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This will be the summer of Bunco!

Sandra Tsing Loh

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: The latest gaming craze in this country takes luck and absolutely no skill at all. It's quite literally a roll of the dice called Bunco.

About 20 million women are playing regularly. They pool their money for small prizes, but corporate America's catching on, too.

In this edition of the Loh Down, commentator Sandra Tsing Loh shares her latest obsession.


Sandra Tsing Loh: In my neighborhood, anyway, this is gonna be the summer of bunco.

What is bunco? Saturday night, 12 women convene. Four women each sit down at three card tables. Timer goes off, one at a time, you try to roll at least one "1" out of three dice. If you do, roll again, if you don't, pass to the next person.

It's one point for each "1," five points for three of any kind, and 21 points for three "1's"— that's a bunco, you yell bunco. And at my friend Helen'S house, anyway, you get to make up your own traditions — you get to hold the special bunco teddy bear!

OK, I admit now: That I've described it, it sounds a little dumb. But you have to understand that Saturday night girl fun has become expensive. I have joined girlfriends for dinner at the Pacific-Asian fusion themed restaurant of the moment and have come home 80 bucks lighter and still hungry — with memories of ahi shingles drizzled with frisee, $10 tastes of wine and $8 valet parking.

In Los Angeles, theatre tickets have reached $110. LA is geographically as far from Broadway as you can get, and $110? And did I mention parking?

One time while actually in Las Vegas — which is to say we had already spent the money — a girlfriend and me said, "Let's get $10 worth of quarters and enjoy one hour of gambling fun." And in 12 minutes, we were bored with pulling handles, and weirdly enough, we kept winning back quarters. So now, unglamorously enough, we were flying home from Vegas, laden with greasy change.

Which is the beauty of bunco. You're home Saturday night, mindlessly rolling dice for three hours. Lots of fun, lots of parking, the winner wins like a $10 Starbucks gift certificate, and all you've been set back is five bucks for the kitty and a $4 bottle of wine. Or a homemade Jello salad with marshmallows.

No wonder the official national bunco tournament sponsor is Prilosec, whose target audience is, and I quote, "middle-aged women with heartburn." And how.

Ryssdal: Humorist Sandra Tsing Loh lives here in Los Angeles.

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