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How to Play Bunco

Updated on February 1, 2014

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. Its easy, very fun, and all you need is a dozen people, several tables and 9 die.

It helps to have a few Bunco scorecards, a bell, and lots of enthusiasm.

Bunco is quickly becoming the Cribbage of the early 21st Century. Its hard to believe, but just over 1 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, talk about scoring and other aspects of the game. Perhaps you'll start your own Bunco group where you live.

Gotta have dice to play bunco (image from Ella's Dad on Flickr)
Gotta have dice to play bunco (image from Ella's Dad on Flickr)

Let's Play Bunco!

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 die 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 die 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.

Cute Bunco Babes
Cute Bunco Babes | Source

Bunco Made Easy

In our group, we play 3 rounds of Bunco, which means we roll for 1s, then 2s, 3s, etc. through to 6s. Then we repeat 2 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 (3 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).

Bunco Payouts

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 is the next event and at whose home- etc.

Bunco at my house!
Bunco at my house! | Source

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 its potluck style, its 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!


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      Dicey dame 5 years ago

      We have come across this issue a few times. An individual wins for most Bunkos, most wins, 1st Bunko and last Bunko. It seems to be one sided and people walk away with a feeling of being let down. How do you handle this sorta of winnings? Do we say pick the one winning or have the hostess pick which winning that individual should get? Who is then awarded 1s and last bunko and also the most Bunkos?

    • louromano profile image

      louromano 5 years ago

      great . excellent writing skills. i must appreciate it.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Many, I would love to find that video! Thanks for the tip. You should definitely start your own group - its a great way for us gals to reconnect once a month. Best to you, Steph

    • profile image

      Mandy 8 years ago

      Hi Steph,

      I loved your post on Bunco.

      My dad's family played it every October to celebrate my grandmother's birthday, but sadly most of the members have either died or moved to Arizona... so we stopped playing. But I hosted a bunco party for my 20th birthday, and everyone loved it--- so i'm thinking of starting my own group.

      Just a little video for inspiration---- you gotta dig around for it, but on Youtube, there is a video of a group of ladies that have been together playing bunco for 50 YEARS!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Have a great time with Bunco, illy! :) We always enjoy the get-together with our friends each month.

    • profile image

      illy sanders 8 years ago

      Thanks for posting this info. I'm throwing our first bunco party with a great group of friends and since it's been a few years since I had played, I was greatful to fall upon your site. Lots of great info! It really is a better way for Ladies Night Out than a restaurant where you can visit with only the 3 friends sitting near you.

    • Joel McDonald profile image

      Joel McDonald 8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thanks for sharing these details! My kids are finally old enough that they like to sit down for a good while to play board games & I'm loving it!

      We'll have to see if Bunco will be one of the games they like to play.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I hope to play bunco one day soon!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Bunco is a great way to get friends together! It beats a book club, in my opinion! :)

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Bunco looks fun for sure!

    • Nemingha profile image

      Nemingha 8 years ago

      I had never heard of this before but it does sound like a lot of fun! Interesting hub.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      It is very fun! Even if you do not regularly play dice or cards, you'll get hooked on Bunco.

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this info on this new game. Sounds like fun, I will have to try it.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hey Robie, it really is a fun game! Not to late to pick up a new Friday evening diversion. :)

      Hi Rochelle, yes, I'm sure that Bunco has been around for quite some time. I started as a sub for my current group, but now am part of the "official" group. Happily!

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Gosh-- this game goes back a ways. My next door neighbor used to do this regularly about 30 years ago-- but if they were short a person, I was a handy sub. It was a lot of fun.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Now this sounds like great fun-- I'm ashamed to admit I've never heard of Bunco-- until now that is and I have a feeling I'm going to play it and like it too:-)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hey Glenn, it really is about the community, isn't it? We love our time as a group almost as much as playing Bunco! :) Cheers, Stephanie

    • profile image

      Glenn 8 years ago

      The women in my neighborhood play Bunco regularly. The loser gets a pot of money and everyone goes away a part of a close-knit community. Great game!