Bourré (also commonly known as Bouré and Boo-Ray) is a trick-taking gambling card game primarily played in the Acadiana region of Louisiana in the United States of America. The game’s closest relatives are probably Spades and Poker; like many regional games, Bourré sports a large number of variant rules for both gameplay and betting considerations.
The object of Bourré is to take a majority of the tricks in each hand and thereby claim the money in the pot. If a player cannot take a majority of tricks, their secondary goal is to keep from bourréing, or taking no tricks at all. A bourré usually comes at a high penalty, such as matching the amount of money in the pot.
The game is played with a standard 52-card deck; aces are high. With four players, everyone is guaranteed fresh cards if they draw replacements; with more, it may be necessary to use previously-discarded ones, so five or six players is considered the practical limit of single-decked Bourré. An online casino should provide the type of Bourré rules they use.
After every player antes, the dealer passes out five cards to each player, one at a time. The dealer flips their own fifth card–the last dealt–and the suit of that card is considered trumps. As in Spades, this suit beats all others; a 2 of trumps is “higher” in rank than an Ace of any other suit.
After the deal, each player (starting with the one to the dealer’s left and continuing clockwise) states their intent to play. Many variants require an additional ante at this point. Those who are not playing in the hand fold, and those cards are collected by the dealer for possible use if the main stock runs out.
Once every player has stated their intent, the dealer asks those still in the game (in the same order as before) how many new cards they desire. They can take any number from zero to five; their discards go in a separate pile, and the dealer hands them as many new cards as they discarded. If the main stock is depleted before all the players have been serviced, the dealer shuffles the “folded” hands and deals those; if that stock is depleted as well, the discards are shuffled and used.
Once everyone, including the dealer, has either folded or completed their redraw, the trick-taking phase begins. The first player to the dealer’s left that is still in the game starts by playing any card from their hand (with few exceptions); rules of play are as follows, and a lower-numbered rule overrides any higher-numbered one.
- You must play to win. This goes beyond simply “playing a higher card;” if you know that no one else has any trumps, and it is your turn to lead, you must play trumps if you have them.
- You must play on-suit if possible, even if your highest on-suit card will not beat the highest card in play. Even if a trump has been played on a non-trump lead, if you have a card of the suit led, you must play on that suit.
- You must play a trump if you have no on-suit cards. You still must play to win; if the only trump played is a 3, you hold the 2 and the Ace of trumps but no cards of the lead suit, you must play the Ace of trumps.
- If you have neither any cards of the lead suit nor any trumps, you may play any card. This is an off card, and is effectively lower than the 2 of the lead suit.
The winner of a given round, or trick, collects the cards and places them face-up in front of them. They then lead with another card. Play proceeds until all five tricks have been completed.
- If a single player has taken more tricks than any other player, they have won the hand and take all of the winnings in the pot.
- If more than one person ties for the most tricks, this is a split pot. With five tricks, the only possible splits are 2-2-1 and 1-1-1-1-1. On a split pot, no one takes the winnings; they stay on the table.
- If anyone did not take any tricks, or reneged during play–that is, did not follow the rules properly–they have bourréd and must match the pot for the next round instead of their usual ante. For example, if there are five red chips in the pot at the end of a hand and someone has bourréd, they must put five red chips (or their equivalent) in the pot for the next round.
Deal then passes to the left.
There are complex rules about forced plays; a simple example is when someone has just taken their second trick and holds the Ace of trumps in their hand. Since the Ace of trumps is unbeatable, they must play it as their next card. Similar occurrences are when a player has taken one trick and has both the Ace and King, or (more complex) the Ace, Queen, and Jack. While the rules themselves are simple in theory, the details about forced plays can make Bourré challenging for even the skilled player.
The “must play to win” rule can have contentious results if a player is playing “nice,” trying to keep others from bourréing. Most games disallow such “nice” plays; players must attempt to bourré as many other players as possible. As Bourré is a game with imperfect information, and gamesmanship should (hopefully) trump rules-lawyering, care should be applied to any analysis of rounds when looking for such “nice” plays.
Variations in the rules of Bourré abound, possibly due to its nature as a regional game. Perhaps the most common is the introduction of a pot limit, which caps the total amount a single bourré or renege can cost a given player. In some games, it is common for the dealer to ante for all of the players; this simplifies trying to determine whether individuals have anteed. In a sense, the dealer is paying for his face up trump. In this variation, for a five person, one dollar ante game, the dealer of each hand would ante five dollars. A common point of dissent is whether a player who holds trumps but not the lead suit should be forced to play a trump if they cannot beat a higher trump already on the table; while the general consensus seems to be that they must, groups of players are known to not follow that particular detail. Punishments for misplay range from simple retraction (good for new players), retraction-and-renege, or just a renege, which can lead to the misplaying individual attempting to bourré one or more other players. The default ante amount is understandably variable, and the second ante is fairly common.
- Guidry, Preston (1988). Graeff, Benny and Lantier, Ivy (eds.) Official Rules and Techniques of the Cajun Card Game Bourré (boo-ray). Louisiana: National Cajun Bourré Association.
- Engler, Henry J (1964). Rules and Techniques of Bourré.
- Bouré rules