Bingo bango! JCMI Monday night bingo opens season with record turnout

Monday night bingo resumed at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island on Winterberry Drive, drawing a record opening night crowd. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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Monday night bingo resumed at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island on Winterberry Drive, drawing a record opening night crowd. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— Along with the car-carrier semis seen unloading vehicles around the island, another sure sign that season is approaching is the return of Monday night bingo at the Jewish Congregation of Marco Island.

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the bingo sharks came back to the JCMI on Monday, in such numbers that kitchen boss Bernie Seidman had to make an emergency run for more hotdog buns. Supper is the first order of business on bingo nights, with hotdogs kosher of course sauerkraut, chips, and pickles, followed at intermission by cake and cookies along with coffee.

“This is a much larger turnout than we expected,” said Seidman, embarrassed at being caught short, although everyone did get their dog before the first game was called. “We always order more than we need. We look forward to tonight from the time we close up in May.”

Players numbered 170 with more still coming, shattering the previous opening night crowd of 132, said JCMI bingo co-chair Sue Baum. The evening kicked off the 15th season for bingo at the synagogue on Winterberry Drive, and Baum has records going back to the beginning.

“We’re approaching 63,000 players,” she said, displaying a spreadsheet with years of tallies, but declined to say how much they have taken in. Proceeds from Monday night bingo go to support the temple’s general operations.

In celebration of 15 years, two watches were awarded to lucky players, along with the traditional cash prizes. Each game paid $40 to $50, although simultaneous winners split the pot. The evening’s final game, Bonanza, paid more, and any player who hit bingo on the “hot ball,” which was B-1 on Monday night, won an immediate $250.

Prior to beginning the first game, volunteer Miriam Slavich welcomed the guests, and thanked her fellow volunteers, conspicuous in their yellow aprons. She also cautioned that, in accordance with Florida state law, all players must be at least 18 years of age. Looking around the room, that did not appear to be much of a problem.

The room was filled with a buzz of conversation as people caught up with old friends and greeted new ones, but when the games began, the sound was cut off as if by a knife, and the bingo players got down to the serious business of filling out their cards. They intently scanned their multiple cards, filling in numbers as they were called, using their “dabbers,” oversized markers in day-glo colors.

Each game required a different pattern, a simple line of five hits, an ‘X’ shape, or perhaps a block of nine numbers in a square. Players called out “bingo!” when they won, although not with the volume and enthusiasm you might expect. A volunteer would immediately go and verify the win, and pay out on the spot. Sometimes the call was a false alarm, and play resumed.

Bingo is the most popular game in the country, said player Larry Purvis, who is also a longtime Spammy Jammy judge, referencing a story from the Wall Street Journal. Clearly, it’s popular on Marco Island, and will continue every Monday night into next May. For more information, call the JCMI office at 642-0800.

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