Gamblin' On Friendship
A dictionary might define Bunco as "a swindle in which you cheat at gambling or persuade a person to buy worthless property." A history of the parlor game known as Bunco might include such unsavory references as gambling in the wild American West or the origin of the term "Bunco squad," law enforcement teams that busted up illegal gaming operations during Prohibition.
None of these sinister aspects of the word really have much relevance today, however, Bunco is enjoying a resurgence of popularity among some of the most law-abiding citizens around: families, senior citizens and suburban women. A dice game thought to have originated in England during the 1800s, Bunco is based on 100 percent luck and 0 percent skill- the toughest decision you're likely to make during play is whether or not to go get another brownie. Bunco can provide hours of fun without ever taxing that tired brain or overworked body. Add to that the fact that it also provides ample opportunity for eating, drinking and gossiping, and it's no wonder women everywhere are embracing this activity.
Hilton Head Island resident, Monique McGlynn, started one of the many Bunco groups that are popping up around the Lowcountry. She had already been playing for many years as part of a group in Florida, and when she moved here it wasn't long before she had gotten a few friends together and started a club of her own. The ideal membership, she says, is 12 people, plus a few subs who come in if someone can't make it. They meet once a month, rotating houses so everyone gets a chance to play hostess. Each player brings $10 to contribute to the "pot," and they compete for the winnings-though Monique insists it's not gambling. During a round, each player throws three die, aiming for a certain number-first round is one, second is two, etc.-scoring a point each time they roll the number. The first player to reach 21 points wins the round. If anyone rolls three of a kind of the designated number, that's a Bunco, and they instantly score 21 points to end the round. There are six rounds, one for each number on the die; whoever wins the most rounds is the Bunco champ.
Beyond that, rules can vary from group to group. For example, Monique's group also scores points for "babies," three of a kind that doesn't happen to be the designated number for that round. The game's lowest scorer is considered a winner as well, and takes a percentage of the pot. But there's one thing all groups are sure to have in common: a lot of carefree fun.
"It can get pretty rowdy," admits Monique, who says that enthusiastic cheering and shouting are sure to accompany any good roll. "It's a no-brainer game; there's nothing to learn as long as you can roll dice and count. But it's a lot of fun because you want to get the speed going so you can rack up as many points as possible, and that's when everybody starts hootin' and hollerin'."
Her group is unique, Monique says, because of the diversity of the members. They range in age from 30 to 67, and there are single as well as married women. For some, such as the stay-at-home moms, this might be one of the only opportunities they have to get out and socialize.
"The fun part is the camaraderie," said Monique, who saw her Bunco gal-pals in Florida go through all sorts of life-changing events. "When everybody first gets to the hostess' house, we visit and eat a little bit, and that's the time that, if somebody's having a problem, we can talk about it. We talk about anything and everything, so it is kind of a way to support each other."
Born: the Bahamas Fondest childhood memory: going to the beach and snorkeling Came to Hilton Head Island: four years ago from Florida, where she'd lived since age 13 Career: in the private bank division for Bank of America Hobbies: boating, waterskiing, gardening, golf Pets: two dachshunds, Franz and Hans, and cat, Noel Natural high: being on the water Guilty pleasure: wine Most thankful for: family and health