There might be some of you who have never heard of Bunco (also Bunko or Bonko) before. Since that might be the case for you, we decided to start things off with a short explanation of the game before we take a closer look at this game’s history.
What is Bunco
Bunco game is a social or a parlor dice-rolling game. Typically it is played by twelve or more players, who are further divided into groups of four individuals. However, any number of players greater than 2 can play the game. Each player or a group aims to score points while taking turn rolling three dices at the time. Since the game is normally played in rounds, the way to score points is by rolling the same numbers on all three dices matching the number of the round. WHEN THIS IS ACHIEVED, IT IS CALLED A BUNCO. For example, in round 1 three 1’s would mean a player achieved a Bunco and earned 21 points.
Like with many other games, there are various rules alternations and scoring methods of Bunco game as well. They mostly depend on the country, state, or region, which is no surprise, considering the game’s rather long history.
History of Bunco
According to the historical notes, the game started back in the 18th or 19th century, when groups of English women, school children, and couples used it to entertain themselves. Back then it was known as the “Eight dice cloth”.
The game was imported to the United States in 1855 when it was used as a gambling activity in San Francisco. Allegedly it was introduced by a crooked gambler, on his way from the East to the West coast. He is supposed to change the rules as he pleased and was, in fact, the one who named it Banco. Over the next few years, the name changed to Bunco or Bunko.
In that same period, a card game Banca from Spain came to San Francisco as well. It didn’t take long for many salons, bars, and other gambling locations to start using Bunco Dice and Bunco Card games to “steal” workers’ hard-earned money from their pockets. Soon everyone heard of “Bunco parlors” which had eventually become a synonym for gambling parlors and basically any swindle during the San Francisco’s Gold Rush period.
The civil war took its toll on gambling as well. However, soon after the war and into the turn of the century Banco game’s popularity grew as the economy recovered and people were again ready to gamble their money. As such, there was basically no larger city without Banco games available between 1870 and 1880.
Bunco makes a comeback!
At the end of the 19th century and until the beginning on WWI, Banco became accepted as a traditional parlor or even family game played on a regular basis to get some healthy competition going. During the prohibition in the ’20s, there were even “Bunco Squads” that raided establishments to ban the game but were never completely successful. Between 1940-1980 Bunco activity was minimal, which had a lot to do with the WWII and Vietnam war.
As the traditional family values, a sense of neighborhood and community, and the need for social interaction came back to life in the 1980s, so did the Bunco game. Since then its popularity varied from year to year, from region to region, however, there have been many families, friends, and neighbors who have played the game on a regular basis.
Bunco became especially popular among mid-aged women who enjoy spending an evening together as it is now more of a social activity than it is a serious game.
Whether you are looking for a fun gambling game or just entertainment for your hosting night, you should definitely consider Bunco. It has proven throughout the course of history that it has what it takes to make your evening with friends even more interesting and fun.