#20 Card Games

Like most historically downtrodden people, we Cajuns have our fair share of vices, or what I like to think of as the four in’s: drinkin’, cussin’, fightin’ (not so much), and gamblin’. Now gambling is such a huge part of our culture, with so many different types, that they can’t all be detailed in a single post. For today, let’s focus on one of the most traditional forms of gambling in Cajun culture…the card game.

The favorite form of gambling for most of the old school Cajuns is the local card game. Every small town has a bar or two where people gather for a game of bourré or euchre. The bar takes a house cut from each pot, and usually provides a meal for the players to keep them playing. Local police almost always look the other way, provided they get their taste of the action.

Now I’m not suggesting that all or even most Cajuns have gambling problems any more than I’d suggest we all have drinking problems. Sure, many overdo it, but the majority of us exercise moderation. Gambling’s most obvious appeal may be the chance to win some money, but it’s also a way to socialize with friends and pass the time, all while having a bit of fun. And what Cajun doesn’t like to pass a good time? After all, laissez les bon temps rouler is practically our state motto.

Some of my earliest memories are of the weekly card games my family held. I can remember going to my mom mom’s (grandmother’s) house every Sunday and as soon as lunch was over, a sheet would be draped over the kitchen table to make dealing the cards easier. My family would break out their rolls of quarters and a pack of Bulldog Squeezers playing cards for a friendly game of bourré (pronounced boo-ray). Most games had a $10 buy in, with a 50 cent ante per pot.  This was just enough to keep things interesting, and those who lost always had a chance to win it back the next week. Sometimes we grandchildren would sit around and play a game of bataille with each other, mimicking our elders. Nothing made my mom mom happier then sweeping a big mound of quarters into her pile after winning a big hand.

In the 1990s, gambling became more corporatized with the advent of video poker on every corner, the introduction of the Louisiana lottery, and the opening of numerous Indian and riverboat casinos across the state. This combined with the gradual dying off of the older generation has changed the face of gambling in Louisiana. Gone is the social aspect, and while your family was unlikely to take your house from you, the casinos have no qualms about it.

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15 thoughts on “#20 Card Games

  1. I went to work for an offshore drilling company after college in 1975. I spent many nights on their rigs all over the world. The oil industry spread Cajun culture to the most remote parts of the world and brought bourre with it.

  2. Love me some bourre’. Cadillac and Spades consumed most of my high school summers. You ain’t lived until you play bourre’ with people playing with their Social Security money.

    Renege and you loose a finger.

  3. Allons jouer aux cartes, cher.

    O course if you play wit’ my pawpaw expect half the deck to be wild. So bonne chance.

  4. My mawmaw taught us to play cards. We all still love to play. I never thought there was anything wrong with us gamblin’ as kids until I got older.

  5. Wow, Bulldog Squeezers… One of my favorite memories of going to my grandparents’ house when I was a kid is playing with these cards. Me and all the other cousins (20+ of us, we’re a good Louisiana family) would kill to play with these because we loved the picture on the back. Thanks for posting the name–I’ve never seen them since, but have always kept an eye out. I ordered some today and planned a bourre night.

  6. You know, I never learned to play bourre. Wish I had learned from my grandparents before they passed away.

    Chuval, I’m trying to be good and not chime in on all these different entries because mais, cher, you hit the nail on the head on ‘em all. I’m remembering my MawMaw and PawPee and wishing they were still here.

  7. ah, i remember my daddy teaching me to play bourre for pennies when i was little. and i very clearly remember my brother ALWAYS beating me at cadillac. no kidding, i have a laminated blue squeezer’s card i keep with me to remind me of home.

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