Bourré (Booray)


This gambling game is popular in Louisiana, USA. Although it is a trick-taking game unrelated to Poker, it has become known to Poker players in North America as an alternative choice in home Poker games. The game is of French origin. It is a descendant of Bourre, a three-card game which was popular in southwest France in the early 20th century, which was probably descended in turn from the Spanish game Burro ("donkey"). In the French game a player who plays and takes no tricks is said to be "bourré", and it is this term that gives its name to the Louisiana game Bourré, which is sometimes spelled with just one 'r': (bouré). Sometimes this is altered to "bourre" or "boure" by American writers unfamiliar with French accents, and often it is written "booray" or "boo-ray" which in American spelling approximates the French pronunciation of bourré.

The information on this page relies heavily on the book Bouré by Roy J Nickens (Baton Rouge, 1972) as well as correspondence from John May, Brad Duhon, Victoria Diemer and others.

Players and Cards

The game is best for seven players. In theory any number from two to eight can play, but with fewer than about five players the game becomes less interesting.

A standard international 52-card pack without jokers is used. The cards of each suit rank from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2.

Ante and Deal

Before the first deal each player must contribute an ante of one chip to the pot. Before subsequent deals, certain players may not have to pay an ante, depending on the result of the previous hand - see below.

Any player who wishes to may shuffle and the dealer has the right to shuffle last. The cards must then be cut by the player to dealer's right.

The dealer deals out the cards one at a time, starting with the player to dealer's left and continuing clockwise until each player has five cards. Cards are dealt face down, except for the dealer's fifth and last card, which is dealt face up. The suit of this card indicates the trump suit.

The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Draw or Pass

Players pick up their cards and look at them, but may not show their cards to anyone else.

Beginning with the player to dealer's left, each player in clockwise order must declare whether he or she will pass or play, and if playing, how many cards he or she wishes to discard.

If you pass, you stack your cards face down in front of you.and take no further part in the play of the hand. You can no longer win the pot on that deal, nor can you lose any additional chips.

If you play, you may discard some of your cards face down, announcing how many you are discarding. The dealer then deals you an equal number of replacement cards from the undealt part of the deck. You may discard your whole hand of five cards if you wish to, or if you are happy with your original cards you may stand pat and play with the hand you were dealt, discarding nothing.

It may happen, especially in an eight-player game, that the dealer runs out of cards to deal before all the players who wish to play have been served with replacements for their discards. In that case the dealer gathers up all the discarded cards and passed hands from the players who have already acted (but not the discards of the player who is currently being served). These cards are shuffled and cut and used to continue dealing cards to replace any remaining discards.

If the turned up trump card is an ace, the dealer must play. There is no risk in doing so since the ace of trumps always wins a trick.

If only one player elects to play, all the others passing, the lone player is deemed to have won all five tricks by default, and this player therefore collects the whole pot without playing out any cards. If all players other than the dealer pass, the dealer should of course play and collect the pot.

You should be careful not to make any premature announcement or gesture indicating whether you intend to play or pass or how many cards you might discard, before it is your turn to act. The penalty is to forfeit your next turn to deal.

The Play

The player to dealer's left, or if this player has passed, the next player in clockwise rotation who is playing, leads to the first trick. Thereafter the winner of each trick leads to the next.

A card is led by placing it face up in the centre of the table. Each of the other active players (those who have not passed) in clockwise order must also play a card face up in the centre. When all have played a card, the trick is complete. It is won by whoever played the highest card of the trump suit, or if no trump was played, by whoever played the highest card of the suit that was led.

The play of the cards is governed by strict rules.

  1. Players must always "follow suit" if able to - that is, all but the first to play to a trick must play a card of the same suit as the card that was led.
  2. Any player who is unable to follow suit, having no card of the suit that was led, must play a trump if able to.
  3. Subject to the requirement to follow suit, each player must play a card that beats the highest card so far played to the trick if possible.

A player who is unable to beat the highest card played to the trick, is still forced to follow suit if possible, and otherwise to trump. If the trick has already been trumped, and you are unable to follow suit, you must overtrump if possible, but if your trumps are not high enough to overtrump, you must still play a trump.

However, if you are unable to beat the highest card in the trick, you are under no obligation to play a high card, provided that you obey the rules of following suit or trumping. Example: spades are trumps and the queen of diamonds is led. The second player trumps with the four of spades. Playing third, you hold the ace and six of diamonds and some spades. You have diamonds so you are not allowed to trump, and therefore cannot win the trick. You can and should play your six of diamonds, not the ace. If the second player had played a diamond, you would have been obliged to play the ace of diamonds, to beat the queen.

A player who has no card of the suit led and has no trumps either can play any card, but of course cannot win the trick.

If the dealer is playing, the dealer's card that was dealt face up to determine the trump suit counts as belonging to the dealer's hand (except in the very unusual case that the dealer chose to discard it) and is played in accordance with the rules of play above.

A player who has three sure tricks irrespective of how the cards are played, and is therefore certain to win the pot, is said to have a cinch. In this case there are additional restrictions.

  • If you have a cinch and it is your turn to lead, you must lead your highest trump.
  • If you have a cinch and are playing on a trick to which another player led, and you are able to play a trump to the trick, you must play your highest trump.
  • If you have a cinch and are playing last to a trick, there are no special restrictions - you must simply win the trick if you can, subject to the usual restrictions of following suit and trumping.

