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Three six-sided dice.jpg
Genre(s)Dice rolling, Luck, Party
Players2 or more, usually in teams of two.
Setup time1-5 minutes
Playing time30 minutes to multiple hours
Random chanceHigh
Age range4 and up
Skill(s) requiredCounting and simple mathematics

Bunco (also Bunko or Bonko) is a parlour game generally played with twelve or more players, divided into groups of four, trying to score points while taking turns rolling three dice in a series of six rounds. A Bunco is achieved when a person rolls three-of-a-kind and all three numbers match the round number.


Bunco was originally a confidence game similar to three card monte.[1][2] It originated in 19th-century England where it was known as "eight dice cloth".[3] It was imported to San Francisco as a gambling activity in 1855, where it gave its name to gambling parlors, or "Bunco parlors", and more generally to any swindle. After the Civil War the game evolved to a popular parlor game. During the 1920s and Prohibition, Bunco was re-popularized as a gambling game, often associated with a speakeasy. Law-enforcement groups raiding these parlors came to be known as "Bunco squads". Bunco as a family game saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s.[4]


Widely recognized standards are:

Each game consists of six rounds, progressing in order from one to six. For the first round, players divide into numbered tables of four players each, starting with a Head Table (sometimes called the "Queen's Table"), then a Table 2, Table 3, etc. At each table players pair up into two teams. Play usually starts with a signal from the Head Table.

When play has started, players take turns rolling three dice trying to score points. Points are usually awarded as such: 21 points if all three dice match the current round number (a "Bunco"); 5 points are awarded if all three dice match each other, but do not match the current round number (This is called a “Bonko”). Finally, 1 point may be awarded for each die matching the current round number. If points are scored, the player gets to roll again, continuing to add to their score. If no points are awarded, the player's turn ends and the dice are passed to the next player at the table.

Each round ends when a team or a player (depending on local rules) at the Head Table has scored 21 points.

After each round has ended, players stand up and the winning team from each table moves up, while the losing team stays put. For the Head Table, instead of the losing team staying, the losing team moves down to the lowest table. In other variations, the winning team may move up, and the losing team move down rather than staying where they are. After everyone has moved tables, play starts with the next round, until all rounds have been completed and the game is finished.

After the game is over, round wins, losses, buncos, total points scored, etc., can be compared to determine a winner or award prizes.

Renewed popularity[edit]

According to the World Bunco Association the game had seen a resurgence in popularity in the United States in the early 21st century; in 2006, it was claimed that during the previous year "over 59 million women have played Bunco and over 27 million play regularly".[5]

As it is played today, bunco is a social dice game involving 100% luck and no skill (there are no decisions to be made),[6] scoring and a simple set of rules. Members of a Bunco club take turns hosting, providing snacks, refreshments and the tables to set up the games. The host/hostess may also provide a door prize. Small amounts of money can be involved as well. The object of the game is to accumulate points and to roll certain combinations. The winners get prizes (provided by the host/hostess or pooled from the club resources) for accomplishments such as the highest score, the lowest score, or the most buncos. Prizes frequently center on themes associated with the game such as fancy dice, dice embedded in soap, T-shirts featuring illustrations of dice, etc.

Bunco fundraisers have become increasingly popular over the years, earning large sums for a wide variety of charities. Large groups of bunco players have come together to support their favorite charities by paying an entry fee into the game, holding silent auctions, and by selling raffle tickets; with all proceeds from the event donated to the cause.[7]

According to The Washington Post, Bunco is sometimes referred to as the housewife's drinking game.[6]


Bunco on Facebook or other social networks[edit]

Bunco on Facebook or other social networks usually differs from traditional land based bunco games. Players may join and play online with people from all over the world. Players may be able to join or leave at any time rather than having to plan with a group in advance. Games may feature 'power-ups' which accelerate player's advancement within the game or give players an advantage scoring points. Players can also collect, buy and share virtual items with friends on the Facebook platform. This adds to the community element which is otherwise not experienced in other forms of land-based bunco.

World championship[edit]

The first Bunco World Championship was held in 2006, airing on the Oxygen Network and sponsored by Procter & Gamble's anti-heartburn medicine Prilosec OTC, benefiting the National Breast Cancer Foundation.[5] In October 2008, P&G discontinued their association with the Championship after three years.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present - 1890
  2. ^ Our Rival, the Rascal - 1897
  3. ^ Professional Criminals of America - 1886
  4. ^ Bunco history World Bunco Association official site. Retrieved 19 January 2010
  5. ^ a b "Prilosec OTC, Actress Marg Helgenburger and Thousands of Women Roll the Dice to Raise Money for Breast Cancer Research". News Release /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX News Network. Procter & Gamble. 10 February 2006. Archived from the original on 31 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b Michael Alison Chandler (4 February 2007). "Suburban Moms Forge Bonds Over Bunco". washingtonpost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  7. ^ Buncogameshop.com
  8. ^ "So Long Bunco". Bunco Central - Prilosec OTC. Procter & Gamble. Archived from the original on 19 September 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2010.

External links[edit]