Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bunco n.

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

1. [late 19C–1920s] a swindler.

2. [mid-19C+] (also banco) fraud, a dishonest gambling game.

3. [1910s+] deceit, flattery, empty nonsense.

4. [1960s+] a police squad devoted to combating confidence tricksters; also attrib.

In compounds

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

1. [late 19C+] (US) a confidence trickster.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

bunco game (n.) (also bunko game, bunk game)(US)

1. [mid-19C–1970s] a generic for swindling, confidence trickery.

2. [1900s–20s] any form of ‘fixed’ gambling game.

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

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’]

[mid-19C–1950s] (US) a swindler, a confidence trickster.

bunco squad (n.) (also bunko people)

[20C+] (US police/Und.) a special squad devoted to combating confidence tricksters.

bunco steerer (n.) [steerer n. (3)]

1. [late 19C+] (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.

2. [late 19C+] as a non-specific term of abuse.

bunco-steering (n.)

[late 19C–1940s] (US) confidence trickery, also attrib.