change in 1965, so Bally started making their machines accept quarters.

Inserting a quarter would cycle the machine once, and add four credits to the replay register.

OK game A next game award on steroids. On a section scoring game, there is an orange section on the magic screen.

Two or more balls in the orange will give you a free game with guaranteed minimum odds and features lit (you could still deposit more coins/credits to try and further improve the scores/features).

One of the letters in the name of the game on the backglass would be lit in red, and the corresponding letter on a center S/I cards strip would define the guaranteed minimums.

The OK game was also called a red letter game on later model bingos and they added another level to the game play.

Do you take the two in the orange and hope for a better game next time, or do you forget the orange, move the screen to a different position and go for a high payout this game?

one-ball One-ball games came before the in-line bingo's, and the name is literal. After depositing coins to determine payout odds and features, the player shot one ball to determine the winner.

There were a few one-ball games made with five balls. The first four balls would be shot into a channel on the left top of the playfield by "skill", thus qualifying the fifth ball to be used to roll around the playfield and drop into a hole to determine win/lose.

The skill consisted of pulling the ball shooter all the way back and letting it go. Of course, the whole point was to try and convince the law that the game was not a gambling device, but required actual player talent to determine the outcome.

I doubt the court was impressed.

one-card The game has one main card, usually a 5x5 grid of numbers.

Usually, at least three numbers next to each other on either a horizontal, vertical, or the main 5 number diagonals are required to win.

There were, however, a few variations that occured over the years. The dimensions of the card, 2-in-line winners, and winning on the other diagonal combinations were all features that were used.

Another common feature was corners scoring.

orange scores as green On games with an orange section, making 3 or more balls in the orange section scores the green odds
orange section On a section scoring game, with the OK game feature, the color of the section to win the OK game is orange.

You needed to make two balls in the five ball orange section to win.

overlapping cards A 5x9 array of numbers in the backglass with two vertical bars that the player could move to pick the 5x5 card that they wanted to use within the bigger grid.
pick-a-play buttons Red, green, blue, and sometimes white buttons on/around the coin door could be pressed to limit what a depositied coin/credit would try and improve.

The blue button was for scores only, the green button for features only, the red button for both scores and features, and the white button for odd game-specific features.

Why bother? Well, if you are playing in red button mode, the scores may increment one step, and a magic square may advance one step. If you are playing blue button, however, the scores may increase three steps, but you have no chance for any features to improve.

Oddly enough, this feature appeared on the second game Bally made (Spot Lite), and then didn't surface again for another 9 years.

purple section On a section scoring game, with the golden game feature, the color of the section to win the golden game is purple.
red letter game See the OK game.

The setup of the next game was determined by what letter in the game name on the backglass was lit in red.

roll-over buttons On most games there is a pair or buttons on the lower left (yellow) and right (red) of the playfield that award a feature when the ball rolls over it.

On early games, the rollovers spotted numbers.

On most games, they moved the extended/extra time/play feature to after-4th for the yellow, and after-5th for the red.

roto feature United's answer to Bally's magic squares, the eight numbers forming a square around the center number of the 5x5 main card could be rotated around.
score booster 3-in-line scores as 4-in-line, and sometimes 4-in-line scores as 5-in-line.

Usually the boost only occurs with certain patterns on the card, like a colored vertical line, or particular section on a section scoring game.

section scoring Unlike in-line scoring, section scoring determined winners by balls being in the same colored pattern on the card, and most importantly, the numbers did not need to be adjacent to win.

See magic screen for a picture.

select-a-feature At sometime during the game, the player would choose whether to enabled a super card, a super line or some other game feature.
select-a-score booster A score booster, but you get to decide sometime during the game which color you want the boost to apply to.
select-a-spot A big knob on the coin door could be turned to choose spotted numbers on the bingo card.

Usually the knob was disabled before the 3rd, 4th, or 5th balls was shot.

On a couple of late six card games, the knob was removed and buttons on the foot rail could be pressed to pick one of the six cards to have it's center number spotted.

six-card The game type has 6 5x5 bingo cards on the backglass.

Most games enable one card per coin/credit guaranteed, but a few enable the additional cards on mystery intervals.

Individual numbers light on all enabled cards at the same time, and wins on each card were scored separately, although only the highest winner on each card counted (i.e. if you had two 3-in-line winners on the same card, you got paid for only one. If you had a 3-in-line and a 4-in-line on the same card, you got paid the 4-in-line amount).

To encourage maximum coins to be played, the payouts generally increased for successive cards. The max payout for a game is usually only obtainable on card #6.

skill shot A game within the game. You needed to shoot the first ball into the number (or numbers) lit on the skill shot display on the backglass.

