bunco

Terry Buckley, left, Chris Gearhart, Becky Flanigan and Kris Dudley begin a bunco round.

Bunco, also known as bonco or bonko, offers an interacting, social time with a chance to meet new people while having the fun of rolling the dice.

“Every bunco group has different rules,” said player Lynda VeArd. “There are no hard-set rules. I just came back from Texas, where I played two games, each with different rules.”

Bunco is a hugely popular dice game played mostly by women. Twelve or more players are divided into groups of four at each table — keeping individual scores, trying to score points while taking turns rolling three dice in a series of six rounds.

Each round ends when a player has scored 23 points which makes rolling a bunco an instant win.

The game ends when all six rounds of play are complete. The player with the most rounds won is the overall game winner, with ties typically broken by comparing total points scored. What remains of the rest of play depends on how each bunco group wants to set its rules.

“The game of bunco is controlled by the first table,” said Anne Bennett, a West Melbourne resident who heads a local clubhouse game and has played for years. “The first table plays until it gets a 23 score. The other tables must keep going until the first table gets its 23 and rings a bell signifying that round is over. One whole game is one through six and we play five games. Each table has its own scorekeeper.”

The more people that play, the higher the pot with each participant tossing in $6 to play at the beginning of the evening.

“I’ve played for 17 years, and it is a nice way to get together with friends and it’s not hard to learn,” said Rositma Spampinato of West Melbourne.

Popularized as a gambling game in the 1920s, bunco was often associated with speakeasies with law-enforcement groups raiding parlors and becoming known as bunco squads, according to the World Bunco Association. It became a popular parlor game in the 1980s and had a resurgence in 2006 with women playing it regularly, hosting and providing snacks and refreshments. The association claims more than 59 million women have played bunco in the U.S. and more than 27 million play regularly.