Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bunco n.

also bunko
[Sp. banca, a card-game similar to monte]
(Und., esp. US)

1. a swindler.

[US]National Police Gazette 26 July 5: The bunko began, ‘Why, you d—d fool, you —’ [HDAS].
[US]H.G. Carleton Thompson Street Poker Club 14: ‘Up comes a wite man in a plug hat, an’ sezee, “Why heel-lo, Mister Robinson, how is yo’”’ ‘Bunko,’ remarked Mr Smith, with the air of one who had had experience.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Poet & the Peasant’ Strictly Business (1915) 76: ‘Bunco Harry’ laughed loud and briefly.
[US]V.W. Saul ‘Vocab. of Bums’ in AS IV:5 338: Bunko—To fake; a fakir.
[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 107: A ‘bunco’ or ‘grifter’, ‘con man’, or ‘soft song man’ is a confidence trickster.

2. (also banco) fraud, a dishonest gambling game.

[US]Chicago Trib. 5 Feb. 7/2: Shaw [...] believed that he knew as much of the tricks of bunko as Laurence.
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer 5 Feb. 4/4: [headline] bunkoA Sucker Born Every Day’.
[US]A. Pinkerton Thirty Years a Detective 209: ‘Banco,’ [...] now called ‘bunco,’ is another form of confidence swindle, and first made its appearance at New Orleans in 1869.
[US]T. Byrnes Professional Criminals of America [Internet] The prettieslate 19t banco is when we land a big fish. Talk about trout-fishing! Just think of the fun hooking a man that’s worth anywhere from $500 to $5,000!
Telegram Herald (Grand Rapids, MI) 25 Jan. 10/3: The den of the sawdust gang is always an opium joint. What is the connection between opium and bunco?
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Modern Rural Sports’ in Gentle Grafter (1915) 41: It looks incredulous to me that he could have inoculated himself against all the preordained systems of bucolic bunco.
[US]J. London Smoke Bellew (2007) 192: Wild Water swung the bunco game timed to seconds. I hadn’t no time to examine them eggs.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of N.Y. 197: In later years the term banco [...] degenerated into bunco, and was applied indiscriminately to every type of swindler; but originally it referred only to the operator of banco, an adaptation of the old English gambling pastime of eight dice cloth. Banco was introduced into the United States by a noted sharper who played it with great success in the western gold fields, and brought it into New York about 1860 [...] The swindle sounds a bit silly to our modern ears, but it was much in vogue for years throughout the United States and many of the banco men amassed fortunes.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 57: This so called gambling game [...] was introduced into San Francisco by a crooked gambler who made various changes in the method of play and christened it Banco. After a few years this was corrupted into Bunco, sometimes spelled Bunko, and in time Bunco came to be a general term applied to all swindling and confidence games, while the sharpers who practiced them were called Bunco men.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 140: For a phony bunko game. For a dice game with packed dice. For violation of the Drug Act.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 36/2: Bunco. A swindle at cards, pool, or any similar game. ‘Imagine that dude (fellow), hip to (familiar with) all the angles and blowing his roll (losing his money) on a pool bunco.’.
[US]M. Braly It’s Cold Out There (2005) 196: ‘What’d they bust him for?’ ‘Bunco. He was trying to lay the note.’.
[US]A. Brooke Last Toke 171: I don’t get my feet wet in vice and bunko.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 175: Bunco Fraud generally.
[US]E. Bunker Little Boy Blue (1995) 217: I’d like to learn that shit – how to play bunco.
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 39: He had accumulated more money than an entire lifetime of mob bunko, jukebox skimming and mail fraud.
[US]J. Ridley Love Is a Racket 266: Con, grift, bunko. You don’t got many aspirations, do you, Kittridge?
[US]E. Weiner Big Boat to Bye-Bye 255: ‘This whole grift vibes bunco’.

3. deceit, flattery, empty nonsense.

[US]J. London Smoke Bellew 287: When it comes to fi-nance we’re sure the fattest suckers that ever fell for the get-rich-quick bunco.
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (2005) 182: Why was he blabbing all the bunko about the kid days.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 314: A farfetched piece of snide bunko.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 175: Bunco [...] sometimes false and flattering ‘chat’ by a man to a woman.

4. a police squad devoted to combating confidence tricksters; also attrib.

