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Ode to 150

Ode to 150

150 is played by four people with the 32 highest cards of the deck. Players bid on the points they expect to make with the hand they got, and the highest bidder picks which of the four suits is the trump. Taking turns, players then play a card in the centre of the table. Whoever plays the highest card takes the trick... unless a trump card was played.

Card games are still at the centre of many a family night on the Magdalen Islands. In my family, it's been for years a way to entertain ourselves when big storms lock us in and during the many family gatherings over the holidays. Our go-to game? 150.

I learned how to play 150 from my father, who learned from his parents, and so on. My grandmother was telling me just last week that when she was young, the grown-ups were playing in the evenings once the kids had gone to bed. She even learned how to play by peeking through the air vent that let the warm air from the wood oven reach the bedrooms on the second floor. It was the perfect vantage point on the kitchen table below, where the game was going on.

As for my father, he used to settle between two old-timers to observe their strategies, always hoping for a spot at the table during the weekly games. He tells me that his favourite moments were when my grandmother got up to make tea and bring back some snacks and asked him to take her seat and play her hand while she was gone. Those ten or fifteen minutes of ice time were enough to keep him patiently waiting during the rest of the evening.

My sister and I have learned by trial and error. Since the great family nights don't happen as frequently as they once did, we got to play right away. When I visit over the holidays, we sometimes play every day with our grandparents, who are often as enthusiastic about it as we are. I have to say, it lets us spend more quality time with them while having fun together!

All that to say that 150 is more than just a card game for me. It's an art we get to learn through experience, by playing, and by watching those who know better play their own hand. It's the thread that weaves together intergenerational relationships, never without good amounts of laughter, surprises, kinship and love. It's an essential, traditional part of my time on the Islands.

It's even the subject of urban legends!

"They say that there was someone that went under by twelve hundred points and still managed to win the game in the end, can you believe it?"

Whether or not the tales are to be believed, rest assured that 150 is a card game deeply rooted in the collective imagination of the Magdalen Islanders. Nothing better than a "quick" game of cards after dinner!

Par Alicia Vigneau

Alicia is a young Magdalen Islander in exile in the great city of Montreal to follow her biggest passion, literature. She's interested in the popular culture of the Islands, words with a maritime influence and the raw poetry hiding in the little things.

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