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Five lotería boards arranged in a fan
Lotería boards
Other namesMexican bingo,[1] Chalupa
Random chanceHigh
Materials requiredcards

Lotería (Spanish word meaning "lottery") is a traditional game of chance, similar to bingo, but using images on a deck of cards instead of numbered ping pong balls. Every image has a name and an assigned number, but the number is usually ignored. Each player has at least one tabla, a board with a randomly created 4 x 4 grid of pictures with their corresponding name and number. Players choose a tabla (Spanish word for "board") to play with, from a variety of previously created tablas, each with a different selection of images.

The traditional Lotería card deck is composed of a set of 54 different cards, each with a different picture. To start the game, the caller (cantor , Spanish for "singer") shuffles the deck. One by one, the caller picks a card from the deck and announces it to the players by its name, sometimes using a verse before reading the card name. Each player locates the matching pictogram of the card just announced on their board and marks it off with a chip or other kind of marker. In Mexico, it is traditional to use small rocks, crown corks or pinto beans as markers. The winner is the first player that shouts "¡Buena!" or "¡Lotería!" right after completing a tabla or a previous agreed pattern: row, column, diagonal, or a pozo.


Lotería game based on cacao being played at the Universum museum in Mexico City
Set up of a lotería game at the Museo de Culturas Populares in Toluca
Animation showing traditional ways to win

The origin of lotería can be traced far back in history. The game originated in Italy in the 15th century and was brought to New Spain (modern Mexico) in 1769. In the beginning, lotería was a hobby of the upper classes,[1] but eventually it became a tradition at Mexican fairs.

Don Clemente Jacques began publishing the game in 1887.[1] His version of the game was distributed to Mexican soldiers along with their rations and supplies.[2]

The images Don Clemente used in his card designs have become iconic in Mexican culture, as well as gaining popularity in the U.S. and some European countries. Don Clemente's cards also had a part in representing and normalizing different aspects of Mexico's national identity during the 19th century. This can be seen with the card of El Soldado (Spanish for "the soldier") which was used as a symbol to reference war as a part of Mexico's national identity during that time.[3] Many of the pictures used in Don Clemente's lotería resemble the Major Arcana of Tarot cards used for divination (which, in turn, are based on cards used in Tarot card games).[2] Other popular lotería sets are Lotería Leo, Gacela and Lotería de mi tierra.

Alternative versions[edit]

Lotería de Pozo is a variant version of the traditional Mexican Lotería, where the basic rules apply. For this version, before the game begins, players agree on how many pozos are to be completed in a row, column or diagonal pattern. A pozo is a group of images in a square. The square may contain 2 x 2 (4) or 3 x 3 (9) images[4] for a traditional tabla.

During the 1930s, the Roman Catholic church came up with its own version of la lotería, most likely because of the connections between Don Clemente's popular images and Tarot cards; divination and fortune-telling are prohibited by Catholic doctrine.[5] This alternative lotería deck consisted of Catholic images instead of the traditional images used in the original game, likely allowing devout Catholics a way to enjoy the game without those "sinful" connotations and giving the Church a way to teach its beliefs by way of the lotería.[1]

With the rise of online gaming and app-based gaming, electronic versions such as the Loteria online game allow computer users to play an online version of the Lotería Mexicana.[6]

Cards and associated verses[edit]

Catrina in Chapala, Jalisco with dress of lotería cards

The following is a list of the original 54 lotería cards, traditionally and broadly recognized in Mexico. Below each card name and number, are the verses (in Spanish) sometimes used to tell the players which card was drawn. However, there are several less traditional sets of cards, depicting different objects or animals.

Google tribute[edit]

On December 9, 2019, Google celebrated Lotería with a Google Doodle.[7] The interactive game has the El Apache, El borracho, El diablito, El gorrito, La muerte, El negrito, El soldado, and El valiente cards replaced with El ajolote ("the axolotl"), El buscador ("the search engine"), La concha ("the conch"), El elote ("the fresh ear of corn"), El emoji ("the emoji"), El gorro ("the cap"), El guacamole ("the guacamole"), and El xoloitzcuintle ("the hairless dog").[7] Artworks for La sirena and El guacamole cards not found during the game can still be seen in the background of the end screen.

Film adaptation[edit]

In July 2021, Netflix announced a film adaptation based around the game with James Bobin set to direct and Eugenio Derbez in a leading role.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Villegas, Teresa. "History of La Lotería" Archived 2017-01-16 at the Wayback Machine, www.teresavillegas.com
  2. ^ a b "Lotería Cards". Tarot Heritage. 2014-10-01. Retrieved 2021-04-21.
  3. ^ Albarrán, Elena Jackson (January 2005). "Guerrilla Warplay: The Infantilization of War in Latin American Popular Culture". Studies in Latin American Popular Culture. 24: 69–81 – via EBSCOhost.
  4. ^ "Lotería de Pozo". www.maravillasoftware.com. Archived from the original on 2018-11-17. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  5. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Divination and Magic," ¶ 2115-2116. Retrieved 21 April 2021 from https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c1a1.htm.
  6. ^ "How the Loteria Mexicana / Mexican Bingo became an online game?". Maravilla Software. Archived from the original on 2019-06-13. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
  7. ^ a b "Celebrating Lotería!". Google. 9 December 2019. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  8. ^ Malkin, Mark (July 15, 2021). "Eugenio Derbez to Star in Netflix Family Film Inspired by Lotería Card Game". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]