[US]R. Stone Hall of Mirrors (1987) 69: The buncos, the morals, the immigrations, everybody wanted to talk to Farley the Sailor.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 87: The street hustlers, pimps, confidence men, whores, gamblers and boosters who paid off the vice and bunco details.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 122: Hello, Noel [...] How’s life in bunko?
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 45: He saw cubicles and office doors. Burglary/Bunco. Auto Theft/Forgery.

In compounds

bunco artist (n.) (also bunko artist, bunko boy) [-artist sfx]

1. (US) a confidence trickster.

[US]Bozeman Avant Courier (MT) 23 Apr. 2/4: A Chicago bunko steerer picked up a rural athlete from Iowa [...] The first place they landed in was a bunko den [...] the bunko artists locked the doors and were going to fleece their man .
[US]W.T. Call Josh Hayseed in N.Y. 62: I’ve got to give in to one lot of Yorkers, and that is the bunko boys.
[US]W. Irwin Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum XVIII n.p.: Sleep, like a bunco artist, rubbed it in, Sold me his ten-cent oil stocks, though he knew It was a Kosher trick to take the tin.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 112: In America they call such a man a ‘bunco artist’.
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 99: Joe could never guess what a bunko artist he was.
[US]Time 11 June 22: The other fellow is, in most instances, a bunko artist who is looking for a chance to prove how good he is [W&F].
[US]Newsweek 18 Mar. 34/1: The bunco artists start literally from the skin out, trading on the clothing shortage and the soldier’s natural desire to get into civvies [DA].
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 219: In the Payoff the victim is led to believe that the bunco artists are fleecing gambling clubs by fixing races.
[US]A.S. Fleischman Venetian Blonde (2006) 197: Nothing could sadden me more than to have to tell that poor old woman that she has fallen into the hands of bunco artists.
[US]G. Wolff Duke of Deception (1990) 8: The successful bunco artist does his game, and disappears himself.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.
[US](con. 1960s) J. Ellroy Blood’s a Rover 35: A faggot carhop [...] A bunco artist.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]J. Ellroy Hilliker Curse 4: She had the stones. He had the bunco-artist gab.
bunco game (n.) (also bunko game, bunk game)(US)

1. a generic for swindling, confidence trickery.

[US]Chicago Trib. 8 Dec. 12/3: This marriage was merely a ‘confidence’ or ‘bunko’ game on both sides,—purely a Mormon affair [DA].
[US]L. Chittenden ‘Texas Types – The Sheriff’ in Ranch Verses 132: When he goes to take a prisoner, he calls him by his name, / In that confidential manner which suggests the bunco game.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 67: He is a Come-On for any Bunco Game in the List.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 16: He tries to tell me that this minin’ business is all a bunko game.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 123: The confidence man worms himself into the confidence of his prospect and then fleeces him by a clever trick, as in the ‘dago bunk game’.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Zigzags of Treachery’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 121: She made him close up his office, and she went back to the bunko game.
[UK]J. Carr Bad (1995) 181: [He]’d been busted for running bunko games on old ladies.

2. any form of ‘fixed’ gambling game.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 260: We lose forty before a party tips me it’s a bunk game.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Spotted Sheep’ Taking the Count 119: You won’t be such a soft mark for the next bunko game.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 391: A criminal who resorts to tricks and devices known as ‘bunko games’.

3. in fig., i.e. non-criminal, use, any form of duplicity.

posting at Daly Thoughts 5 Mar. [Internet] Richard—What proof do you have that the current bunko game now being played will hold water in 2006 for the GOP?
bunco man (n.) (also banco man, bunco sharp, bunk, bunko man) [Asbury, The Gangs of Chicago (1940), differentiates: ‘the [confidence man] operated all kinds of swindles, while the bunko man specialized in playing banco, sometimes called bunko, which was an adaptation of the old English game of eight-dice cloth’]

(US) a swindler, a confidence trickster.

