How To Play Bunco Like A Pro: The Official Rules

How To Play Bunco Like A Pro: The Official Rules

We want to teach you how to play Bunco, because…well…everyone should know how to play this simple, engaging game. When you're tired of strategy marathons, fed up with super-competitive trivia games, and you just want to play a cool game that allows you to enjoy your friends and family, Bunco is just the ticket. It's a fast-paced, easy-to-learn game for the whole family - or the whole team.

Here at presscave.com, we want to provide you with the very best information to help you get the most out of life. We're sure that you'll enjoy teaching your friends and family how to play Bunco.

What Is Bunco?

Three red dices on black background

Image source: Pixabay

Bunco is a dice game that you can play with as few as two players, but typically includes 12 players divided into three “tables” or groups of four. Players can be any age, as long as they are old (or young) enough to recognize the number of pips on the faces of dice. In short, anyone can learn how to play Bunco. This makes the game a perfect choice for larger family gatherings where both the youngest and oldest family members can easily play along.

Even if you have never learned how to play Bunco, you may be familiar with its name. It had its beginnings in 19th century England where it had a shady reputation as a con game. By the mid-19th century, it was being played as a gambling game in San Francisco, in gambling rooms that were known as “Bunco parlors.”

By the turn of the 20th century, Bunco had evolved into a more respectable parlor game, though it was still also popular as a gambling game in the speakeasies during Prohibition in the 1920s. You may have heard of the raids on speakeasies by police, known as “Bunco squads.”

More recently, Bunco has resurfaced as a popular family game and as an entertaining game to spark interest in fundraisers for various charities. You can purchase a boxed set of dice and scorecards, or you can use your own dice and make your own scoring sheets.

The game is entirely a game of luck; that is, the players don't make any decisions in gameplay. They simply roll the dice and count up points. This makes it a fast-moving, entertaining game that anyone can play and which allows players to converse while they play. And it's easy to cheer or commiserate with other players' good or bad rolls, even if they are on the other team.

People still like to place wagers on the game if it's appropriate for the group that is playing. Sometimes a Bunco game is used as a feature for a fundraising event, where donors pay for a place in a game. Sometimes private parties require an ante to enter the game, and the funds are used to purchase prizes for the winners.

Game Setup

Three black dices

Image source: Pixabay

In a traditional 12-player game, the players are divided up into three groups of four, and each group is called a table. At each table, the players seated across from one another will form a team. Once you learn how to play Bunco, you can create your own variations of teams and tables that best suit your group.

One table should be designated as the Head Table. This is important because play at the Head Table determines when a new round of play begins. One feature that is traditional in Bunco is a bell that a player at the Head Table rings to signal that he or she has scored a “BUNCO.” While it is not strictly necessary to have a bell, it adds a dimension of fun to the play. Some players also like to use the bell at the head table to signal the beginning and the end of each new round of play.

Each table should have three dice and four individual scorecards so players can track their own wins, losses, and BUNCOs, and a tally scorecard to keep track of points scored for each team during play.

One player at each table should be designated as the scorekeeper. The scorekeeper is the one who begins play at that table in each round and who tallies the scores for the two teams at the table.

How to Play Bunco

Gameplay is simple. Each player has a turn to roll three dice. Each player keeps rolling the three dice over and over again as long as he or she keeps getting points. When a player can't add any more points to his or her score, play passes to the player on the left.

The game is played in rounds. A round begins when a player at the Head Table rings the bell and/or announces that the round is beginning. A round ends when a player at the Head Table rolls a BUNCO (three-of-a-kind that matches the round number), calls out BUNCO and rings the bell, or when one of the teams at the Head Table accumulates 21 points.

If a player at a table other than the Head Table is in the middle of a turn when the BUNCO is called, he or she can complete the turn before the round is over.

Scoring

The game is played in a series of “rounds.” Usually, a full game consists of six rounds, but play can go on for much longer, repeating rounds one through six, for as long as the players want to keep playing.

 

The rounds are numbered: one through six. In each round, the object is to roll as many dice as possible that match the number of the round. For example, in Round one, the object is to roll as many “ones” on the dice as possible. In round two, the object is to roll as many “twos” on the dice as possible.

 

Each player rolls the three dice and if any of the dice match the round number, each one that does scores the player one point. If the player scores one or two points on a roll, he or she can pick up the three dice and roll againscoring one point for each dice that matches the round number.

 

The player's turn ends when he or she rolls the dice and none of them match the current Round number.

 

A player can score extra points for any three-of-a-kind roll that doesn't match the round number; for example, if a player rolls three “fours” in round two. This is called a mini-bunco and it ends the player's turn, but scores the player five points for the three-of-a-kind roll.

 

A BUNCO is a roll of three of a kind that matches the round number: three “ones” in round one for example. A BUNCO scores 21 points. Traditionally, the player who rolls a BUNCO must shout out the word “BUNCO” in order to be awarded the points. If the player who rolls a BUNCO is seated at the Head Table, he or she gets to ring the bell as they call out the BUNCO. When a player at the head table scores a BUNCO, this ends the round of play.

A player who rolls a BUNCO while not at the Head Table calls it out and receives the 21 points, then continues to roll the dice—and accumulate points until they get a roll that does not show any dice matching the round number.

Scorecards

Players will want to keep track of their own score, so each player should have a scorecard to record each round of play their team wins, each loss and each BUNCO he or she, individually, rolls over the course of the game.

But each player is also part of a team with the player seated across from them at the game table. And each team also needs to keep its combined score. A Table Scorekeeper should keep a running tally of all the points each team scores in each round. The team that scores the most points in each round is the winning team for that round and each team member can record their win on their individual scorecard.

Likewise, the losing team of each round, at each table, must record their loss on their individual scorecard.

If the two teams are tied at the end of the round, the table must do a "roll-off, where each player has one more chance to roll the dice and accumulate as many points as possible. The team who gets the most points in the roll-off wins the round.

At the end of the game, each player adds up his or her total number of wins, losses, and BUNCOs.

Moving Between Rounds

The most complicated part of learning how to play Bunco is understanding how the players are to move around between rounds of play. These movements are designed to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance of sitting at the Head Table and also to make sure players get to play on a team with as many other players as possible.

Three dice on top of a chess board

Image source: Pixabay

  • In each round, each table will have a winning team and a losing team
  • The winning team at the Head Table will stay at the Head Table for the next round of play 
  • But one of the players from the winning team should move to an adjacent seat so that each player can have a new teammate for the next round of play
  • The losing team from the Head Table moves to Table 2
  • The winning team from Table 2 moves to the Head Table, again sitting next to each other so that each player has a new teammate
  • The winning team from Table 3 moves to Table 2 and sits in seats next to each other so they can have new teammates for the upcoming round
  • The losing team from Table 2 moves to Table 3
  • The losing team at Table 3 stays there, but as at the Head Table, one of the players moves to a new seat so that new teams are formed

Conclusion

Learning how to play Bunco is easy for all ages. Bunco is a simple game of luck, and as such makes the perfect party game. It is easy enough to include all ages, and it is just competitive enough to be fun without causing any family fights. Check back with us here at presscave.com for up-to-the-minute lifestyle information.