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Lotería Mexicana is a game of chance (bingo variant) that uses richly decorated playing cards instead of bingo balls.

The game consists of:

  • 54 playing cards each with a different image, number and card name;
  • One or more tablas (the equivalent of bingo tickets) for each player; and
  • Pinto beans for marking (daubing) the tablas.

The tablas have 16 images from the card deck arranged in a 4x4 grid.

The object of the game is to be the first to complete the specified pattern announced at the beginning of the game. This is accomplished when the images that form the pattern on a player's game board(s) are drawn by the caller and marked with pinto beans.

Traditional patterns include:

  • Coverall / blackout (all 16 images / spots)
  • Horizontal line
  • Vertical line
  • Diagional line
  • Four corners
  • Four in the middle

Before the start of each game, players choose their tablas. The game then starts with the cantor randomly drawing a card and announcing the card's name or associated riddle. If the card's image appears on a player's game board(s), the player marks the image on each game board with a pinto bean. This is repeated until the first player to complete the desired pattern shouts "Lotería!" or "buenas!"

Like bingo, Lotería Mexicana can be played for fun or for money (often at fairs). When played for money, the premio is based on the funds collected from the purchase of tablas; it is awarded to the first person to successfully complete a pattern. In the case of multiple winners, it the pool is split evenly.

The Lotería board game originated in Italy in the 1400s and was brought to New Spain (Mexico) in 1769 where, for a time, it was played almost exclusively by the colonial upper classes.

During the Mexican War of Independence (1810 - 1821), it became a common pastime with the soldiers and, as they returned home after the war, the game's popularity spread to all of Mexico. Eventually Lotería became an essential part of travelling Mexican ferias where it was often played for money on painted wooden tablas. This tradition continues to this day; since the late 1800s, Lotería has been played extensively by Mexican families in their homes.