One of the most popular card games used for gambling worldwide is probably poker. The game was first played in New Orleans in the early part of the 19th century. It was very different from the game we play today.
The early deck had only 20 cards. As the popularity of the game spread on riverboats along the Mississippi River and Bayou Teche, the game slowly evolved into the game we now know as poker.
I recall that the old timers who played the game called it po-coeur; like the French word cœur, which means heart. I have no idea if it was so named because the deck had so many heart cards, or if after a few rounds of the game one became brokenhearted and po(or). The English speaking gamblers on the riverboats changed po-coeur to poker.
Currently there are many variations of the game of poker; a game that was started by a New Orleans gambler, probably a Creole.
The most popular card game associated with the Cajuns is bourrée. And just like good Cajun food begins with roux, bourrée begins with everyone putting up their “miz” which the English players now call ante. Basically the dealer deals each player a card per round, starting to his left and turns his fifth card up. That card is called the trump card which Cajuns refer to as “au-too”.
Recently I was given a book “Official Rules and Techniques of The Cajun Card Game – Bourrée” by Preston Guidry and Ivy Lantier.
I was surprised to know such rules on the card game existed. I always thought that a Cajun knew the rules long before they learned the English language.
The first part in the rules book showed a display of the City Bar in Maurice. Owners of the bar were brothers Wade Huval and Blaise Huval. Wade was my classmate and roommate at SLI in the 1950’s. Wade talked about the game very often. Since most bars in Acadiana had a back room where the game was played, he was familiar with the game and how bar owners made money by taking a “cut” from bourrée pots.
The best bourrée player in our college group was Hillman Boudreaux of Lawtell. I always called him “the professional.” He did not have a rule book and didn’t know one existed. But he knew more about the game than anyone I ever met. He showed me how to excel at the game.
The name bourrée is derived from the French word bourrer (silent r) which means “to stuff.” It is similar to stuffing your roast with garlic except in the card game one tries to stuff his opponents to prevent them from making a “trick” and be bourréed. The more people bourré and games result in “splits” the larger the pot becomes.
Gambling was not allowed in our family. We did have a card deck to play bataille, solitaire, and a game called casinau. I have no memory of how casinau was played.
Cajuns have been known to play bourrée on hunting trips, during work hours, and even on relatives’ graves. And why not – it is a true Cajun game.
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