What Is Bunco?
What is Bunco? You’ve probably heard of it but might not have played it. Bunco is a group dice game, ideally played with twelve players who are split into three tables with four players at each table. If you want though, just about any number of people can play Bunco. It’s best if you have a number of people divisible by four but, if not, there are Bunco rules to cover that – including Bunco Babies or Ghost Players.
How Do You Play Bunco?
One game of Bunco is played in two to four sets, and each set has six rounds.
Assuming you have more than one table in your Bunco game, one player at the head table rings a bell, blows a horn, whistles, or squeezes a large cat to signal the beginning and end of each Bunco round.
During the game, the Bunco players at each table take turns rolling three dice as they try to get points. All tables play at the same time.
It’s important to remember what round you’re playing because during each round, all the players are trying to roll the same number on the dice as the number of the round. For example, rolling three two's...
...in round two would earn the player points.
A Bunco player earns one point for every dice that matches the number of the round.
Each Bunco player keeps rolling their dice until they score no points. The game’s scorekeeper then records the points they earned onto the table tally as the temporary team score. The dice are then passed to the Bunco player on the left.
When the head table has earned 21 points in a round, that round is over. The head table uses the same signal (unless the cat has run away) to end the round as they did to start the round.
Once a round is over, players change partners and tables.
At the end of a Bunco game, there are usually a number of "winners." Players can earn prizes for the most Buncos, wins, losses, and more.
Since Bunco is based more on chance than strategy or competitiveness, it makes a great game for parties – in fact “Bunco Party” is a common phrase. It can either play a minor role in the get together, or you can have a full on Bunco theme. Other popular choices are to have the game as the focus, but build a theme around it – like Mardi Gras, the 80’s, Christmas, Halloween, Retirements, Birthdays and more – complete with costumes, decorations, and food.
Bunco supplies, equipment, and playing pieces
- To play a game of Bunco you will need the following:
- Three dice for every table.
- A Bunco score sheet for every player.
- A Bunco table score sheet (or table tally) for every table.
- A signalling device for the head table (most often a bell – rarely a cat).
- A pen or pencil for every player.
If you’d like to purchase a Bunco game kit, this link is provided for your convenience, but do not feel obligated to order from it whatsoever.
If you’d like some free printable Bunco scoresheets,
or score cards, we have a large selection
ready to download from this page.
Free Bunco Scoresheets
We also have free downloadable Bunco table labels and direction signs to use during the game.
Preparing for a Bunco game
- For 12 players, with four players per table, you’ll obviously need three tables and four chairs per table.
- Number the tables as 1, 2, 3. It’s best if you actually put signs on the tables since players change tables during each Bunco round. The signs will just make it easier to find the correct table.
- The head table -- #1 or High Table – will need a signaling device as discussed earlier.
- Every table needs three dice.
- Every table needs a Bunco table tally or table score sheet.
- Every player (so four per table) needs a Bunco scoresheet.
- A pencil or pen for each player.
- Also, every table needs a scorekeeper and they’ll be the one in charge of the Bunco table tally.
Scoring in Bunco
Players get points when any of the three dice they roll match the number of the Bunco round that’s being played. Each matching number on the dice scores one point. For example, if a player rolls two threes in round three, the player receives two points and rolls again.
Just to clarify for first-time Bunco players: the number on the dice don’t indicate the point value – two threes in round three equals two points, not six. Also, the numbers on the dice are not added together – two two’s rolled in round two equals two points, not four.
ABOVE IN ROUND THREE = 2 POINTS (not 6)
ABOVE IN ROUND TWO = 2 POINTS (not 4)
The only time dice are worth more than one point each is if a roll produces three dice matching the number of round – for example, three two’s in round two, or three five’s in round five. When that happens, it's called a Bunco and the player gets 21 points. Important note though… the player must shout out "Bunco!" in order to get the 21 points.
ABOVE IN ROUND FIVE = BUNCO! = 21 POINTS (not 3, or 15)
There is also a mini-Bunco (or Baby Bunco). When a player rolls three of the same number bit they don’t match the number of the current round (for example, rolling three fours in round three), the player earns 5 points instead.
ABOVE IN ROUND THREE = MINI BUNCO! = 5 POINTS (not 3, or 15, or 21)
Just to recap. Buncos are always worth 21 points, regardless of the numbers on the dice, and mini-Buncos are always worth 5 points, regardless of the numbers on the dice.
Starting the Bunco Game
Each round starts when the head table rings the bell or squeezes the cat or uses whatever signaling device you’ve chosen.
As soon as the signal is given, each table’s scorekeeper begins to roll three dice. Points are counted for each roll.
- In round 1, each 1 rolled is worth 1 point.
- In round 2, each 2 rolled is worth 1 point.
- In round 3, each 3 rolled is worth 1 point.
- In round 4, each 4 rolled is worth 1 point.
- In round 5, each 5 rolled is worth 1 point.
- In round 6, each 6 rolled is worth 1 point.
If a three-of-a-kind roll matches the number of the round you're playing, it’s a Bunco. The player who rolled needs to shout out "Bunco!" to get 21 points, and then keeps rolling (unless the player is at the head table -- in which case they signal the end of that round).
A three-of-a-kind roll that doesn’t match the round number (for example three fours in round two) is called a mini-Bunco and is worth five points. A mini-Bunco is always five points regardless of numbers showing on the dice. Three ones is five points, three fours is five points, etc.
The player keeps rolling until the have a roll that scores no points. When that happens, the scorekeeper then records the points the player earned on the table tally as a temporary team score. Then the dice are handed to the player on the left. This continues until the round ends.
The round ends when the head table scores 21 points or more. This could happen immediately if the first player at the head table rolls a bunco on their first roll. It could also take quite a while if the players at the head table keep rolling non-scoring, or low scoring dice.
The head table player who scores the 21st or higher point rings the bell to signal the end of the round.
When the round ends, all players who are already in a turn -- INCLUDING the player who rang the bell -- continue rolling until they get a non-scoring roll.
Once you play (or if you do the math in your head) you’ll see it’s possible for a table to win a round without rolling any Buncos.