How To Play Bunco: Game, Rules, and Score Sheet

12 People, 9 Dice, and the Occasional Custom Rule


In some form or another, the dice game Bunko has been around since the late nineteenth century. It's enjoying a big surge in popularity today.  Learning how to play is not as difficult as it seems; you just have to follow along. 

So, how do you play?

  1. Bunko has myriad variations. While the basic essence of the dice game is quite simple, every Bunko club, party or gathering of friends tends to have their own custom rules. So, the most important thing to do when you join a group is to establish the rules by which you are playing up front.
  2. First, understand that the game is easier to play than it is to explain. So, follow these rules, but feel free to improvise and have fun coming up with your own rule set.
  3. How many people do you need to play? An ideal number is 12, since you play the game in groups of four. Of course, many groups deal with odd numbers by having "dummy" players; many a teddy bear has played stand-in on Bunko night.
  4. What else do you need? For a group of 12 people, you will need to set up three tables, each with four seats. Each table will need three six-sided dice, a scorecard for the table and a pencil.
  5. Designate one table the "high" table, one the "middle" table, and one "low." The high table usually has a noisemaker such as a bell, although you can always just yell. Air horns are not recommended. The high table is in charge of starting and ending each round. Once four people are seated at each table, one person should be designated as scorekeeper to keep track of the score sheets. For the purpose of each game, people seated across from one another at a single table are teammates. The one who is in charge of the score sheet is also a player at the table.
  6. Each game has six rounds. In each round, players are trying to roll the target number, which is equal to the round number. So, in round one, players want to roll ones. Simple, huh?
  7. Each time a player rolls the target number, the team accrues a point. So, in round one, if team one's first roll of the dice gets a one, a three and a four, the team is awarded one point. Points can also be won by rolling three of any number except the target number (usually a five point award) and by rolling three of the target number - a Bunko! This is worth 21 points, but only if you remember to yell it.
  8. A player rolls for as long as she continues scoring points. If no points are won in a roll, the dice are passed to the next player to the left.
  9. A round ends when a team at the high table reaches 21 points. The other teams can exceed 21 points as long as the high table has not reached that goal.
  10. When the round is over, the teams at each table compare their points. At this point, the score cards are compared to find the winning teams. Then, the winning teams from the middle table move up to the high table, the low table winners move to the middle and the high table losers move to the low table.
  11. Once you have played for the target numbers one through six, an entire game is complete. Many groups have a cash buy-in and award cash prizes to the winner. They may divide it among multiple people with various standings or with real or dubious honors (lowest score or most Bunkos, for example). Now that you know how to play the game, find eleven friends and get started!


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