How To Play Yahtzee

By Neal - 07/12/2022

What is Yahtzee?

Yahtzee is a strategy game played with five standard dice. It is believed the game was invented by a Canadian couple – originally known as the ‘Yacht Game’ – and played with friends before becoming a worldwide hit.

A game consists of 13 ‘turns’, in which players roll all five dice and choose from one of the possible scoring options. The aim is to choose the highest or most strategic scoring option for each turn to achieve the highest total score at the end of the game.

Players must choose one of 13 options each turn – with a potential minimum score of zero and maximum score of 50 points depending on the dice rolled and the option chosen. There are also bonus points available.

The name ‘Yahtzee’ is also given to the highest-scoring roll possible in the game – five of a kind.

How to play Yahtzee

Yahtzee can be played with physical dice or online, and as either a multi- or single-player game online. The rules of the game are the same in all formats.

The only equipment required to play Yahtzee is five standard dice and a scorecard featuring all 13 scoring options and space to record scores and potential bonus points.

Firstly, players roll dice to decide who goes first – the player who rolls the highest total begins. Online games, however, are typically decided randomly.

Player one rolls all five dice. They can then choose to ‘hold’ any or all their dice – meaning they keep the value currently shown on those dice – or to roll any of them up to two more times. At the end of the third roll, the player is left with the value currently showing on all five dice.

The player then chooses one of the 13 scoring options from their scorecard based on the dice at their disposal. Each scoring option can only be used once – with all options eventually covered across the player’s 13 turns. 

Once the player has chosen the best scoring option available for their dice, the appropriate points total is recorded on the scorecard. For example, if the player rolled ‘two, two, two, four, six’ and chose the ‘twos’ option, they would record six points in this box.

Player two then follows the same process, with players taking ‘turns’ until they have played 13 each.

Once all players have taken 13 turns and recorded their scores, each player’s total is tallied up – including any relevant bonus points awarded – and the winner is the player with the highest total. 

Rules of Yahtzee

The rules of Yahtzee are simple and there are only a few key points to remember:

  • Players can roll the dice up to three times per turn – however, it isn’t a requirement to use all three rolls. Players can choose to ‘hold’ any or all their dice and keep their current value.

  • Each scoring option can only be used once, and each must be used in the game – so, players must strategically choose which scoring option to use with each turn, to maximize their total game score.

  • If a player runs out of viable scoring options, they must record a zero in one of the boxes – as players get deeper into the game, they may run out of options that provide them a valuable score, if any points at all.

  • Players that score at least 63 points in the ‘upper’ scorecard receive a 35-point bonus – the scoring options available in the ‘upper’ section are worth fewer points than the ‘lower’ section, however, this bonus score makes them valuable options, too.

  • Players that roll a ‘Yahtzee’ can score 50 points and any subsequent Yahtzees give them a 100-point bonus – this makes Yahtzees the most valuable option in the game and often the difference between winning and losing.

How to score a game of Yahtzee

Below is a list of all the possible scoring turns in a game of Yahtzee:

  • Ones – the total score when adding the value of all ones rolled on the table. This can be between zero and six

  • Twos – the total score when adding the value of all twos rolled on the table. This can be between zero and 10

  • Threes – the total score when adding the value of all threes rolled on the table. This can be between zero and 15

  • Fours – the total score when adding the value of all fours rolled on the table. This can be between zero and 20

  • Fives – the total score when adding the value of all fives rolled on the table. This can be between zero and 25

  • Sixes – the total score when adding the value of all sixes rolled on the table. This can be between zero and 30

  • Three of a kind – possible when a player rolls three dice of the same value. The score is valued as the total of all five dice. For example, if the player rolls three sixes, a two, and a four, the value of their ‘three of a kind’ roll will be 24. 

  • Four of a kind - possible when a player rolls four of the same value dice. The score is valued as the total of all five dice. For example, if the player rolls four sixes and a four, the value of their ‘three of a kind’ roll will be 28.

  • Full house – when a player rolls three dice of the same value and two dice of the same value in the same turn. A full house is always valued at 25 points.

