Fundamentally a game of chance, bingo can be won more often by a player who pays close attention to the calls and reacts quickly. Bill Freeman, below left, marks his card with a dauber—and lightning quick speed.
win,” Thomas says. The sisters have been playing together off and on for more than 20 years. Barbara is convinced that the two children have learned their letters and numbers quickly and easily thanks to years of bingo. “It’s a great asset,” Barbara says. Each child gets a dauber (similar to a marker) and a bingo board. The numbers are called rather quickly, so the children must keep up in order to win. “Right now he’s not even doing preschool math. They have to give him something else to do, like kindergarten [math],” Vicki says of her grandson. Bingo reached North America in the late 1920s and was called “beano.” A woman playing the game mistakenly yelled out “Bingo!” after she won. From that point on, it’s been referred to as bingo. Topekans have been playing it at Hayden for nearly 32 years. These games bring in around $100,000 for the school each year. Hayden’s bingo manager, Gary Walker, says it’s usually a pretty low-key crowd, but people do take their game seriously. “It’s funny the little things that irritate people,” explains Gary. “Other bingo players watch, and there are certain rules that you have to play by on certain specials. And if someone’s not doing something right, they’ll let us know about it right away.” On average, people spend $15 per night for their cards. They can win anywhere from $50 to $1,000. Walker says it’s a good way for people
to win a little money and have some fun. “It’s a chance for people to be together as a family.” Mary Ann Grant and her two daughters, Teri Grant-Warner and Mary Beth Grant, have been playing at Hayden for at least 25 years. They play about six cards at a time. It’s a lot of cards to play all at once, but manageable for seasoned players. That is, if you have the right caller. “He’s a fast caller,” Mary Beth says. That’s when the night can turn stressful. “He’s too fast,” Mary Ann echoes. If you need to go to the bathroom, you can just forget about it. “You just wait,” Teri says. The Grants have seen their fair share of wins and losses. “Sometimes you don’t win in six months, and other times you can win every week,” Teri notes. They’re convinced the bingo angel pin they bring each week helps them stay on the winning track. Most bingo players are rather superstitious. “Sometimes I have vibes that I’ll win,” Barbara says. But if she’s not feeling the vibe, she always has her lucky troll, although she keeps it hidden. “It’s in the bag,” she reveals with a laugh. Vicki trusts in the color green. She wears a green shirt, paints her fingernails green and uses a green dauber. She believes because it’s the color of money, it gives her the extra edge. The die-hard bingo players hop from place to place in the city to get their fix throughout the week. There are enough bingo events that a dedicated player can play nearly every night of the week. Barbara presses her luck four or five times a week. “It’s kinda-sorta addictive,” she says with a smile. Other players try to rein it in a bit. Corey Everett comes with her 9-yearold son Walker and her sister Catie Walker. They only play twice a week. Otherwise, bingo becomes too intense for them. “I don’t know if it’s relaxing. It’s kinda stressful,” Catie says. There’s little doubt what keeps these players coming back for more. “The money, and the excitement of being able to yell, ‘Bingo!’” Mary Beth says with determination.
TOPEKAMAGAZINE Spring 2009