Sunday, March 23, 2008

Game of 'Housie' in Goa

Housie variations I am currently researching the origins, variations and spread of 'housie' and 'housie playing' in Goa. Below are some of my initial background findings, and a request for trivia on Housie in Goa, particularly Housie conduced in Konkani.

Variously called Housie, Lotto, Bingo or Tambola the game is the same with variations in prizes. In Goa normally it is 'jaldi five', 'any horizontal line', 'sandwich' and 'full house'.

A variation called 'any vertical line' was tried for a while in Moira but never really caught on.

Starting my research in Benaulim I was told by an old timer that 'housie' was named after its inventor Lord DalHOUSIE who made up this game for Indian the army in order to curb the after effects of the Sepoy Mutiny.
Obviously this is untrue as Lord Dalhousie left India in 1856 while the Sepoy Mutiny was in 1857. Lord Dalhousie encouraged the inclusion of Gorkhas to the Indian Army; not housie! That much for Benaulim.

There are many theories about the origins of Bingo. The one below seems most accepted.



The roots of the modern game of Bingo can be traced as far back as the 16th Century to the unification of Italy in 1530. The "Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia" was the first state run lottery which proved immensely popular with both the people and the government itself (not least because of the revenue it generates for the state coffers) and has remained en vogue to this day! If Bingo is to be seen as a lottery, then this is the first documented case of it being played on a large scale.

Perhaps, closer to the game we see today is the French lottery, Le Lotto which derived from the Italian lottery. Reportedly popular during the late 18th century with wealthy Frenchmen, this game of chance involved a caller drawing out wooden discs numbered 1 to 90 from a bag and shouting them out to the game players. Each player had just one single card divided into 3
rows and 9 columns with numbers organised in much the same way as a modern bingo card. Column 1 had random numbers between 1 and 10, Column 2 between 11 and 20 and so on up to 81-90 on the last column. In addition, every Row had just 5 numbers and 4 blanks. The winner would be the first person to cover the numbers on an entire row.

Later versions of Le Lotto appeared in Germany, where instead of being used as a gambling game, they were instead used for educational purposes for example to teach children their times tables. Today, similar games can still be found on the market, although naturally as far removed from the original purpose as possible...

The first real push into the English speaking world came in the late 1920's when a hard up New York toy salesman by the name of Edwin S. Lowe stumbled across a carnival game in Georgia. The game of Beano, as the booth-owner called it, involved a caller drawing numbered wooded discs from a bag and shouting them out to the waiting players. Each player had a game card with
numbered squares and some dried beans. Every time a number was called out which was on their card, they would mark it with a bean. The first player to have a straight line of beans, either in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal direction was declared the winner. Such was the popularity of this game that try as he might, Lowe didn't get to play that night but the idea was formed.

Rushing back to New York he invited friends over to his apartment to play this new game. They became immediately hooked and at one point, so excited was one female member of the party, that instead of shouting out "Beano!" to signify she had won, she yelled "Bingo!" instead. The name stuck and Lowe went on to create the first commercialised version of the game,
retailing at $1 for a 12 card set and $2 for a 24 cards.

Bingo found it's way out of the family room and onto a grand scale thanks to the fund-raising efforts of a priest from Pennsylvania. The priest had seen a great opportunity to raise money for his church by holding bingo gaming events but had ran into an unfortunate problem. The game cards would produce tens of winners each game instead of the desired one or two,
because they had never been designed to be played en-masse. The subsequent quest to find 6000 cards with 6000 different number combinations (in the pre-computer age!) took many months and reputedly drove the university professor charged with the task quite insane. Literally.

By 1934 it was estimated more than 10,000 bingo games were being played a week and today, the national game grosses over $90 million a week in America alone.



Joseph E. Granville, creator of successful stock market strategies used by thousands, has directed the enormous power of his analytical mind to the game of Bingo. After years of painstaking research, he has developed proven strategies that give you a clear competitive edge so that you can actually
beat your luck at Bingo by choosing your cards carefully.

Read about it at:


An interesting editorial featuring Tambola is at


The conductor of the game picks up one number at a time and calls it one by one using many metaphors. One discovers delightful little details like the contours of the body, hidden messages, historical dates of important events etc. For instance while calling number 14 he would add "Unkissed". Sixteen
is whistling time, 18 marriageable age, 33 lovely lips, 36 vital statistics, 47 independence 58 retirement, 88 two fat Majors, 89 nearer to Heaven, seven James Bond and two is Kaala Dhan. Some TV, shows have become so popular that a few new additions have been made like two is Tulsi, nine Crorepati Time and so on.
== Unquote.


Now in Goa 'housie' is normally conducted in English. We all know the standard phrases used to identify numbers, "two fat ladies" (88), "please teacher, number" (1), "lucky for some unlucky for others" (13) . Hindi and Konkani phrases and puns are sometimes used: "ulta sulta" (69), "Goan's favourite" (43).

When Housie is conducted in Konkani the announcer normally just says the digits followed by the number (eg "Vis ani Panch, Ponch Vis"). My studies show that very rarely are there equivalent Konkani phrases for Housie number calling. Apparently in the late eighties when Housie was conducted in Konkani near the chapel in Naikwaddo, Aldona, there was an announcer who used to make the most amusing jokes, rhymes and puns while calling out the numbers.

If anybody knows more about how Housie numbers are/were announced in Konkani please get in touch with me. Also any local trivia regarding Housie would be most welcome for my studies.


Cecil Pinto
Jul 8, 2004

Expressions - The Flower Shop (Goa)

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