Yahtzee

Here’s our Yahtzee guide for beginners. Read it if you want to learn the game rules and how to get a high score!

Yahtzee (Yatzy) is a wildly popular board game with deceptively simple rules that allow for a high degree of strategic play. Right now, millions of people all over the planet are learning how to play and how to win the game so they can experience the exhilarating thrill of being able to yell out YAHTZEE! when they get five of a kind.

If you want to see what all the buzz is about, dive into this guide so that you can join the ranks of Yahtzee players who have a keen passion for this immensely enjoyable pastime!

Yahtzee Rules: How to Play

The objective of Yahtzee is to roll five dice to score points by trying to achieve every one of the 13 combinations listed on the scoresheet.

To get started, have everyone write their name at the top of the scorecard. To decide the player order, each player rolls the dice. The individual who gets the most points goes first and plays, then proceeds clockwise.

A turn consists of up to three dice rolls. Players look at their scoresheet to see which combination they want to try for and set aside any dice they wish to keep. You can reroll any dice you wish--even dice you set aside on previous turns.

Let's say you roll three twos, a three, and a five. If you decide to go for a full house (three of one kind and two of another), you could keep the three twos and roll the other two dice again to try to complete the full house by getting two of the same number.

Once you've completed your turn, you must place a score in one of the thirteen boxes on your scorecard. If you can't do this because you don't have a combination that fits into one of the categories, you get a zero for that turn, which goes into the category box of your choice.

Play Spades Online

Upper Section Combinations

The scorecard has an upper and a lower section. The upper section has six categories, one for each number on the dice. Try to get as many of that number as possible at the end of three turns.

Your score is the total of all the dice with the number you're shooting for. For example, if you roll a six, six, six, five, and one, and you're going for sixes, your score would be 18 (six plus six plus six).

If you get 63 points or more as your total for the upper section, you'll get a whopping 35-point bonus!

Lower Section Combinations

  • THREE OF A KIND: This combination is three dice with the same number. You receive points for the total of all the dice, not just the three of a kind.
  • FOUR OF A KIND: This is four dice with the same number. Like with three of a kind, your points are the total of all the dice.
  • FULL HOUSE: This combination is three of a kind and two of a kind for a total of 25 points.
  • SMALL STRAIGHT: This is four numbers in a row, for a total of 30 points. For example, three, four, five, and six.
  • LARGE STRAIGHT: This combination is five numbers in a row, earning you 40 points.
  • CHANCE: Use Chance when you fail to get the combination you were going after. Your points are the total of all the dice.
  • YAHTZEE: Yahtzee is five of a kind. Because it's the most prized of all combinations, you get 50 points—more than any other category.

Sometimes, a combination can fit in more than one category. For example, a full house can go in the full house, three of a kind, or chance box. It's up to you to decide which one you want to put it in.

What Happens if You Get More Than One Yahtzee?

If you're lucky enough to score a second Yahtzee, congratulations! You get a 100-point bonus and a joker, otherwise known as a wild card. If you haven't filled in the box in the upper section with the number that gave you the Yahtzee, you must use your wild card there.

For example, you get a Yahtzee with all sixes, and you haven't filled anything in the sixes box yet. You'd give yourself 30 points for this category.

If you've already filled in the upper box for this number, choose a box in the lower part of the scorecard as your wild card. Then, give yourself the points that correspond to that category. If you scored a zero in the Yahtzee category, you wouldn't get a 100-point bonus. However, you'll get a wild card.

Winning the Game

Once you finish playing, tally up the score in all 13 boxes, including all bonuses. The winner is the one with the highest score. Unfortunately, the rules don't specify what happens in the event of a tie, which means you can invent your own rule to cover this situation. Now that you know the rules, it's time to play the game of Yahtzee online for free!

Strategy Tips to Help You Win the Game

If you want to rack up an impressive winning streak, you'll need to be strategic. In Yahtzee, there are many opportunities to make strategic decisions that can make the difference between triumphantly winning the game or being defeated.

For example, you need to hone your ability to know which dice to keep and which to discard. Another crucial thing to learn is the best time to fill in each box.

Here are some other strategy tips that can help you win the game:

Don't Use the Chance Box Too Soon

A common mistake made by rookie Yahtzee players is using the Chance box too early. Try to use this box only after you've exhausted all other options or if your score for this category is 25 points or more. It's best to keep the Chance box open so you can use it when your options are limited.

Snag the 35-Point Bonus Early

If you roll a four of a kind with fours, fives, or sixes, don't use them in the four of a kind section because it's better to score a four of a kind with lower value dice. Instead, use your higher value dice amounts in the upper section so you can snag a 35-point bonus.

