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How Yahtzee Works

By: Julia Layton & Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.  | 

How to Win at Yahtzee

The roll of the dice is all up to chance, but winning Yahtzee doesn't have to be. There is some strategy you can apply to the game.

There are two main strategic angles: Get the highest number of points available and get enough points in the upper level to score a bonus.

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The score card is divided into two sections. The upper level consists of the single-number slots, ones through sixes. There's a 35-point bonus if the total of all points in that level is 63 or greater, which is something to keep in mind when deciding which slot to fill with a roll that applies in more than one place. For instance, if you roll three 2's and two 6's, you might automatically apply that to your full house (25 points) instead of your sixes (12 points). But, if 12 points will get you to the 63-point mark in the upper section, the 35-point bonus is even better than the 25-point full house.

There's also the more obvious, overarching strategy of filling up the most valuable slots early so if you end up having to take any zeroes at the end of the game, you're out fewer points. This basically means that if, at the beginning of the game, you roll three 5's, a 6 and a 2, put 23 in the three of a kind box instead of 15 in the fives box.

One more strategy tip: Go for the Yahtzee! Remember, that means five of a kind. Your first Yahtzee is worth 50 points, and any additional Yahtzee is worth 100. You can win a game on that second Yahtzee alone. So by all means, if you roll five 6's and each slot is filled except for sixes, ignore the open slot and call it a Yahtzee.

Yahtzee FAQ

How do you play Yahtzee?
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.
What are the rules to Yahtzee?
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.
How do you play virtual Yahtzee?
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.
What is the best strategy for Yahtzee?
There are two main strategic angles: Get the highest number of points available and get enough points in the upper level to score a bonus.
Why do they call it Yahtzee?
In the 1950s, a Canadian couple entertained seafaring friends with their "yacht game," which they sold to toy maker Edwin S. Lowe. On April 19, 1956, Lowe trademarked the game as Yahtzee. Initially, it did not prove to be as popular with the public as it had been with yacht guests.

Originally Published: Mar 23, 2010

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Sources

  • Hasbro. "Yahtzee Instructions." (April 2019) http://www.hasbro.com/common/instruct/Yahtzee_2004.pdf
  • Patterson, Ivars. Science News. "Solving Yahtzee." March 13, 2003. (April 2019). http://www.sciencenews.org/article/solving-yahtzee
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2004-2005. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation. Census.gov. (April 2019) http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/arts.pdf
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation. (April 2019) https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed/tables/arts.pdf
  • Wolfram Math World. "Yahtzee." (April 2019) http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Yahtzee.html
  • Yahtzee Online. "Yahtzee History."(April 2019) http://www.yahtzeeonline.org/yahtzee-history.php