High stakes, and winning a new life in a new world.
February 9, 2014 6:45 AM   Subscribe

What card game did my grandfather play on the voyage from Sicily to Ellis Island? Google is not giving me the detail I need.

Family lore has it that my Sicilian grandfather, Joe, who was fourteen years old at the time, won $75 playing cards on the boat over, ferociously protected his winnings from thieves and opportunists along the way, and this money gave him his start in America. He loved playing cards his whole life.

(Adding to the myth, my grandmother, Mary, used to tell the story from her perspective -- she was seventeen, below decks and terrified, having a miscarriage, and furious with Joe for gambling during her distress, but grudgingly, ever grateful (62 years ever) to him for getting them to Little Italy safely.)

I am picturing poker, but can that be right? Does Scopa involve gambling for significant stakes? In my storyteller heart, I want Joe to have played poker with an American deck of 52 cards ...
posted by thinkpiece to Society & Culture (4 answers total)
Scopa or Briscola would be good choices I'd think.
posted by reptile at 6:50 AM on February 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

What year was it? 1952? If so it may have been poker. Before WWII though, no chance.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:37 AM on February 9, 2014

Briscola is a very good contender.
posted by lydhre at 2:13 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know how high the stakes were, but my mother has told me stories about how back in the Old Country her father would sit around drinking and playing scopa with his buddies for money. It seems Nonno had a very obvious tell that he hated to have pointed out and between that and shouting "Scopa!" when you have a scopa, the games could get pretty rowdy.

It was a long trip over on the boat - play cards often enough and win often enough and the stakes don't have to be that high. Also, I'm pretty sure that once upon a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth my mom taught me to play scopa with a standard Bicycle deck of cards, though I think you don't use 52 to do that.
posted by camyram at 6:53 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Besides Forrest Gump, other memorable movie bench...   |   What mini SUV/crossover/van has the best balance... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.