How Yahtzee Works

Yahtzee Rules

Yahtzee may be a game of chance, but there's a fair amount of strategy involved, too. Public Domain

We'll begin with some Yahtzee basics: What's the goal and how do you get there? You need at least two players for a game of Yahtzee, unless you're going with the electronic version, and the total number of players is limitless in theory. But waiting for more than a few opponents to roll the dice can become tedious, so large groups may want to break into teams or have multiple games going at the same time.

The Yahtzee goal is pretty straightforward: You're trying for 12 different combinations of the five dice, and you get a certain number of points for each combination you roll. Each combination has a slot on the score card, and the goal is to fill each slot with the maximum number of points available for that combination. The player with the highest end score wins.


The 12 rolls and their corresponding point totals are:

  • Ones: The best roll is five 1's. You get one point for each 1.
  • Twos: The best roll is five 2's. You get two points for each 2.
  • Threes: The best roll is five 3's. You get three points for each 3.
  • Fours: The best roll is five 4's. You get four points for each 4.
  • Fives: The best roll is five 5's. You get five points for each 5.
  • Sixes: The best roll is five 6's. You get six points for each 6.
  • Three of a kind: Add up face values of all five dice.
  • Four of a kind: Add up face values of all five dice.
  • Full house: Three of any number along with two of any number will get you 25 points.
  • Small straight: Any four consecutive numbers gets you 30 points.
  • Large straight: Any five consecutive numbers gets you 40 points.
  • Yahtzee (five of a kind): Any five of a kind gets you 50 points.

You have three rolls on each turn to get the combination you want, and you can keep as many dice from each roll as you want. This is where the similarity to draw poker comes in. If on one turn, you roll a 2, three 3's and a 6 on the first roll, you might decide to keep the 3's and roll the other three dice again. If on that second roll you get, say, a 3 and a 5, you'll keep the 3. On the third roll, you're aiming for one more 3 so you can get the maximum number of points for the combination, which is 15 (or, of course, a 50-point Yahtzee). If you roll a 2 on that last roll, you'll enter a "12" in the threes slot; or, if you would rather score for your four of kind, you could tally up the sum of the dice.

There's also a "Chance" slot on the score card. Let's say you decided to keep the 2 and the 6 from that first roll and go for your large straight, because you already got your 3's and your three of a kind on a previous turn. And let's say you roll three 3's on your second and third rolls. That means you're left with no useful combination. In that case, you'll fill in your chance slot. The point total for chance is the total of all dice.

Those are the basic rules of Yahtzee, but there's more to it. If you're running out of time and you can't score for the boxes you have left, or if you don't want to use up a potentially high-scoring box with a measly roll, you can enter a zero in any slot. You'll have to decide when to sacrifice a box, or when to hold out and go big. This is where strategy comes in.