HISTORY OF BUNCO
Bunco dates back to the late 1800’s, and was played by groups of women, school children and couples. The old fashioned game of the future is becoming ever more popular at parties, social events, and new groups are popping up across the country.
This progressive dice game, under its original name of 8-Dice Cloth was played in England during the 18th century. It was unknown in the United States until 1855, when it was introduced into San Francisco during the Gold Rush by a crooked gambler. This shady character, traveling from the East to West coast had made many stops in route to the California gold fields. He also made various changes to the gambling game he called Banco. After a few years. the game and activity was re-christened Bunco or Bunko. During this same period, a Spanish card game, Banco, and its Mexican derivative, Monte, were also introduced to the to the population of San Francisco. Bunco dice and Bunco cards were combined to form a more efficient method of separating the hardworking citizens from their money at numerous gambling locations, These locations were known as Bunco parlors. Hence, the word Bunco came to be a general term that applied to all scams, swindling and confidence games. After the Civil War and into the turn of the century, Bunco flourished as the population grew and the economy recovered. Between 1870 and 1880, in virtually every large city in the country, Bunco-Banco games were in operation. Some Bunco locations were furnished elaborately while others resembled professional offices.
During the 1880’s, and into the mid 1890’s, Bunco was played in Texas & Oklahoma, through Kansas & Missouri, in towns and cities along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and from New York to the Great Lakes states. Through the Victorian era and prior to WW1, Bunco had achieved permanent placement as a traditional family or parlor game, promoting social interaction. During this period, Bunco groups, consisting of 8-12 people and as many as 20 people enjoyed an evening of food, drink, conversation, and friendly competition. During Prohibition and the roaring 20’s, the infamous Bunco gambling parlors resurfaced in various regions of the US. The most notorious speak-eases and Bunco dice parlors were located in and around Chicago, Illinois, The term “Bunco Squad” referred to the detectives who raided these establishments!
After Prohibition, Bunco group activity declined in the major cities of the country, but spread to the suburbs as housing development and migratory population expanded nationally. Not much was heard about Bunco activity from 1940-1980 (WW1, Korea, Vietnam). Since the early 1980’s Bunco activity has increased due to a combination of circumstances; a return to traditional family values, a sense of neighborhood and community and, the desire and need for social interaction. Traditionally most Bunco groups consist of 12 players (usually groups of women & occasionally couples). Kids are even beginning to play at parties and other social events. Playing Bunco is great way to maintain relationships and make new friends.