Somerset If you look up in the dictionary under the term "bunco", you will see a rather straightforward definition- "a swindling game or scheme". That may seem odd, especially when we know that bunco is a favorite pastime among players all around the USA, and the other continents as well. Now the question may arise- how does this innocent, little game, loved by so many people comes together with this ungratifying context? That is the question that can be easily answered if we take a closer look at the history of the game itself. This is the story about bunco- from the gambling tables and frauds to the family activity.
If we can tell that it is possible to keep track of the development of the USA and its culture through a game, then it could easily be bunco. This game has survived many different ages and social circumstances and still exists. However, the origins of bunco are not entirely linked to the USA. In fact, the game was invented in England, under the name "eight dice cloth". The rules were pretty much similar to the game we know, but bunco went through some changes when it was brought overseas, most notably regarding its name. While it is not known who showed bunco to Americans, it is believed that it was done by some wandering crook in 1855. It was the time of the Gold Rush when everybody nurtured great hopes of getting rich in a short period of time, and the unknown (anti)hero of our story saw his chance in bunco. Namely, at the time it was a common thing for conmen to draw the money out of honest hard-working people (or just those who were naive enough) by tricking them into playing so-called confidence games. The games were supposedly based on sheer luck and the crooks promised huge prizes, but it was mostly just a hack. Bunco was an especially lucrative business that had its own playing sites, known as the Bunco parlors.
Nevertheless, as the Gilded Age started, the purpose of the game was dramatically changed- it was played for fun, much like today, among families and friends. This was the case until the end of WWI when the Roaring Twenties came on board. It was again time for frauds and gamblers, as Bunco parlors came to life. The game was an integral part of infamous blind pigs or speakeasies as people again started losing their money. This changed with the end of the Prohibition and for many years Bunco went under the radar until the 80's when the interest in it was rekindled, and the game gain on its popularity. The interest in bunco has not stopped ever since.
Bunco is a very easy dice game to play, and maybe there lies its popularity. It does not require much equipment (only a board, dice, and some paper) and there is no need for some convoluted strategy. It is all about throwing a dice, really, so it can be played by children as well. It is perfect for families, and its popularity among women is well-known, as it is sometimes called the housewife's drinking game. What makes this game so appealing is that in its case the rule "the more, the merrier" applies. The game is more interesting if there is a great number of players, hence it is perfect for parties when you want to have some fun without getting annoyed. And imagine it was once used for fraud- funny, right?