Friday, January 28, 2011


Since so many of you have asked how to play bunko, I'll tell you. If you don't care how to play bunko, then I have another game for you: count how many times the word bunko(s) appears in this post.

Okay. So find twelve women with $10, three tables and nine dice. One table is the head table, and the other two tables will be the middle table and low table. It does not matter who sits where to begin with. Each table gets three dice and four ladies. The person diagonally or across from you is your partner for that game. So in this picture, taken at our first bunko ever:
I am wearing my denim skirt as a tube top and Jamie (white denim) is my partner. Sarah (jacket) and Stephanie (hat) are partners as well. And don't get worked up if you don't have three tables in your house. We've played on the floor before. As long as there are three areas for people to play, then it's all good.

So now that you know how to set up, here's how to play.

Have everyone put their $10 in a pot. That's important, especially if you end up being the winner.

The "head table" needs a noisemaker of some sort. A pot and spoon, a movie clapper from your local party store if your theme skews Hollywood, whatever you have lying around. That starts the game. At each table, the ladies take turns rolling dice (anyone can have first roll at the table). So, in the first game, you're rolling for ones. The next game you'll roll for twos, and then threes and so on.

So you go around the table rolling for 1s, the magic number in this game. If you roll one 1, then you get 1 point. If you roll two 1s, then you get five points. If you roll three 1s, you get 21 points and that's called a bunko. Every time you roll that magic number, you get to go again. If you only hear one thing, hear this: KEEPING SCORE IS THE HARDEST PART OF THE GAME. But it gets much easier after your second bunko meeting or so... right Erin?

Let's say we're at bunko, we're partners (lucky you) and it's my turn.

3, 3, 1 = 1 point. I rolled a 1 so I go again.
2, 1, 5 = 1 point. I rolled another 1 so I go again.
1, 1, 6 = 5 points. Roll again.
5, 5, 5 = 5 points. This is called an ON THE TOWN. Now even though I didn't roll a 1, this is still a good thing to roll. Anytime you roll three-of-a-kind that's NOT whatever magic number you're rolling for that particular round, you get 5 points, but do not roll again. So my turn ends. The girl to my left rolls while you and I mark 12 points on our score sheets.

The girl to my left goes. She does not roll a 1. It's your turn.

You roll 1, 1, 1!!! Three of the magic number = A BUNKO. We mark 21 points down and you roll again until you do not roll a 1.

Now if you and I were sitting at the head table, then that would be the end of the game - someone would bang the pot or clap the clapper or whatever noisemaker is handy and that game would be over. Each game goes until a team at the head table gets to 21. If you're not at the head table, you can go until 70-something (that's happened before, by the way... to me) because everyone keeps playing until the head table gets to 21.

At that time, everyone adds up her points and at each of the three tables, the pair that wins moves up a table while the losing pair stays put. One way to remember this is "winners walk, losers lie dormant." I made that up, aren't you proud? Regardless if you "walk" or "lie dormant," you can't have the same partner twice in a row. So even one of the losers needs to move seats and not lie entirely dormant.

The table switching goes like this: The winning pair at the bottom table moves up to the middle table, and the winning pair at the middle table moves up to the head table. The exception to all of this is the head table: the losing pair goes all the way to the very bottom table (bypassing the middle table altogether) and the winning pair at the head table stays at the head table (though one of you gets a new seat because, again, you can't have the same partner two times in a row [though honestly, it wouldn't really matter, just makes it more fun]). Once everyone is seated, the bell is rung/pot is banged and we start rolling for 2s.

At my bunko club, this goes on for two rounds of 1 through 6 then we then have "halftime" - aka, dessert is served and we take our group picture(s). We also vote for best costume if necessary and if it's getting late in the evening, decide if we want to play two more rounds or just one.

At the end of how ever many rounds you decide to play (again, my club is usually four rounds of six games split in half by dessert and a few group photos), have everyone add up her total number of wins and losses. Points per game do not matter as much as wins and losses do in terms of who takes home the money. We allow each hostess to decide how the $120 is allotted, but usually it goes something like this: $10 to whomever has the most total losses, $25 to whomever has the most bunkos, and $85 to whomever has won the most games of the night. Sometimes there'll be a prize (cash or not) for having the most On the Towns. Originally, there was a hat or similar object that each person was to get up and fetch and hold onto whenever she rolled an On the Town, with the idea being that whomever had that object at the very end of the night got the prize. But that caused too many fights ("the bell had already rung!!!!") so we nipped that in the bud and that person usually gets some of the money or a small gift card.

The key is having a good score sheet; that really makes it idiot-proof, even while drinking. That's the final rule - everyone sips on something. Except the pregnant ones. Okay, okay, that's not really not a rule, but it does make the night more interesting. Also, a small bowl of candy at each of the tables. But I digress.

Mary Byrne designed a great score sheet for us:
You can see there's space for ticking off your points during the games, then circling if you won or lost, and boxes for keeping count of your Bunkos and your On the Towns. Only the player who rolls the bunko or the on the town marks it in the box on her score sheet, but both players (the team) get the points during the game.

And that's pretty much it! Much easier than it sounds. E-mail me if you have more questions as I'm sure the rest of the kids are bored out of their minds.


  1. I'm really feeling motivated to start a Bunko group now! You did a great job of explaining things online! Usually online stuff is even more confusing!

  2. How many pts do you get for Bunko? 9?

  3. Of all things to leave out! A bunko is worth 21 points. I will amend the post, but rolling 3 of the magic number is a bunko and you get 21 points. So, at the head table, that ends that game. It's happened on the first roll before!

  4. HMMM...our way is even simpler: we don't do the 5 pts for rolling 2 of the same number: that is just 1 pt for each number. Easier to add.

  5. I miss my Bunco group in NOLA...this article was a great reminder of fun times.

  6. How do you print?

  7. I would like the pdf Bunko sheet - please!

  8. This is how we hand out the winnings:
    $10 first bunko
    $10 last bunko
    $40 most wins
    $40 most bunkos
    boobie prize
    roll over prize
    $20 roll off for anyone who didn't win anything

  9. everyone pays $10 and 6 prizes for most bunco's most wins most losses, evens and travel-Which you get when you roll all the same # on the # that your on-if that makes sense..and we roll off for the last prize everyone that didn't get a prize.

  10. How do you print the score sheet?

  11. i love this score sheet. Is there any way I could get it so I can edit it. We only play two rounds.

  12. Hello, any way to get the score sheet so I can get it printed? Thanks for the explanation of the game too! Much appreciated!

  13. Love it. How do you download?


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