28 Mar

Yahtzee Bonus Joker Rule Variations

How to score a Bonus Yahtzee when the usual score boxes are already taken.

Yahtzee Bonus Joker Rule Variations

The worst feeling you can get in a game of Yahtzee comes when you take the undesirable option of scratching your Yahtzee (taking 0 points), only to roll that beautiful 5-dice combination on your next play. Ouch! The heart-wrenching pain is all but unbearable! But all is not lost if you invoke a Yahtzee Bonus Joker rule!

The Yahtzee Joker rule has existed since the game was first manufactured in 1956. However, it’s evolved over time. For the first five years, it was more restrictive, loosening up when the game was re-copyrighted in 1961. And, as usual, players came up with their own preferred variation along the way – as you’ll soon discover.

Yahtzee Bonus & Joker Rule Variations

The Yahtzee Bonus is a special section of the score pad in which player’s can take points for rolling more than one Yahtzee. Rolling that first Yahtzee is worth 50 points, and is scored in the corresponding box. Rolling a second Yahtzee is worth 100 points, marked by placing a check-mark in the first of three smaller boxes next to the label Yahtzee Bonus. As such, players are able to earn as many as 3 Yahtzee Bonuses (worth up to 300 points).

However, players are not allowed to score a Yahtzee Bonus if they have scored a 0 in the original Yahtzee score box. By scratching the Yahtzee, the Bonus columns are automatically forfeit. So what happens when a player rolls a Yahtzee after scratching it, or if their Yahtzee bonus boxes are all filled?

Invoking the Yahtzee Joker Rule

There are two modern ways to go about scoring an alternate Yahtzee; Forced Jokers and Free-Choice Jokers.

Forced Yahtzee Joker Rules (1961+)

The official Yahtzee rule book (post-1961) applies the following rules:

  • If the number that makes up the Yahtzee roll is available for scoring in the Upper Section, the score must be taken there (5 on 1’s, 10 on 2’s, etc.)
  • If the number that makes up the Yahtzee is already scored in the Upper Section, the score may be taken in the Lower Section. As a 3 or 4 of a Kind, all dice are added to determine the score as usual. For Full House, Small Straight or Large Straight, the Yahtzee becomes a wild “Joker, and can be scored as 25, 30 or 40 points respectively (even thought he result of the roll does not reflect the usual requirements for those combinations).
  • If the corresponding Upper and all eligible Lower Sections are already taken, the player must score it in an unused Upper Section, taking 0 points.

Free Choice Joker Rule

Although not listed in any official rule books, this is the Joker rule variation most players choose to abide by. It gives the player freedom of choice in electing where to score an alternate Yahtzee Bonus; Upper or Lower. The only stipulation is that the Yahtzee cannot be scored as a Joker (Full House, Small Straight or Large Straight) unless the corresponding Upper Section has already been taken.

Original Yahtzee Joker Rule (1956-1960)

As mentioned above, the Joker rule was different in the first five years of the game’s production. From 1956 to 1960, an alternative Yahtzee score could not be taken in the Upper Section; only the Lower Section as a 3/4 of a Kind, Full House, Small/Large Straight, or Chance. When the game was re-copyrighted in 1961, the Forced Joker rule above became official.

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