Chicken S*** Bingo
Little Longhorn Saloon knows the key to a Texan’s heart: A little fowl play
I’m an Austin, Texas native, but have spent the past two years shivering in Boston, Massachusetts. What better way to recalibrate myself to Austin living than to dive into something home-grown, a little gritty, and very weird? I racked my brain for the perfect homecoming venue, when suddenly it hit me: The Little Longhorn Saloon. This establishment is legendary for its singularly mystifying spectacle: Chicken Shit Bingo. Offered only on Sunday nights, it’s a rite of passage for Austinites. Somehow I hadn’t yet gone, and now it was my time to shine.
For the uninitiated, Chicken Shit Bingo could perhaps be more accurately described as “Texas roulette” (not to be confused with Roulette poker, a variant of Texas Hold ‘Em). It’s essentially a single, sudden-death round of bingo, as the chicken is only allowed one shit per game. The rules are simple. Instead of paying to sit down with a blank bingo card, players begin each round by purchasing carnival-style tickets, each individually marked with a number that appears on the big CSB board. You win if the chicken detritus plops onto the number on the board that corresponds to the one on your ticket. The good news is that this is a cheap thrill: $5 per golden ticket, for the grand prize of $300, and $2 per regular ticket, which could win you a whimsically arbitrary $114. The bad news is that the golden tickets sell like hotcakes; get in line quickly to nab one before they’re gone. Once the chicken has made its mark, the winners are announced over the loudspeaker and gather outside the front door to collect prize money and take photos.
While bingo technically takes place outside the saloon itself (in a back parking lot accessible from the street), it’s worth taking the scenic route through the bar. I entered through the front door onto a tiny yet boisterous dance floor packed with erstwhile rodeo kings and queens two-stepping to a live country band. As its website promises, Little Longhorn Saloon is pure Texas honky-tonk: neon beer signs, no-nonsense, boot-clad bartenders, and cold beers by the bucket. I ignored the designated White Claw fridge, ordered a Lone Star and a mini bag of Doritos (when in Rome), and wove through a throng of cowboy hat-clad revelers to the main event out back.
The saloon itself is compact, but the Chicken Shit Bingo area provides much-needed spillover room. This Sunday happened to be particularly festive: the parking lot brimmed with young, old, and canine companions alike. I got major Fourth of July vibes from the sprawl of slightly sunburned guests sitting in buckling plastic lawn chairs or on patterned picnic blankets spread out on the asphalt. There was even a pair of glossy hot rods parked in one corner that would occasionally erupt into growling engine sounds to complement the live blues blaring from the outdoor speakers. The scene was extremely chicken-forward: not only could I peek into the hens’ primary residence (a coop tucked in the back of the parking lot), I detected the heady aroma of fried drumsticks wafting on the breeze from Lucy’s, a fried chicken joint cannily located some 200 meters down the street.
After I spent a few minutes outside letting the beer soak in while contemplating the ridiculousness of this event with some other patrons, a woman named Libby called everyone into line to buy tickets. In my lager-induced sloth, I brought up the end of the line--no jackpot chances for me. With two regular tickets in hand, I squeezed my way to a spot within view of the bingo board, a wire-bound hutch structure complete with a wood floor carved into a numbered grid. A ripple of excitement ran through the crowd as it parted to make way for Loretta the Bingo Chicken. Some onlookers gave her good-luck pats before the Bingo Official, Ricky, scooted her inside the coop/board. Those with front-row positions frantically urged Loretta to defecate “a little to the left!” Within seconds, she had made her choice: neither of my numbers. A cry rang out from a victor as the rest of the crowd muttered, “I thought it would last longer…?” I’ve heard tell of Chicken Shit Bingo rounds lasting tens of minutes. Alas, that was not our fate tonight. But that’s showbiz.
Ultimately, this was $4 well-spent. To quote a fellow gambler, Chicken Shit Bingo is truly “the stupidest thing I’ve ever witnessed,” though undeniably delightful. I feel like a true Texan again after taking part in one of its peculiar traditions. Be sure to show catch a round for yourself on Sundays between 4 and 8 PM, and don’t forget to tip the band!
You can find more about Chicken Shit Bingo at The Little Longhorn Saloon by visiting https://thelittlelonghornsaloon.com.