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The Bunco Game Ingrained in American History - 02/20/06

Item# 02202006
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The Bunco Game – Ingrained In America’s History by Elle J. Miller

You’ve heard the term “bunco squads” on TV and movie police shows. Could this term have anything to do with the fun, fast and furious dice game that is taking the country by storm? The game of bunco is deeply ingrained into the history of America. The game, originally called 8-dice cloth, began in 18th century England. It was introduced in the San Francisco, California area in 1855 by a gambler who made his way across North America, including multiple visits to California during the gold rush. Along the way he changed a few of the rules, and renamed it banco. A few years later the name evolved to bunco or bunko.

Around the same time that bunco was being played, a Spanish card game called banka was also making its rounds within gambling communities. The combination of bunco dice and banka cards soon showed up at the gambling facilities. These locations soon became known as bunco parlors. Since many gamblers found themselves parted from large quantities of money at these parlors, the word “bunco” became synonymous with scammed and swindled.

After the Civil War and into the new century, bunco thrived as the economy recovered and the population grew. Nearly all the large cities in the U.S. had bunco games in operation between 1870 and 1880. All levels of society took to the parlor game ... some located in plush, lavish surroundings, and others in more stark surroundings, or offices.

A wonderful and fun way to promote social interaction, the traditional family or parlor game of bunco flourished throughout the Victorian Era and prior to World War I. Groups generally consisted of 8-12 people, with as many as 20 people enjoying an evening of friendly competition, as well as drink, food, and conversation.

Bunco gambling parlors resurfaced in various regions of the U.S. during the prohibition period and the roaring 20s. Chicago, Illinois had the most gambling parlors and speak-easy’s. And, who were detectives who raided these parlors? You guessed I … they were called the “bunco squads.”

When prohibition ended, bunco activity declined in the major cities around the country; but spread to the suburbs as a family activity, or social event. From the 1940s to the early 1980s, not much is known about where, how, or if the game was even played.

In the early 1980s, bunco games and parties began to reemerge all over the country. Women occupied with work, family and overly busy lifestyles were looking for something new and fun to do with their families, friends and neighbors. Bunco has become a great alternative to back yard barbeques and plain old visits. Many have found that the game has enabled them to stay connected with their friends, meet new acquaintances, and have a lot of fun at the same time! As time becomes even more valuable, many people are starting their own bunco groups, and enjoying weekly or monthly bunco parties.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to schedule some fun, family and friends into your life, check out where you will find bunco rules, games, and bunco party supplies to help you get your own bunco group started. You’ll soon be hooked on the game, and become part of the continuing history of bunco.

About the Author: Elle J. Miller is a freelance writer for Bunco Game Shop,, where you will find helpful information about bunco, the bunco rules, bunco games, bunco supplies, bunco party favors, and bunco gifts. Copyright © 2006 Bunco Game Shop. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached. You can write to Elle J. Miller at