First, may I offer my (dare I say?) heartfelt thanks to Stephanie at Steph in the City for bestowing the “Heartfelt” award on me. I am humbled, and delighted to be the recipient of this lovely honor!
What is bunco? Well, my brand of bunco is a game, played just for fun (well, maybe some prizes or money changes hands—I really couldn’t say for sure, according to my lawyers, Nolo, Contendere and Machiavelli. But it’s not a swindle or a scheme that deceives people into parting with their money, as defined in the dictionary. Or is it? (Index finger thoughtfully tapping chin.)
Bunco. One bell, three tables, nine dice, twelve women. (Okay, sometimes we are as few as eight women at two tables, but you get the idea. Or maybe you don’t. Stay with me.
Four women sit at a table. They are two sets of partners, not unlike bridge. If there are only three women at this table, two are partners and the third plays with a ‘ghost’, because unlike bridge, there are no dummies in bunco. (Ouch!) And although you think this is all just a brain dump, I can prove (sort of) that I did a bit of actual research for this post: In 1924 Hoyle’s Standard Games published rules for bunco! Hah—and they say journalism is dead…
There are three dice on each table. At the ‘head’ table there is a bell to designate the start of the game. Sounds simple, yes? Yes. Round one, you are playing for ones. (Subsequent rounds are also played for the target number—round two, roll a two, etc.) You roll the three dice, and for each die that comes up a one, you get a point for your team. (If you didn’t roll any ones, the turn passes clockwise.) You keep rolling as long as you get at least one point. Play proceeds around the table and continues till one team at the head table gets 21 points. When that happens, they ring the bell, and play stops at all tables.
Fine points: three of a kind, any number is called a mini-bunco, and is worth five points. Three of a kind of the target number for the round is a bunco, and is worth 21 points. So obviously if someone rolls a bunco at the head table, the round ends. Meanwhile, teams at other (less worthy) tables can end up with fifty or sixty points sometimes, waiting for the head table to reach 21. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. On the other hand, sometimes a round ends so quickly one table may end with a 4-3 score.
Details: You play four sets of six rounds. After each round the two women who lost move to the next table. The two who won stay, but one must change seats so that the two who won will not be partners in the next round. This goes on all evening till the 24 rounds have been played, or until a certain player (nothing personal, Jane) is too drunk to sit in her chair. Meanwhile, snacking is mandatory, and an impressive and yummy dessert is served when the games are over.
One more sign that actual research was conducted: Some groups play a variation of bunco called Wipeout. In that game, you never play a round for ones, only twos through sixes. Then rolling three ones is called a wipeout, and the team who rolls one loses their points for that round, and starts over at zero. Sounds like fun!
Scoring: Points are not accumulated beyond the round, so you just keep track of wins and losses, and of course the number of times you BUNCO! Prizes and or cash may or may not be awarded (we might each pay $5 to participate) to the player with the most buncos, the most wins, the second-most wins, and the least wins. Sore losers are not tolerated, and gloating is to be expected. In fact, in our group it has been raised to an art form. (You know who you are.)
Comments will be withheld on a certain player’s sister who visited from California, a total bunco newbie and scored an unheard-of, unprecedented and record-shattering FIVE buncos one night. She won the [imaginary] jackpot, not that we’re bitter!
My daughter has asked, “What is the deal with bunco?” Loosely translated this means, “Are you embarrassing yourself in front of people who know me?” The answer is, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. No, wait, that’s something else. This answer is, it’s not the game, it’s the stupidity.
Which just means that it’s THE PEOPLE you like to hang out with, and laugh with and have fun with. The older we get, the more important it is to have fun with people who don’t mind if you act a little stupid once in a while. Or even a lot stupid, because FUN is so very vital to our well-being and mental health.
I look forward to the second Monday of the month to get together with this awesome group of friends and have a fun time catching up on everyone’s jobs, families, ailments, pets, car troubles, travels, etc. We recommend books, tv shows, movies, and restaurants to each other. It’s a total gabfest, and the game is just a vehicle for the mixing and schmoozing. We range from a young mom with a 3-year old, to the retired grandmothers of tweens. We are women, and we know how to have fun!
So here’s my shout-out to the women who make bunco the party that life is meant to be: Kitty, Donna, Liz, Karen C., Karen P., Sandy, Nancy, Melissa, Boni, Carol, and our permanent substitute Joan. Y’all are the best. Let’s all hum Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, okay? ‘Cause you do.