[US]Chicago Trib. 5 Feb. 7/2: Henry Laurence, the bunko man who [...] ‘beat’ a citizen of Barrington out of $100.
[US]Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA) 20 Jan. 8/4: The impositions to which visitors from the country are subjected from the class known as bunco men.
[US]Brooklyn Dly Eagle (NY) 11 Dec. 4/7: ‘The Ballad of the Bunco man’ He was a festive bunco sharp / And had a little plan / For catching shekels on the Q / From the verdant countryman.
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer 5 Feb. 4/4: A reporter asked a well-known bunko man one day how it was that people still continued to be swindled by the same old process when the papers are constantly warning them. The reply was that there was a sucker born every day.
[US]T. Byrnes Professional Criminals of America [Internet ] It is in an out-of-the-way street that the banco men have the rooms where they practice their nefarious tricks.
[UK]Whitstable Times 15 July 3/5: Tips to Strangers [...] who are to visit Chicago [...] Don’t get acquainted with strangers who pretend to know you, this encourages the bunco man.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 134: The wandering vagabond considers him the ‘bunco-man’ of the beggars’ world [...] He will do anything to get money from a hobo.
[US]Ade Girl Proposition 125: The Bunko Man had the Nectarine on the other side of the Screen.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 233: The sport wears a loud checked suit of clothes, the bunco man makes a display of jewelry and money.
[US]Hawaiian Star (Honolulu) 13 May 18/3: When bunko men ‘cut up’ with the detectives, detectives will pass a bunko man on the street without noticing him.
[US]McClure’s Mag. Oct. in DN IV:ii 133: ‘Do you know who that bunk is you just – ’ ‘That “bunk,” as you roughly term him,’ said the young man in a modulated barytone, ‘is Mr. Hotchkiss.’.
[US]J. Lait ‘Omaha Slim’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 126: He ain’t got no time then for expert accountants an’ commercial bunko men.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Zigzags of Treachery’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 103: ‘Porky’ Grout says he’s an ex-bunko man who is in with a gambling ring now.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 107: Gate-crashers, bunco men, small time and big shot gamblers, a noted gunman from Chicago, and a scattering of burlesque comedians.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of Chicago (2002) 147: There he [...] dispersed the tribute paid by other gamblers and the gangs of confidence and bunko men.
[US]N. Algren Chicago: City On the Make 26: Fancy Tom O’Brien, the King of the Bunco Men.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 320: Bunco man, A swindler or card-sharper.
bunco squad (n.) (also bunko people)

(US police/Und.) a special squad devoted to combating confidence tricksters.

Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, SD) 30 June 2/5: [headline] Bunco Squad.
[UK]Oakland Trib. (CA) 18 May 3/2: The chief said that Flannery had nothing to do with the appointment of farrell on the bunko squad.
[UK]Oakland Trib. (CA) 11 July 13/4: [headline] Bunco Squad Lands Alleged ‘Con’ Man.
Eve. Review (E. Liverpool, OH) 18 Feb. 4/5: A Hollywood racketeer was arrested last week when the Bunco Squad caight him dipping sardines in gilt and selling them for goldfish.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 124: You say the bunco squad works with the con men.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 21: The Bunko people are really carrying a needle for the Rube.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 226: This is Mr. Jones, of the Bunco Squad, downtown.
[US]E. Bunker Little Boy Blue (1995) 217: The bunco squad’s got everybody’s picture.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 110: He took the payoff and gave it to the bunco squad.
[UK]Vanity Fair Oct. [Internet] If things went awry, it would be awkward telling the bunco squad, ‘That’s right, officer, I sent $10 million to a guy I never met’.
bunco steerer (n.) [steerer n. (3)]

1. (US Und., also bunko-steerer, banco-steerer, boonco steerer) that member of a confidence trickster gang whose task is to entrap the victim into the current swindle.

