Bunco in the West!



So, I was at Bunco on Sunday, my once-a-month dose of social activity and one of my favorite days of the month because I get to spend time with my mom, mom-in-law and the best bunco bunch around. There’s lots of laughter, dice rolling, and quite a bit of teasing the local rooomance writer and much-appreciated prodding about the new series I’m working on. The question came up of whether I’d have bunco in the new series and that got us to talking about how long bunco has been around. Some gals remember their mom’s moms’ being bunco players. Of course, I had to do some digging—was there bunco in the old west?

Indeed, Bunco was played in the old west! In fact, the dice game was introduced in the United States during the Gold Rush! Seems a shady fellow making his way from the east to west coast in 1855 brought a dice game from England he called “Banco” into gambling parlors as he made his way to California gold fields. The game originating in England was called 8-dice cloth, though our English traveler, also known as a crooked gambler, had made several changes to the game. As its popularity spread across San Francisco, Banco became known as Bunco. According to the World Bunco Association (that was news to me too!), bunco was also played by groups of women, school children and couples throughout the 1800’s.


The game was repopularized in the 1920’s during Prohibition, Bunco often being associated with those notorious speakeasies–so much so that the law enforcement squads sent to raid these clubs became known as “Bunco Squads”. This movie poster on the right is from a 1950’s film.

Quite the rip-roaring start for what I always thought of as a rather innocuous ladies game–though I will admit we might tend to spike the punch 😉

These days bunco isn’t limited to living-rooms and club rooms, there are Bunco Cruises! There’s even a bunco app for iPhones. I think I’ll be sticking with my monthly gathering of friends.

How about the rest of y’all? Ever been part of a bunco bunch? Any bunco cruises in your past or future?


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25 thoughts on “Bunco in the West!”

  1. Hi Stacey,

    I hate to admit I’ve never even heard of Bunco until your post, or if I did it didn’t register. But it sounds like fun, and how great that you found it was played in the old west and had a pretty interesting history.

    So, are you going to use it in your new series? :o)


  2. Who knew that Bunco was around in the 19th century. I played several years ago with a bunch of ladies from church. It makes me laugh to think that our game’s origins were so shady. I can just picture our church ladies squealing when the Bunco Squad crashes the door down for a raid. Ha! 🙂

  3. Stacey, how interesting and what a fun post. I’ve heard of Bunco but never played it so have no idea what the rules are. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for Bunco games in this area and go check it out. I had no clue it has been around so long. How nice that you play and use it as a chance to get together with your mom and mom-in-law. Things are always more fun when there’s a group.

    I’m glad your son is doing better and the chaos kinda settling down a bit. Don’t forget to breathe.

  4. Stacey,
    I remember my mom being invited to play Bunco but turning down the invitation, just because she was in to so many other things (this was back in the day of garden club meetings, PTA meetings, etc.) My neighbor invited me to come join their group, but at the time my kids were little and I had so many other obligations, I just couldn’t. How wonderful that you do this with your family! This is a great way to get to visit and do something fun. I had no idea it had been around that long, and what a great poster of the BUNCO SQUAD. LOL Very cool post!
    Cheryl P.

  5. Hi Kirsten! I’d never been in a bunco group until this past year. The game is pretty simple.
    We have a group of 12 which is split into three groups of four at each table. Your point partner sits across from you, and you change seats and partners after each round. There are scorecards (we make our own) with a lines of numbers 1-6. On the first round, everyone is rolling for 1’s. There’s also a tally tablet to tally points for each round. If one of your three dice is a one, that’s a point, and you roll until you don’t roll any ones, then it’s the next person’s turn. If you roll three ones, you BUNCO, and you win that round–and in our group you get a coveted butterfly sticker for your scorecard 😉 The partner’s with the highest score at each table circle the 1 to mark a win and move on to the next table, but you switch partners. If you BUNCOed, doesn’t matter what your points were, you and your partner advance. Losers put on X on the 1 and change seats at the same table so they’ll have a new point partner. Next, everyone rolls for 2’s, and so on up to six. That whole process is repeated 3-4 times.

    We also have lunch first and then a desert after the game. And there’s prizes for most buncos, the last to bunco, most wins, and of course a booby prize for the most losses 😉 So it’s win-win all the way around 😀

    As for having bunco in my new series, not likely in the first two books since they’re nearly done, though I could try to work it into conversation 😉 But I am planning on having a gambling hero in book 4 and I think he’ll be fond of this dice game 😀

  6. My pleasure, Tracy 🙂 It’s a ton of fun. I’m glad my mom got me to join her group. It’s nice to have scheduled quality time with my moms–as horrible as that sounds 😉 But I really am a hermit.

  7. Thank you, Linda! You should definitely give it a shot if you find a group!

    Tanner is doing well and we are all so glad to have the lung surgery behind us 🙂 And yeah, we are all ready for some clear sunny skies up ahead. Get this boy graduated in June and I’ll have so much writing time I won’t know what to do with myself 😉

  8. Same here, Cheryl–I was invited to join a group when my kids were little, and there was just no way. It was all about the kids and running from practices to recitals and kid b-day parties 😉 I get tired just remembering 😀 Of course, I sat in my truck with my laptop through most of that, sitting in parking lots waiting for my boys was how I got most of my quiet writing time back then 🙂

    If you get another invite, you should check it out!

  9. Stacey,

    That really does sound like a lot of fun! I’ll have to check it out. Although, it doesn’t strike me as a Eliot Ness needs to break down the doors and fire a Tommy-gun kind of game, but I suppose it could get pretty out of control if someone BUNCOed and flaunted it! :o)

  10. Hi Stacey what a wonderful post. I always learn something new here. Sounds like a ton of fun, especially sharing the game with people you love to hang out with!

  11. Great post Stacey. I’ve played Bunco a couple of times at some family gatherings and it is a lot of fun. Especially when you get a group as rowdy and competitive as my family can be!

  12. I’ve never played it but my sister and her husband’s female family, mom in law and sisters and sisters in law get together one night a month and play bunco. She said it’s just hilarious fun.

  13. I have heard of it, but had no idea what it was. I always associated it with underworld types and illegal gambling. That must go back to its Prohibition connection.

    Sounds like a fun game. I printed out your directions to try with the family. We will probably have just one table though. I hope it will still work.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

  14. I love Bunco and my Bunco group loved the score cards I made for us . . . so I am sharing them with all of you. Check out http://www.4sistersbunco.com. It’s full of fund score cards, themes, Bunco accessories and more. My Bunco ladies are all the fellow moms that were raising their children as I was. Now I’m a grandma Bunco player! Great game. Great fun. Great Bunco sisters.

  15. It’s a terrific game—BUNCO. On our website is a link to this website for the History of Bunco.
    You have a great site.
    There’s a reprint of an article from the Milton Courier newspaper from Milton, Wisconsin.
    There will be another article from the Janesville Gazette–Janesville, Wisconsin after a interview on Aug 22. We are going to help a church quild in December. There planning a Bunco Party. We’re here to help people enjoy Bunco. Thank you for the History of Bunco.

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