score a Bonus Yahtzee when the usual score boxes are already taken.
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
- 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
- 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.
Want to learn about Yahtzee?
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