Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bunco Revealed

Winter - a time of beauty, until Bunco starts

Bunco, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is: “A swindle in which an unsuspecting person is cheated; a confidence game.” According to those who are tangled in its nefarious web, such as my wife, bunco is a dice game that serves as a basis for a social gathering. To hear them tell it, a bunco party is a congenial get-together designed to help pass away the winter in the company of good friends. Nobody ever mentions the dark underbelly of bunco: the banished husbands and abandoned pets.

Call me a skeptic, but in my opinion, bunco is not simply a game. It has all the earmarks of some dark, secret organization. Just ask a buncoholic to explain the rules of play. You’ll never get a straight answer. 

“What kind of game is it?”

“It’s a dice game, silly.” 

“How’s it played? What are the rules?” 

“Well, we have four tables... one is the head table... we all roll for the number of the hour, and when someone at the head table gets 25 they ring a bell...” 

From that point on, things get even more fuzzy. Frankly, with all the screaming that takes place during play, it would appear that there aren’t any set rules. I think they make the rules up as they go along, ironing out disputes as they arise.

Sweet little old ladies... until bunco starts

The only certain rule in bunco is that every time there’s a party, everyone has to ante up better than ten bucks. This leads us to another suspicious aspect of bunco. Since there is supposed to be a group of regulars filling the seats, why is it there is always one, or two, unfamiliar players mixed in with the crowd? Those “substitutes” are always someone new, someone who doesn’t know all the rules- or what pass for rules that particular night. Since the combined ante money is passed out at the end of the night as cash prizes for various achievements, one is left to wonder if bunco isn’t more of a description than a simple, harmless name.

Buncoholics don’t want any witnesses around. I know this to be true. You see, I’m the husband of a buncoholic. Worse yet, I’m the husband of a back-up bunco party hostess, which means my wife will not only host the bunco coven at regular intervals, but also whenever another hostess can’t. Almost monthly, I am banished from the habitable portions of the house; cast off to fend for myself in the cold of the garage, or dank of the basement. I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m simply designated as persona non grata. To be more accurate, it’s a situation that would require the plural, personae non gratae, since Slime Beast and Micro-watt are sent packing with me. In our exile, the dogs cower at my feet as peals of maniacal laughter echo down upon us. 

Pretty ladies get ugly... when bunco starts

Buncoholics can be heartless in the enforcement of their “no witnesses” rule.

One facet of the bunco ritual is the feast. A veritable cornucopia of food flows into the house. Bundt cakes, pizza rolls, clam/cheese/avocado dips, chips of all manner to go along with the dips, cheese, sliced meats, cookies, chili, all make their way to the kitchen. None of which is intended for, or allocated to, the male occupants of the house. 

Once, in a fit of hunger-driven poor judgment, I ventured out of exile and into the kitchen to ask for just a smidgen of a taste; a tiny morsel to stave off starvation for the duration of the occupation. You would have thought I was Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. Conversations stopped dead. Necks cracked as heads snapped to glare in my direction. At last, a meager portion of Jarlsberg cheese rind and a stale soda cracker were shoved into my hand as I was swiftly shown the door and admonished not to return. Harsh cackling followed in my retreat.

Poor Micro-Watt... forced to share a cheese rind!

To all men with significant others I say we must stand united in facing this potential scourge! Bunco stands as a threat to the very fabric of our society! As that great country-western singer and recovering buncoholic, Nellie Wilson, put it so well:

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to play bunco,
Rollin’ the dice and trustin’ to luck.
Tell ‘em to play bingo or pinochle and such.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to play bunco,
‘Cause they’ll leave hubby alone, go off on their own
To play the game that they love.

Cold, alone, hungry in bunco exile... it could be you!

So what can we men do? Ask your wives or girlfriends what they are doing if you hear them mention bunco. Stand firm and don’t be intimidated if they get defensive, resolute intervention may be the only way to save them. And if all else fails, get a mini-fridge for the garage and stock it fully. Your time in exile is coming.

Shameless Plug:  This post is an adaptation of a piece from my newest e-book, Home is Where the Harm Is, available through Amazon. Click here to check it out and download a sample of the book. (Just as an aside, twenty-five percent of all royalties received from the book are donated to cancer research.)


  1. Poor unsuspecting exiled familia. Love the post! I host a monthly group, that is a rather unique group in how we do things. My teenage boys help set up, so they wonder in from time to time to sample what foods is so sitting out. We have a couple bunco night a few times a year and get a big old group of 30+ people together. When our hubby's and children see how happy we are from our coven, they are very encouraging. We keep enticing them with food and couples nights, so when they least expect it, we can turn them with no resistance!