If you get a three of a kind, put it in the lower section first. That way, you leave the door open to get four of a kind in the upper section, thus improving the chances you'll get the 63 points you need to score the 35-point bonus.

Try to fill the upper section with high scores near the game's beginning. This maximizes the chances of getting 63 points, and thus the bonus.

Score a Yahtzee ASAP

If you roll a three or four of a kind on your first or second roll, don't stop there—try for a Yahtzee. If you fail in your attempt, your fallback can be dumping your points in the Chance category or marking a zero in the ones or twos boxes.

Know-How to Use Your Ones and Twos

If you roll a pair of ones or two early in the game, use them to try for a straight, full house or other high-scoring combination. Keeping a pair of ones or twos because you want to go for a three or four of a kind won't snag you too many points. Also, by leaving these boxes open, you'll be able to mark a zero in them if you need to.

Don't Waste High-Scoring Boxes

Don't throw away your chances if you roll a combination that gives you a lousy score in potentially high-scoring boxes. Instead, mark a zero in the ones, twos, or threes box, which allows you to still get a high score in the remaining boxes.

Know When to Enter a Zero

If you roll a terrible combination near the end of the game, enter a zero in the Yahtzee category or one of the other difficult-to-get combinations. The chances you'll achieve hard-to-achieve dice throws get increasingly less likely the closer you are to the game's end.

Probabilities

  • Two of a Kind: 60.19%
  • Three of a Kind: 15.43%
  • Four of a Kind: 1.93%
  • Full House: 3.86%
  • Small Straight: 12.35%
  • Large Straight: 3.09%
  • Yahtzee: 0.08%

The maximum possible score is 1,575. To do this, you'll have to roll 13 consecutive Yahtzees, score 12 Yahtzee bonuses of 100 points each, and score 375 in all other categories.

Interesting Variations

One rule you can use to make the game more interesting is forcing players to complete the upper section before scoring on the lower section, which increases the game's difficulty level.

You can also play Yahtzee with two or more teams or by yourself.

The Origin of Dice Games

Dice have been part of human beings' recreational activities for thousands of years, including playing games and gambling. But that's not all—the invention of dice inspired humanity to develop mathematical concepts such as game theory and probability.

Before the invention of dice, people used the knucklebones of goats or the bones that make up the ankle joints of sheep to generate random numbers. Archaeological evidence suggests that throwing the skeletal remains of livestock might have initially been used to foretell the future.

Over the centuries, this use faded away in favor of using dice to play games. For instance, Tali, one of the predecessors of Yahtzee, was a popular dice game in Roman times.

Yahtzee History

An anonymous Canadian couple invented modern-day Yahtzee while sailing around the world in the early 1900s. Because they played it on their yacht, they called it the "Yacht Game," which eventually transformed into its current moniker—Yahtzee. The couple begged ES Lowe, a renowned game manufacturer, to mass-produce some sets so they could give them to friends who developed a love for the game.

Yahtzee so enraptured Lowe that he secured the rights in exchange for giving the couple 1,000 gift sets. In the beginning, the game was a dismal failure because advertisements for it failed to generate much enthusiasm. However, Lowe came up with a brilliant marketing strategy: organize Yahtzee parties where people could learn the ins and outs of the game.

This idea was wildly successful, and excitement for Yahtzee proved to be contagious.

From 1956 to 1973, the ES Lowe Company produced over 40 million game units. In 1973, Milton Bradley purchased the corporation, and these days, the company sells approximately 50 million units every year.

To this day, Yahtzee continues to have a cherished place in pop culture. There's even a guy named Yahtzee Crenshaw, an author and game developer. However, he only chose this name because he thought it sounded cool—he never played the game until recently.

Commercial Versions

Milton Bradley has come out with a seemingly endless procession of deluxe editions of the game ever since the early 60s, with every variation boasting fancier components than previous versions. In the 70s, the company introduced a travel version of the game.

There are even miniature editions of Yahtzee where the components are housed in keychains or specially shaped pens. That way, Yahtzee aficionados can indulge their passion wherever in the world they happen to be.

Triple Yahtzee is the same as regular Yahtzee, except there are three scoring columns for each game instead of only one. Word Yahtzee forgoes numbers in favor of letters and words and seven dice instead of five.

One of the earliest celebrity endorsements for this game with enduring mass appeal was Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, stars of the smash-hit television show "The Odd Couple." The actors appeared on the 1974 Challenge Yahtzee box as Felix and Oscar, the characters they played on the show.

Computer versions include one designed for the TI-99/4A computer and another made for the Apple II computer in 1978.