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Bunko Babes

Group gathers once a month to play for an evening

 Author: Mary Keating

For: Active Living Magazine

Date:  August 2006

            1168 words (including sidebars)

No matter how you spell it, Bunko, Bunco, or Bonco, the people who play it, love it. It is more than just a dice game, it is a social event. Bunko brings people together for a night of laughter, a bit of hollering and a whole lot of fun.

“Bunko is the night you can let your hair down,” said Jan McDougall. “You can just have fun and be out of your comfort zone.”

Tonight, Amber Holte Anderson played hostess. Her home, decorated in a Hawaiian theme, quickly filled with laughter, chatter and anticipation. Each guest quickly donned brightly colored lei, dropped their $10 into the basket, grabbed a beverage and began chatting with friends, both old and new.

For the first hour, the ladies dinned on spicy pineapple shrimp and chicken, coconut rice, a garden fresh salad, a chipotle mango cream cheese appetizers and a calorie packed lemon poppy seed cake.

“Where else can one get a beautiful meal, friendship, laugher, a chance to take home the top prize all for $10,” said Mary Sherwood.

This group began nearly nine years ago when Ann Walsh moved to Pocatello. Her Bunko group in California gave her a going-away basket filled with the Bunko basics: a bell, 9 dice, a handful of pens and scratch paper. Walsh knew she was going to start a Bunko group when she arrived.

The original group started primarily of women associated with the ISU athletic department. They met the last Weds of the month and shared stories and laughter. But most of all, they shared friendship.

As the group evolved and changed, permanent members left and new members were quickly added. Only four of the original players remain.

“I was a sub at first,” said Diane Darce. “For the last four years, I have been a permanent member. I love ‘the girls’, the screaming, the hollering, and the laughter. But mostly I love that I have met people I would not have met any other way.”

One of the nice things about the game of Bunko is the quick learning curve.

“You really don’t need to know anything about the game, you just have to be able to sit, roll the dice and move,” said Rhonna Miller.

A brief hush and quick movement in the backyard indicated, the tone of the evening was shifting. Twelve women quickly took their places at the three tables, picked up the dice and waited for the bell. Suddenly, everything was in motion.

“You have to be fast,” said Pat Ringe as she rolled the dice.

The scorekeeper at each table tallied the scores for each team as the dice were rapidly passed to the player on the left.

“Bunko!” rang through the backyard.

With a near feverish pitch, everyone marked their scorecards indicating whether they won or lost the round. Suddenly, the backyard was in motion as the winners advanced to the next table and the losers switched seats. The next round began in earnest.

With all the laughter, the coaching and the stories, the backyard was alive. Dice were rolled, nuts and candies were snacked on and cheering could be heard.

“It’s a game of luck, not skill,” said Anderson. You can’t get too competitive.

The women played for nearly two hours. At the end of the night, the one with the most Bunkos received the top honors and a $60 gift. The one with the most wins received a $50 gift and the one with the most losses got her $10 back.

After all the prizes were distributed, dishes were picked up, garbage was tossed, tables were taken down and the Bunko basket was re-filled with the basics. The women left more slowly then they came. Silence enveloped the backyard. Until next month.

Bunko Basics 101

POCATELLO—Bunko has been around for over 100 years, but it has no Official Rules. With that said, rules vary only slightly from group to group and from region to region. A quick overview of the core list of rules and a snippet of the common variations should get most people rolling the dice and enjoying the fast paced game of Bunko.

Starting a Group and Gathering Supplies: In order to start a Bunko group, twelve people need to be committed to playing at least one night a month. Five to ten people need to be added to an alternate list and should be willing to play when a permanent player is unable

Nine dice, an assortment of pens and pencils, a bell and an assortment of blank writing tablets for score keeping should be gathered together in a basket. Additionally, 12 individual score sheets (see photo) will need to be photocopied or printed once a month.

After picking twelve people to play, each person needs to pick a month they are willing to have the Bunko party at their home unless playing in a neutral place. One person needs to maintain a list of players, their address and phone numbers. Once complied, a list of monthly meeting places needs to shared with all the players.

Traditionally, Bunko is held on the same day every month, say the 2nd Wednesday of the month. The person hosting the group usually provides a light dinner or desserts as well as drinks. However, some groups opt for potluck meals.

In order to play, three tables with four chairs need to be in close proximity to each other. Many groups keep a list of people who have card tables that can be shared.

Setting Up: On each of the three tables, their needs to be a writing tablet for score keeping, pens or pencils, three dice and four individual score sheets. A bowl of nuts or candy is usually placed on each table. One table is reserved as the HIGH table and the bell is placed on that table.

Some groups mark further mark each table as HIGH, MIDDLE and LOW. Then they mark four of the score sheets with HIGH and number them 1-4; four of the score sheets with MIDDLE and number them 1-4; and four score sheet with LOW and number them 1-4. As each player arrives, they draw a score card and must begin the game sitting at the table and seat indicated on their score sheet.

Playing the Game: Normally, there are six sets in a game of Bunko. In the first set, players try to roll ones in the first round, twos in the second round and so on. Likewise, in the second set, players try to roll ones in the first round and sixes in the sixth round.

The HIGH table controls the pace of play. They start the round by ringing the bell. The scorekeeper at each table is the first to roll the dice. Play continues until one team at the HIGH table scores 21 points.  Many groups end the round when one player gets a Bunko. While other groups continue play, often scoring well beyond 21 before the HIGH table reaches 21 points and rings the bell.

Players earn points by rolling three dice. In each round, players are trying to roll the same number as the round. For example rolling one, two or three threes in round 3. Three threes in round three, of course, is called a Bunko.

One point is awarded for each target number rolled.

For example: Player one rolls first in round one and gets: 1, 5, 3. They get one point and roll again until they no longer roll a one in round one. The player rolls as long as they score one or more points. When they fail to roll the target number on any of the dice, the dice are passed to the player on the left and the scorekeeper records the cumulative score on the tally sheet.

Every player must get at least one roll per round.

At the end of the round the winning team from the middle and low tables move up to a higher table. The losing teams from the high table moves to the low table. During the switch the partners are changed.

Five points are award for rolling three of a kind of any number except the number of the current round. For example rolling 5 – 5 – 5 in round three.

Individual Score Sheets:

Players keep track of their wins and losses on the Individual Score Card. When a player rolls a Bunko, most groups have them circle a letter in the word Bunko on their score card. Only the player who rolls the Bunko gets to mark their score sheet. The player’s teammate for that round does not get to score the Bunko.

At the end of each round, the players each mark their card with wins or losses. Most groups circle the number on their individual sheet for a win and place an x over the number for a loss.

At the end of the game, all players total their wins and losses for a chance at prizes.

Tiebreakers:

If the score at the end of a round is tied, a roll off is necessary to determine the winner. Each player is allowed one roll of the dice to accumulate additional points. If after all four players at the table have rolled and one team is now in the lead, the team with the highest score is deemed the winner. If the score remains tied, another roll-off is done.

Prizes (optional): If prizes are to be awarded, here are the most common categories: Most Bunkos, Most Wins, Most Losses, and First Bunko. In many groups, players all bring $5 or $10. Prizes are then awarded using the money collected before the game begins. Other groups opt for other prizes such as household items, candles or gift certificates.

Sounds a bit complex, but in reality, playing the game of Bunko takes only luck, a bit of fun, twelve people and some general guidelines to follow. Start a group today and enjoy the friends, the fun and the excitement.