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A game of odds

by Greg Schmidt

What are the odds?  

The call was made. “O 71.” And not one…or two…but six Kalb Villa Bingo players all yelled in unison… “Bingo!”  

Maybe that sounds normal. But here’s the rest of the story.  

There were only six players and they all had a different Bingo card.  

The game being played was “Blackout” and “O 71” was the only call remaining. In other words, 74 calls had been made for six players with six different cards and Blackout went down to the very last call of the day.  

Again, what are the odds?  

I had a couple of mathematical sleuthers (sleuths that tell the truth) help me try to determine those odds. After a half an hour of wrestling with multiple points of discussion, we determined that it was virtually impossible for it to have happen, like one in one septillion (a thousand raised to the eight power).

Was it a complete fluke? Here’s what we considered:

There are 75 numbers that can be called at every game of Bingo and in our game, every participant had a different card (meaning, no two cards were exactly the same). Because we were playing “Blackout,” all of the numbers under the “B”, “I”, “N” and “G” had been eliminated (negating the fact that someone who was hard of hearing might have missed a call). The caller was using an app-based program on his phone to determine the next draw/call—therefore, the numbers that were called were both random and uncontrollable to the human touch or manipulation. The single “unknown” factor was how many variations of cards were printed by the company who manufactured them.

In the aftermath, two things happened.  

First, everyone won a large candy bar or their choice of six small bars.  

Second, the caller emailed the mathematics departments of Harvard and Yale to see if they would weigh in on the “What are the odds?” discussion.  

They haven’t—yet. Perhaps their whiz kids, brainiacs and computers cannot count that high?

If you live within driving distance of Newton Presbyterian Manor and are available at 2 p.m. on Fridays, drop in for a game. Maybe you’ll become an astronomical-odds Bingo player too!

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