  • Small straight – when four of the five dice in a turn have consecutive values, for example, two, three, four, and five. A small straight is worth 30 points.

  • Large straight – when all five dice in a turn have consecutive values, for example, two, three, four, five, and six. A large straight is worth 40 points.

  • Chance – the total value of all five dice in a turn. This can be any five dice. For example, if the player rolled ‘two, two, four, five, six’, their chance score would be 19. 

  • Yahtzee – when a player rolls five dice of the same value in a turn, for example, five threes. Yahtzee is always worth 50 points, regardless of the value of the dice they roll. If a player rolls a second Yahtzee after already scoring 50 points, they receive a 100-point bonus.

The scoring system in Yahtzee is split into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ sections. A Yahtzee scorecard looks like the below:

Yahtzee Scorecard example

Bonus points

A player is awarded 35 bonus points if their total ‘upper’ score reaches at least 63.

An additional 100 points are available to players who score more than one Yahtzee in a single game.

How to win at Yahtzee

Yahtzee is a game of both strategy and luck. Players can use their scoring options wisely to maximize their total score – however, it also comes down to the luck of the dice as to whether each move pays off.

There are ways to increase a player’s chances of achieving a higher total score, though, including:

  • Consider the 35-point bonus for the ‘upper’ scorecard – while these options are lower-value on their own, they can add up to give players a hefty bonus.

  • Use the ‘chance’ option as a last resort – any five dice values are allowed in this option, so there is no risk of scoring zero.

  • Three of a kind with higher-value dice should go in the ‘upper’ section (e.g., ‘fives’) – as this gives the player a greater chance of getting the 35-point bonus.

  • Try to turn a small straight into a large straight – by ‘holding’ the small straight dice. This way, you are guaranteed to win a small straight even if you fail to win big.

  • Go for a second Yahtzee – this is the only option that can earn points twice and is also the most valuable, with a second Yahtzee worth 100 points.

While there is no way to guarantee winning every game, one way to improve your Yahtzee gameplay is to practice. Play Yahtzee now on Solitaired.com.

What are the probabilities in Yahtzee?

The chances of rolling each type of scoring option in Yahtzee are different – and this is reflected in their respective values. The statistical probability of scoring each option is as follows:

Scoring option

Statistical probability

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%


However, these are the probabilities based on a single roll of the dice – so, players can increase their likelihood of achieving each option by strategically holding and re-rolling some or all their dice.

Alternatives to Yahtzee

There are many games similar to Yahtzee that require strategic thinking. Games like Yahtzee include:

At Solitaired, we provide over 500 free games free to play online, including Yahtzee, Solitaire and many alternative games.


Yahtzee Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Can you play Yahtzee with two players?

Yes, Yahtzee can be played with two or more players. When playing with physical dice, there is no limit to the number of players – however, this may be restricted by the number of scorecards available. When playing online Yahtzee, it is possible to play single or multiplayer games.

How many dice do you use in Yahtzee?

A traditional game of Yahtzee is played with five standard six-sided dice. Only a single set of five dice is needed as players take turns to roll. However, there are variations of Yahtzee that use a different number of dice, for example, variations that use a greater number of dice and require players to roll simultaneously or use different sets of colored dice, like ‘Yahtzee Texas Hold ’em’.

What is the objective of Yahtzee?

The objective of Yahtzee is to strategically choose the highest value score possible in each of 13 turns, to earn the highest possible total score.

This can be achieved by both ‘holding’ and re-rolling dice tactically to achieve specific scores, as well as considering which scoring option to choose each turn to maximize your total. For example, if a player rolls three fives and two ones, they could score 25 points by choosing the ‘full house’ category, while they would only score 15 points by choosing the ‘fives’ category – however, their roll is technically eligible for both.    

Is Yatzy the same as Yahtzee?

While Yatzy is very similar to Yahtzee, they are different games. Both games involve rolling five standard dice and recording scores for 13 different categories, however, there are differences in the way the categories are scored and how bonus points are awarded. For example, Yahtzee includes a 100-point bonus if a player rolls five of a kind twice in the same game.

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