As a native Sudburian, I was embarrassed that I had to put out a request on Facebook to research where to find Porketta Bingo on the weekends here in the City.
It seemed that I may have been the only person in my social circle who hadn't had a chance to scream “Porketta!” on a Saturday afternoon. I was comforted, however, to find a few close friends and family members - who were also closeted Bingo novices - that I could wrangle to join me for a few games.
It seems that the love for the game of Porketta Bingo, which started at the Beef’n’Bird Tavern on Lorne Street many years ago, has now snowballed into a weekend Sudbury Saturday staple for not only local regular bar patrons but the college and university crowds as well.
Like its name suggests, it is literally a bingo game for porketta. This means that you win a portion of the locally infamous spiced pork roast to consume while you continue playing or you can opt to package it up to take home.
Local charities, like The United Way, have also learned that setting up a weeknight or weekend Bingo fundraiser can draw big crowds and big dollars to help those in need.
“Porketta bingo is a fun way to raise dollars for charity. Our GenNext volunteers love these events - they can come with their friends, have a great time and raise money for the community at the same time! United Way uses these proceeds to provide funding for local programming.”, says Linda Dupuis, Community Initiatives Manager for The United Way/Centraide Sudbury/Nipissing Districts.
Most pubs and bars throughout the City of Greater Sudbury either host their own regular games for charity or are chosen occasionally as venues for local non-profit events.
On some fall weekends, there are easily 10 games happening each Saturday afternoon and even a handful on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons.
I was lucky to get one-on-one coaching from a few regulars over the last few weeks. Everyone was eager to offer their tips on choosing cards, which ones were “lucky” and the best places to sit.
Here are the basic and easy-to-follow instructions that will get a first-time player eased into their first Porketta Bingo game.
1. Each “strip” is a laminated strip of 3 random playing cards - including the Joker.
2. Prices per “strip” vary throughout the City or charity event but are usually $2.00 each or 3 strips for $5.00 and can allow someone to play a “round” of games (which can range from 5 to 7 games).
3. An afternoon of “rounds” can last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. Players can opt in or out at any time.
4. A Bingo caller shuffles a separate deck of cards and calls out one card at random (similar to a traditional bingo game) and players mark the called card on their own strip using either plastic markers, beer caps or any marker of their choice. (I spotted a few locals with some interesting homemade markers.)
5. When all three cards in a strip have been called, the player yells “Porketta!”, their cards are checked for accuracy and if correct, they are named the winner of that game.
6. Winners are given a ticket to redeem for a hot porketta sandwich, a wrapped portion of porketta to take home or, in some locations, other pre-packaged meats and cheeses.
7. After each round of games, players can pay for another round with the organizers and at that time, can switch a strip for another, if available, to hopefully better their chances for the next round.
The rules sound easy enough, but the cards are called quickly and with the large crowds, chatter and excitement, it can be easy to yell “Bingo!” in error or hear a called card incorrectly.
Be warned! The local crowds are happy to loudly tease and holler at anyone who breaks from the rules, so it is wise to sit close to the caller and pay attention.
For some venues, though, to get a seat close to the caller - or to get a seat at all - requires a very early arrival. The Beef’n’Bird’s Saturday games start at 3pm and I have heard that players arrive when the bar opens at 11am to get their chosen seat, enjoy a leisurely lunch and choose their strips before anyone else.
I made sure to arrive early at each of the last few games I attended. I carefully chose my cards based on all of the tips I received and I paid close attention to the caller.
I didn’t win a thing. But I will be back to redeem myself one day soon.
It is fun. It is feisty. It is loud. And it is for meat.
Only in Sudbury.