Tombola, the Forerunner of 90 Ball Bingo

The game of Tombola bears a strong resemblance to the 90 ball bingo games played in Europe and the UK. Tombola is a time honored holiday tradition in Italy and British sailors introduced the game to Great Britain sometime during the last half of the 19th century.  In most Italian households Tombola is a holiday activity that is enjoyed by the whole family. Grandparents, Parents and children gather around to enjoy Tombola games at Christmas time. Generally tombola is an after dinner game but can be played anytime. Although tombola bears a strong resemblance to bingo the game uses a system of numbers and images that is exclusively Italian. Most modern tombola sets come with plastic playing cards and pieces for marking each square. In the past the game cards were handmade out of cardboard and orange peels or beans were used to mark the cards.


Tombola Basics

Tombola cards, called cartelle, have a random selection of fifteen numbered square placed among blank squares. The price for each card is determined by the players in home based tombola games and the money is used for the prize pool. Depending on the size of the group playing there may be as many as five prizes awarded from the prize pool. One card is called the cartellone and the player who purchases that card is the master of ceremonies. The player with the cartellone has the responsibility of picking numbered game pieces, or tombolini, out of a bag and reading the numbers to the other players. In addition they are also responsible for settling disputes among players. The function is similar to and online bingo game caller and chat leader combined.


Evolution of Tombola

Players mark their cards and there are several ways to win. The first player to mark two numbers calls “ambo” and wins the smallest prize. The players with three numbers calls “terno,” and the player that has marked four numbers calls “quaterna,” and so on. The first player to mark all of the numbers wins the grand prize or tombola. The game can vary from region to region but the basic concept remains the same. Like UK bingo the game has developed its own language similar to the ‘bingo lingo’ used at internet bingo sites and bingo halls.

Some historians believe that 90 ball bingo evolved from the traditional tombola game. Today 90 ball bingo is popular at most UK based internet bingo sites. Given the popularity of tombola it is no surprise that internet bingo has been so successful in Italy.