Roll Of The Dice

Payson homes fill with the sound of laughing women as Bunco increases in popularity

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A soft squishy ball flies across the dining table, over the back of the plush couch to a woman sitting with three others at a card table.

"Caught it," she said.

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There are many objectives to a night of Bunco, the least of which is winning.

The ball is called "the traveler" and is won when three 2s are rolled by a Bunco player.

Bunco is not limited to women but few men enter these nights of dice game, home cooked food and the laughter of good friends.

"It is a different diverse group of people that you normally do not get to see," said young mother Becky Hagler, of the 11 women she plays with.

"There are lots of laughs, no thinking; you just get to sit and socialize and have a good time," Hagler said.

This group, hosted recently by Barbara Underwood, began 15 years ago.

The sign on her front door reads, "If I'm not at home, I'm at Bunco."

Underwood substitutes for three other Bunco groups and knows of two others.

"That's the only thing I worried about moving up here -- no Bunco," Cheryl Reed said. This was her first night as a substitute for a missing regular player.

The consensus among the women is that there are innumerable Bunco groups in the Rim Country.

An invitation to substitute is, in this author's opinion, an invitation not to be turned down as a time to relax and have fun, beginning with dinner.

Bunco is held at a different member's home each month and participants look forward to signature dishes.

The unmistakable scents of Italian cuisine waft through the Underwood home.

"Everybody cooks different things. That makes it nice," Terry Clark said as she helped herself to meatballs, pasta, salad and beer bread.

"I'm not very outgoing so this is a way for me to get out and meet people," said Karen Ormand, who substituted a few times before being invited to join this group less than a year ago.

In the game of Bunco you change partners all night long.

You can have the same partner several times, just not twice in a row.

"We're all ages, I'm the golden oldie of course," said Ailene Lincoln or "Nanny" who has been playing Bunco "a long time."

The evening is for adults, but, Hagler said, "All of us have had a Bunco baby that we have carried around at one time. Then (the baby's) arms get long enough to reach the dice and they don't get to come any more."

The ladies playing at Underwood's home used three dice, but some Bunco groups use five.

There are many objectives to a night of Bunco, perhaps the least of which is winning, yet winning can happen quite a few different ways.

Rolling three of a kind is a Bunco and counts for more points if that is the number you are on.

By the end of the evening, everyone will have a laugh over the fact that I miss catching the traveler three times. Each time I pick it up from the floor, I secretly hope to win.

Alas, the person who wins with the traveler is the one who has it last.

The general object of the game is for you and your partner to roll first as many 1s as possible before a set of partners sitting at the "head table" earn a score of 21 points.

Partners change between each dice sequence, the winning partnership moves toward the head table.

Peanuts happen to be set out on the head table. But it is not so bad being at the second or third table one player remarked because "there's chocolate."

Play continues with 2s, then 3s and so on until 6.

There are three rounds to an evening's play.

And fortunately, unlike the prohibition of the Roaring Twenties, there is no "Bunco Squad" to raid the parlor.

-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail clavalley@payson.com.

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