Bunco Babes: Dice Games Perfect Excuse To Socialize

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Dice, a bell and a score sheet and up to 11 other people and you have the makings of a game of Bunco.

To the uninitiated -- like me -- what sounds like it would be a simple game can get intimidating fast, even if your mentor has been playing Bunco for more than 30 years. Ostermeier played it for 25 years while living in the Valley and has been playing it for seven since her move to Payson.

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Betty Ostermeier is known as the Godmother of the Bunco Babes. She said starting a Bunco group is a great way to get acquainted with neighbors.

"We (she and her husband, Bob) only knew one other couple when we moved here," Ostermeier said. "Then we started walking the dog around the neighborhood and discovered there were a lot of nice people living here."

She decided she wanted to get better acquainted with her neighbors, so she went knocking on doors and issuing an invitation to play Bunco.

"If someone said they didn't know how to play the game, I'd tell them I'd give them 30 seconds and they'd be set," Ostermeier said.

Before visiting with her, I wanted to get some background on the game so turned to the handy, dandy Internet and did a search on "Bunco" in Google. There are nearly half-a-million entries on the word. I picked the entry "The most complete Bunco Rules on the ‘net'" and the first thing I read was "There ARE NO OFFICIAL RULES of Bunco".

What's the uninitiated to do?

I went to my interview with the Godmother of the Bunco Babes, Betty Ostermeier, uninformed.

Then she said the same thing as the Internet article, more-or-less: you make up your own rules and she made up the rules for her Bunco group.

"Every club plays it differently, that makes it more fun," Ostermeier said.

There are 12 ladies in the Bunco Babes group, ranging in age from their 50s to their 80s. Each month one of them hosts the game at their home and provides refreshments and prizes -- Ostermeier is hosting the December gathering and will treat her group to a dinner for the holidays.

The Bunco Babes use three dice per table of four players -- the rules for the boxed version of the game four dice are used.

According to the International Bunco Federation, "the object of the game: to be the player with the most points, of course!"

To get points you must roll the "target" number either until someone rolls three-of-a-kind (or four) of the target number, which is a "Bunco" or the number of points accumulated for the round reaches 21.

The target number are the die spots (1-spot, 2-spot, etc. up to the 6-spot). A round is each player rolling for the target number (1's, 2's, etc.) and once a round is completed (by reaching 21 or getting a Bunco) the players move to the next target number.

The three (or four) of-a-kind of the target number is a "True Bunco" according to the rules in the boxed game, which are the same as those posted by the IBF. Points are also awarded when a three (or four)-of-a-kind of other numbers is rolled.

The Bunco Babes allow five bonus points for rolling three-of-a-kind of any other number than the target number.

The boxed game differentiates awarding five points when four-of-a-kind lower than the target number is rolled, and seven bonus points if the four-of-a-kind is a number higher than the target.

Confused yet?

The boxed Bunco game is only $10 at both Wal-Mart and Walgreens in Payson and the rules are easy to read, plus you get all the stuff you need to play the game.

When Ostermeier first started explaining Bunco to me it sounded a little like Yahtzee, but in the end I decided that the only thing the two games have in common is dice.

The true fun of the game is the opportunity it gives people to visit, Ostermeier said. And that is what other players have said as well.

There are at least half-a-dozen Bunco Clubs operating in the Rim Country, at least that Ostermeier knows of. They all have their own rules, but generally the players are always women.

"Men think it's a silly game," she said.

Some groups award money as prizes, but most often the prizes are just fun, little trinkets.

Prizes can be awarded for whatever the group decides on, but the boxed game recommends prizes for: player with the most Buncos; the player with the most Wins; the player who is holding the fuzzy die (or small, plush toy) when the game ends -- the fuzzy die or toy is tossed at each player who gets a Bunco; the player with an equal number of Wins and Losses; the player with the most Losses.

Bunco Clubs are so popular the groups rarely have openings in the membership, which is limited to 12.

However, they have designated substitutes who are called to play when a member is unavailable.

So, the best way to start playing is to start your own group. According to IBF rules, Bunco can be played with as few as two players and up to 12. Check out www.IBFBUNCO. com for the rules used in the boxed game.

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