Is it possible to cheat at bingo?


The other day, there was a big story out of New Jersey about cheating at the Borgata Winter Open, a $2 million poker tournament in Atlantic City. In case you missed it, here’s what happened.

The tournament, which saw over 4,000 players enter the tournament, played as normal, all the way down to 27 players. Those who finished in the money cashed out and got paid their winnings as normal.

And then the unthinkable happened. The tournament director noticed that there were counterfeit chips in play. Fake casino chips. Good enough to go unnoticed for a good chunk of play. But bad enough to eventually be spotted.

The casino suspended the tournament. The 27 players remaining won’t be receiving their money until the tournament investigation wraps. And we have no idea what’s going to happen to the players who got paid out.

Cheating happens in poker tournaments, usually low-scale ones. In live events, two players who know each other could collude to fold and raise when it’s convenient, or secretly tell each other what they’re holding.

It’s easy to cheat at Roulette by adding chips to a number when the ball lands, assuming you can do it quickly enough while the dealer isn’t looking. Of course, if you’re caught, you’ll get kicked out of the casino and might see your legs broken, depending on where you play. This may not be the case at a Bingo Hall.

Cheating happens a lot. But does it ever happen in a bingo hall? Has a player every cheated at bingo and actually gotten away with it?

Believe it or not, it happened. Back in 2002, a Reno software engineer by the name of Brett Keeton was being investigated by the feds for allegedly rigging electronic bingo machines in Nevada casinos. He had programmed them to hand him extra cards. By only paying $5 or $20 for a single session, Keeton was able to play multiple cards and potentially win without paying.

With the feds hot on his heels, Keeton ended up killing himself, jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Ouch.

Not exactly a happy story, is it? Thankfully, that’s the only real miserable bingo-cheating story we’ve heard about. That’s because cheating at bingo doesn’t really happen that often. Aside from electronic manipulation in favor of a player who happened to work for the creator of the bingo software company, bingo is a pretty tightly guarded game.

For cheating to occur in a bingo hall, a player would have to have inside knowledge of the hall, and they’d likely have to work hand in hand with the bingo caller to fix the game. Fake cards would need to be made, and the balls would need to be weighted and called to help fill up those cards.

We haven’t heard about any of that happening, which means one of three things—it’s not happening because it’s just not possible, it is happening and people are getting away with it, or it’s possible but no one’s thought about it yet.

We’re hoping it’s the first. And if it’s the third, we apologize for giving cheaters the idea. Maybe this wasn’t such a great topic after all.