City Desk

Learn About Bourré, the Game That Took Gilbert Arenas Down

bourre

It all started with a card game on whose rules no one can agree. In Mike Wise's landmark article in today's Washington Post, we learn that the roots of Gilbert Arenas' current woes were a not-so-friendly game of "boo-ray."

The Wizards' Javaris Crittenton, Wise writes, "already angry over a dispute over the game's rules, became irate when Arenas began needling him."

"Boo-ray" is a bastardization of the name of the Cajun card game bourré. According to Preston Guidry, the author of the 1988 book Official Rules and Techniques of the Cajun Card Game Bourré (boo-ray), disputes over the game's rules are not limited to gun-owning millionaire athletes.

"If you don’t know the rules there’s gonna be a lot of arguments," Guidry says from Lafayette, La. Guidry was so frustrated by bourré's contentious nature that he reached out to Henry J. Engler, a New Orleans professor who'd attempted to bring some order to the game with a 1964 volume called Rules and Techniques of Bourré. "He had five doctorates, this guy," says Guidry. "He worked for [former Louisiana Gov.] Earl Long. While he went around the state, everywhere he went there were different rules for bourré."

Bourré, Guidry says, is French for "to stuff." (As an adjective, it also serves as a synonym for "to be drunk," leading to some entertaining Google Image Search results.) If you don't take one of the game's five tricks, you have to "stuff" the pot with as much money as was in it. This is made more difficult by the apparently zillions of regional variations.

"The main rule about bourré," Guidry says, is that "when you sit down, you gotta ask what the house rules are."

"There might be five guys at the table together, and if they’re all playing together, they might have five different sets of rules." That's why it's not often played in casinos, Guidry says. He once organized a bourré tournament at a Gulf Coast casino. "They had so many arguments in that one week that they discontinued it," he says.

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