Recreational Math

Card and Dice Games

How do you play yahtzee?

Yahtzee is a derivation of the name “yacht game.” It was invented by a wealthy Canadian couple to play on their yacht. They soon contacted a person who made his fortune selling Bingo games in the 1920s, American game entrepreneur Edwin S. Lowe (1911–1986), who then spread the word about the yahtzee game (even to the point of having yahtzee parties), and the rest is favorite-game history.

The game itself is one of chance: Each player rolls five 6-sided dice three times, with each die having a set amount (see table below for the amounts relegated to each dice throw). Besides the table, the dice thrower can have all dice showing a single number, four and three of a kind, four or five numbers in a row (“small straight” and “large straight,” respectively), two of one number and three of another (“full house”), or yahtzee (five of the same number). The word “chance” is used to describe any roll. The roller of the dice also gets 35 bonus points if the total from the first six categories (on the list below) is greater than 62.

The following lists all the possible iterations of tossing the dice and how many points are rewarded for each:

Aces (sum of 1s)

Twos (sum of 2s)

Threes (sum of 3s)

Fours (sum of 4s)

Fives (sum of 5s)

Sixes (sum of 6s)

3 of a kind (sum of all the dice)

4 of a kind (sum of all the dice)

Full house (25)

Small straight (30)

Large straight (40)

Yahtzee (50)

Chance (sum of all the dice)


In the game of yahtzee, players role five dice, trying to get various combinations to score points.

According to mathematician P. Woodward, there are 1,279,054,096,320 possible outcomes of throwing the dice in yahtzee.

There is also another form of yahtzee called triple yahtzee in which players try to get each type of roll three times over the course of the game, not just once. Each number of the toss is put into a single, double, or triple column; the value is then multiplied by the stated weight when scores are totaled.

As of this date, the company that manufactures the game, Hasbro, claims that more than 100 million people around the globe play yahtzee. If this is true, there are many games out there for everyone to play!


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