How to Play Bunco
The Dice Game of Bunco
Each month, my favorite 11 girlfriends and I get together for our regular Bunco game. If you haven't played Bunco, then you need to learn how. It's easy, very fun, and all you need is a dozen people, several tables and nine dice.
It also helps to have a few Bunco scorecards, a bell, and lots of enthusiasm.
Bunco is quickly becoming the Cribbage of the early 21st Century. It's hard to believe, but just over one year ago, I had no idea how to play the game or why people thought it was so much fun.
Come along with me as I review the rules and talk about scoring and other aspects of the game. Perhaps you'll start your own Bunco group where you live.
How to Play Bunco
Like any other dice or card game, Bunco is a game of chance. My group plays for a small pot—everyone puts in $10 at the beginning of the night. That means that a grand total of $120 can be divided up at the end. Other Bunco groups may include higher stakes. I was also involved in another group that exchanged small $5 wrapped gifts at the end. Winners get first pick, of course.
It is pretty easy to play Bunco. The rules are straightforward but may be modified, depending on your group.
In general, there are three tables, with four people at each table. Each table has two teams of two people, and there are three dice that are rolled. Points are counted between the two of you on a team. Table #1 is the head table—when one of the teams reaches 21, they ring the bell, and the round is over.
In Bunco, points are awarded as follows:
- If you are rolling for a 1, each 1 that you roll on the three dice is one point. You get to keep rolling until you don't roll for any points.
- If you roll three of a kind (other than the number for which you are rolling), that is a "travel," and you get 5 points.
- If you roll three of the number for which you are rolling, that is a Bunco, and you get 21 points.
Under all of the scenarios above, you get to keep rolling until no more points are earned.
Interesting twist: Some Bunco groups play "1, 2, 3," which means that if you or your partner rolls a 1, a 2, and a 3, you lose all points that you have accumulated until that point in the round.
Bunco Made Easy
In our group, we play three rounds of Bunco, which means we roll for 1s, then 2s, 3s, etc. through to 6s. Then we repeat two additional times.
As noted above, each round ends when Table #1 reaches 21. Your own table may reach 21 earlier, but keep on playing . . . someone may roll a Bunco (three of a kind of the number for which you are rolling). The losing pair of each table stays put, except for at Table #1.
The losing pair from that table rotates to Table #3. As each pair moves up, you switch partners. Now, your former partner will sit to the left of you, and you become a team with one of the other people that stayed at the table at the end of the round.
Generally, one person on each team keeps score during the round. Tally the number of times you get the number for which you are rolling, travels, and Buncos (if you are not the head table).
If you play Bunco for more than fun, there may be some cash involved. Any group can develop its own rules for who wins what.
Generally speaking, Bunco payouts are awarded for the following:
- Most wins
- Most losses
- Most Buncos
- Last person who received a "travel"
- Most (or least) 1,2,3s
In our group, the most Buncos award gets the biggest prize (40%). Next, is most wins (30%), then most losses (20%), and finally, the last person to receive a travel (10%). You don't have to divide the pot this way, however. Agree on your own rules, and write them down.
We have a "Bunco book," that includes everyone's contact information, the rules, the schedule—when the next event is and at whose home, etc.
Have Fun Playing Bunco
Our monthly Bunco gatherings are a great way for my friends and I to stay in touch and have some fun. Since it's potluck style, it's affordable. And because there are 12 of us that get together, its an efficient way for us to catch up with each other over a few hours.
Why not start a Bunco group in your hometown? With little effort and investment, you can be rolling in fun each month!