If you succeed, you immediately get paid an award that was independent of the normal game scores.

special game A game within a game that appeared on mystic line machines.

This game was completely independent from the normal bingo card scoring, and appeared to be intended for people who found the regular bingo play too complex.

The initial style of play was alternating even/odd holes. You need to make an even numbered hole on the first ball, odd on the second, etc. If you succeed on the third ball, you can stop and take the payout, or you can go double-or-nothing on the fourth. Succeed again, and you can stop or go for double-or-nothing on the fifth ball.

spell name Many United games had this feature. The letters in the game name would light up as special playfield holes or rollover buttons were hit. When some/all of the game name was lit, a bonus was awarded. In some machines, the lit letters would hold over from game-to-game.
spot numbers Spotting is the lighting of a number when a ball is not in the corresponding numbered hole.

spottem usually refers to free numbers lit before the first ball is shot, and is a feature awarded on mystery intervals.

Interesting language can be heard when people make a ball in a hole that has been spotted, effectively wasting the ball!

spottem See spot numbers.
star numbers Some numbers on the backglass, usually four, are outline with a star.

Lighting all star numbers pays a big fixed award or one of the color 5-in-line amounts.

stop and shop score booster At some point in the game after shooting two or three balls, you can deposit more coins/credits to try in increase the odds/scores.
sunny circles Appeared only on Bonus 7. Three numbers on on the card have sunbursts drawn around them. If you get two or three of the numbers lit, the next game will have the special game at maxmimum payout.

This was the only machine that had any connection between the main game and the special game. It's also the hardest special game to win.

super cards The normal bingo card was 25 numbers in a 5x5 grid.

A supercard was a smaller 3x3 card on the backglass in addition to the main card, and usually 3-in-line on a supercard paid 4-in-line scores.

On some games, corners scoring also applied to the super cards.

super line A horizontal or vertical line of numbers on the card that pays more than the normal 3,4, or 5-in-line payouts.

On a couple of games, the super line was separate from the main card, and was a row of six numbers. You would use a knob on the front of the game to select three adjacent numbers within the line. You then got paid if you lit two are more adjacent numbers in the set of three that you selected. The payout was usually 2-in-superline scores as 4-in-line, and all 3-in-superline scores as 5-in-line.

super-section section scoring combined with score boosting.

Certain color sections on the magic screen, usually marked with thin black lines, would score boost.

Two numbers lit in this section would pay like three, three pay like four, etc.

super/double/triple/quadruple scores Odds multiplier awarded at mystery intervals or sometimes by rollover buttons.

The multiplier effect may work on all wins, or wins only on colored lines.

three-card This type of game has three 5x5 bingo cards on the backglass.

Some games enable one card per coin/credit guaranteed, others enable the additional cards on mystery intervals.

triple deck advancing odds/scores Early bingos sometimes used the idea of colored lines and had score booster features tied to the colors.

Starting with Big Show, bally standardized the in-line scoring games to have red, yellow, and green lines.

Triple deck odds made the payout for 3,4, or 5-in-line depend on the colored line the win was in. For example, 3-in-line in red might pay 8, but three-in-line in green could pay 64.

This really introduced a whole new level of gambling to the game. Do you take a guaranteed 3-in-line winner in red and get paid 8, or do you rearrange the numbers and go for a 3 in line in green that pays 64?

The ability to move the numbers around via features like magic squares and magic lines added further strategy to the game play, and reduced the luck factor.

twin numbers Two numbers get lit when you make either of them.
two-card Two 5x5 cards are the primary scoring cards on the backglass.

A common feature on this type of game was to have horizontal magic lines spanning the two cards such that numbers could be shifted from one card to the other.

unknown/other ok, here's the catch-all category, and it covers games that I don't know or they are oddball!
wheel A short-lived game type first introduced with Big Wheel, only two games of this type were made.

The numbers are arranged in a circle, and a spinning disk inside the circle can be rotated to put the numbers into colored sections.

Since your couldn't actually move the numbers, just what color they were in, the game is not the easiest to win.

wild pockets An improved select-a-spot. Certain holes on the playfield are wild. If you make one of these holes, you can use a knob on the front door to light a different number.

It is possible to light any of the 25 numbers with the knob, but to make it harder, the 25 numbers are divided into two color groups.

Making hole 1-3 will allow you to pick a number in one color group, making 4-7 the other color group. If you have both color groups enabled, then potting a ball in any hole #1-#7 will allow you to spot a number in either color group