My Long and Varied History of Playing Card Games

Some People Live to Play Cards, Others Play Cards to Live

William Spivey
ZORA
Published in
5 min readJan 26, 2024

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By Robert Couse-Baker from Sacramento, California — life lesson, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=117947882

One of the most Minnesota things about me is that in high school, I skipped class to play Bridge. My high school was about 85% white, and during my junior year, I would often play poker with a mixed group of friends during lunch period and Bridge the following hour when I should have been in class with a group of white seniors. I eventually got in trouble, and all card playing came to an abrupt albeit temporary halt. Only after I got a fair education in playing Bridge.

Black people do play bridge, though in far lesser numbers percentage-wise than white people. Bridge has many rules called conventions that dictate what to bid based on what’s in your hand. It’s generally a quiet game that wouldn’t be out of place in a library. I credit Bridge as an excellent foundation for spades, bid whist, and pinochle, which I’ll get to later.

Par TerriersFan sur Wikipédia anglais — Transféré de en.wikipedia à Commons., Domaine public, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1460570

I mentioned poker, which did mean gambling. One might wonder about the propriety of open gambling with money on the table in the school lunchroom, but it’s what we did. The dealer picked the game, and I learned five-card stud, low and high Chicago, black bottom, five-card draw, and other games.

My high school was across town, and I took the city bus, transferring downtown from the 9B to the 3. I would generally be given bus fare and lunch money for the cafeteria at the beginning of the week. Occasionally, I’d lose all my money on Monday and end up walking to school and back and borrowing lunch money. Except in winter, the walk took close to two hours. I never considered asking my mother for more money to replace what I lost gambling.

By evangoer — All In, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=129729679

When I got to college, my environment changed from my predominantly white school to the 99% Black, Fisk University. Daily card games were in the freshman girls' dormitory, Crosthwaite Hall. I used them as an opportunity to meet girls, so I quickly became…

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William Spivey
ZORA
Writer for

I write about politics, history, education, and race. Follow me at williamfspivey.com and support me at https://ko-fi.com/williamfspivey0680