Note that your hand can be a cinch at the start of the play if you have a trump holding such as A-K-Q or K-Q-10-9-8. It can become a cinch later, for example if after winning a trick you have two sure trump tricks. Also, if you win the first three tricks, the cinch rules apply since you are sure to take the pot, and you must lead a trump to the fourth trick if you have one.

When you are required to play your "highest" trump because your hand is a cinch, the play of an adjacent trump - such as the King from Ace-King or the Jack from King-Jack when the Queen has already been played - is acceptable.


The player who wins most tricks takes the whole pot. To win the pot it is necessary to win more tricks than any other single player. Three tricks are always sufficient. The pot can be won with two tricks if three other players take one trick each.

If there is a tie for most tricks (when the tricks divide 2-2-1, and in the rare case of five players taking one trick each) no one takes the pot. This is known as a "split pot" but the pot is not shared out - it remains for the next deal and the new antes and any penalties are added to it.

Anyone who plays and takes no trick is said to have gone "bourré". These players must pay an amount equal to the whole contents of the pot. This payment forms part of the pot for the next deal.

A player who goes bourré does not have to place the normal one chip ante for the next deal. Also, if the pot is split, the players who tied for most tricks do not post an ante for the next deal. All remaining players pay one chip ante as usual.

In the following example the seven players are A, B, C, D, E, F and G.

Deal 1: All seven players ante so there are 7 chips in the pot. B, C, E and G play; the others pass. E wins 3 tricks, B and G win one each and C is bourré. E takes the 7 chips from the pot. C must pay 7 chips to the next pot. All players must ante for the next deal except for C. Therefore the pot now contains 13 chips.

Deal 2: With 13 chips in the pot, A, B, E and F play. The others pass. A and F take 2 tricks each, B takes one and E none. This is a spilt pot between A and F, so no one wins it. E has to add 13 chips to the pot, and B, C, D and G each ante one chip for the next deal, so the pot now contains 30 chips.

Deal 3: Only C, D and E play, and D wins all five tricks. D takes the 30 chips from the pot and C and E must each pay 30 chips to the next pot. In addition everyone except C and E must pay an ante for the next deal, and the pot now contains 65 chips.

It should be clear from this example that the pot can sometimes build rather quickly, especially if more than one player is bourré or there is a split pot. For this reason the game is sometimes played with a limit. For example if the limit is 20 chips, then when the pot contains more than 20 chips, a player who wins takes only 20 chips from the pot, and a player who is bourré pays only 20 chips.

Any play that is not in accordance with the rules of play - such as failure to follow suit, failure to trump or failure to beat the highest card in the trick when able, is known as a renege. If the renege is not corrected before the next player plays a card, the penalty is to pay an amount equal to the size of the pot, exactly as though the player had gone bourré.

However, if having reneged you realise your error before the next player plays, you are allowed to recall your card and substitute a correct card. In this case you forfeit the right to win the pot, even if you take most tricks, and you forfeit your next turn to deal, but you do not have to match the pot (unless you win no tricks).


Double Ante

In this variation, all players pay an ante of one chip before the deal, and in addition, any player who decides to play must pay an additional chip to the pot. Those who pass do not pay this second ante - they just lose their first ante and forgo their chance to win the pot in this deal.

In the double ante game, it is normal to require an initial ante from all players, including those who paid for a bourré or were involved in a split pot on the previous deal.

Some play that the decisions whether or not to play and how many cards to draw are separated into two separate rounds. First each player in turn declares either "play" (paying a second ante of one chip) or "pass". After everyone has declared, there is a second round in which those who decided to play discard cards if they wish and are dealt replacements.

Separate Trump Card

Some play that five cards are dealt face down to each player, and then an extra card is dealt face up to determine the trump suit. There are two forms of this variation.

  1. The turned up trump belongs to no one. It indicates the trump suit but cannot be taken or played by any player.
  2. The turned up trump can be taken by the dealer if he or she decides to play. The dealer effectively has six cards; if for example the dealer discards four cards and elects to use the turned up trump, three replacement cards will be dealt to make up the dealer's five-card hand.

Simultaneous Declaration

Some play that instead of declaring in rotation, all players decide independently whether they will play or pass. Those who want to play hold a chip in their closed fist; those who pass hold an empty fist. All reveal their decisions simultaneously and then those who decided to play discard in rotation as ussual.

I suspect that this variation is not traditional in Louisiana, but was adopted by poker players, who use a similar method for declaring high or low in some hi-lo games.

Four card Bourré

Victoria Diemer reports that in Indiana, Bourré is played with just four cards dealt to each player, with a separate card that belongs to no one indicating the trump suit. Players must have at least one trump or at least one club (a "dirty club") to play, which costs one chip. After players have decided whether to stay, up to 3 cards can be discarded, but not all four. After the draw, players have another chance to pass; those who want to play must pay an additional chip. As usual the player who takes most chips wins the pot, and if there is a tie the pot is carried over to the next deal. Anyone who takes no tricks must match the pot for the next deal. The penalty for a renege is twice the pot.

Other Bourré Web Sites

Another description of Bourré is available on Wikipedia.

Rules of a simplified version of Boo-Ray can be found in Peter Sarrett's Game Report site (archive copy).

This page is maintained by John McLeod (   © John McLeod, 2006, 2009. Last updated: 29th December 2010