Amer. Agriculturalist 34 410/1: These fellows called ‘Bunko steerers’ are around hotels and other public places, and carry on their game openly.
[UK]Besant & Rice Golden Butterfly III 8: The Roper or Banco Steerer [...] will strip you so clean that there won’t be left the price of a four-cent paper.
A.S. Rowan How I Carried the Message to Garcia 8: He conveyed to me the cheerful information that because of my keeping away from them and giving no one any information as to my business, a bunch of convivial spirits had conferred on me the title of ‘the bunco steerer.’.
[US]‘Bill Nye’ Bill Nye and Boomerang 190: Wyoming was new and infested with the bear, the bunko-steerer and the bold, bad man.
Kipling Amer. Notes 14: To-day I know how it is that year after year, week after week, the bunco steerer, who is the confidence trick and the card-sharper man of other climes, secures his prey.
[US]F.P. Dunne Mr Dooley in Peace and War 1: This here Sagasta is a boonco steerer like Canada Bill. [...] A smart man is this Sagasta, an’ wan tha can put a crimp in th’ ca-ards.
[US]T. Dreiser Sister Carrie Ch. xxii: In the meanwhile Hurstwood encountered a humorous item concerning a stranger who had arrived in the city and became entangled with a bunco-steerer.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 15 May 1/3: [headline] Clever Bunco-Steerers [...] Two stylishly-dressed scoundrels who worked a fraud on a suburban publican.
Guilelmensian (Williams Coll.) 289: He dropped One Plunk per for two seats at the Richmond, where he took his bunco-steering room-mate.
S.H. Hadley Down in Water Street 99: Nearly all the policemen in New York know about the Water Street Mission and its work; so also does every tough, bunco-steerer, professional sneak-thief and the other specimens of the class.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 22 May 2nd sect. 12/4: Poor, brave old Captain Cook, that he should have come to be confounded with a vulgar bunco-steerer like the modern Munchausen.
[US]A. Stringer Door of Dread 118: You’re a bunco-steerer, and you can’t con me!
I.S. Cobb A Laugh A Day Keeps The Doctor Away n.p.: Grand Central Pete was a noted bunco-steerer of the old days, but could neither read nor write.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 125: The bunko-steerer with his sucker game robs but one person at a time.
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of Chicago (2002) 142: He ran saloons and gambling houses, protected bunko steerers and confidence men and brace games of all kinds.
[US]E. O’Neill Iceman Cometh Act I: An old grafting flatfoot and a circus bunco steerer! [...] Couple of con men living in my flat since Christ knows when!
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 36/2: Bunco-steerer. One who lures prospective victims to crooked card games, pool halls, etc. ‘Old Jim wrapped up (quit) the heavy (safecracking); he’s a bunco-steerer now for a Boston joint.’.
Times Record (Troy, NY) 30 Apr. 10/3: A bunco is a swindle [...] The trick involved locating one or more ‘marks’ [...] the targets of the card-game swindle. The ‘bunco-steerer’ [...] steered the marks into the bunco.

2. as a non-specific term of abuse.

[US](con. 1875) F.T. Bullen Cruise of the ‘Cachalot’ 172: ‘Pretty fine ground this’s got ter be!’ growled the old man. ‘Caint strike whale ’thout bein’ crowded out uv yer own propputty by a gang bunco steerers like this.’.
bunco-steering (n.)

(US) confidence trickery, also attrib.

[US]Chicago Trib. 30 Sept. 4/2: Everything possible was done by Mike Corcoran and his bummer and bunko-steering clique to intimidate honest voters.
Mansfield Advertiser (PA) 19 Oct. 2/3: [headine] A Professor Charged with Bunco Steering.
Ottowa Dly Republic (KS) 29 Mar. 2/1: We have fought the shystering, ‘bunco-steering’ outfit [...] until no candid man can justify [...] them.
Kipling American Notes [Internet] Would you play a straight game, or make me drunk, or—well, the fact is, I’m a newspaper man, and I’d be much obliged if you'd let me know something about bunco steering.
[US]Times (Shreveport, LA) 23 June 8/5: The defendants were guilty of bunco-steering.
Wkly Gaz. Globe (Kansas City, KS) 6 Aug. 4/6: Burglary, highway robbery [...] bunco steering, and hen roost robbing.
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 48: I never heard a better exhibition of bunco-steering in my life.
[US]Indianapolis Star (IN) 30 Nov. 12/1: [headline] ‘Bunco Steering’ Leads to Prison.
[US]Indianapolis Star (IN) 3 Sept. 17/6: He has served [...] seven years at San Quentin Prison [...] for bunco-steering.
Logansport Pharos-Trib. (IN) 19 Aug. 1/7: His plea of guilty to a charge of bunco steering.
Indianapolis News (IN) 14 Dec. 25/8: She was arrested [...] on charges of bunco steering.
Nevada State Jrnl (Reno, NV) 9 Dec. 19/1: Police subsequently arrested [...] a Las Vegan construction worker for [...] bunco steering.
[US]Star Trib. (Minneapolis, MN) 2 July 24/1: Wagoner [...] introduced a prearranged deck of cards kinto the game. She was charged with bunco steering.