When Ravens safety Bernard Pollard got to the NFL, he noticed the veterans playing a card game in their downtime.
And then he saw the sums of money being wagered.
"I've seen people dropping $70,000 or $80,000," he said Monday after practice.
Pollard hopes Bourre, an app released Friday that he conceived and paid for, will introduce fans to the game without their having to risk any real cash. Available for download on Apple products — iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch — for $1.99, Bourre represents the culmination of a long-ago dream hatched during hours spent playing video games with a teammate in Texas.
Pollard, who signed an extension through 2015 in the offseason, hired former teammate Ryan Moats to develop the application. They bonded over a shared affinity for video games during downtime while playing for the Houston Texans in 2009.
As a kid, Pollard watched his father take apart computers, and he briefly studied computer technology at Purdue University. Moats spent offseasons interning with sports video-game maker Electronic Arts.
But it wasn't until last Dec. 23 — his birthday — that Pollard had his a-ha moment. He showed family members the ubiquitous locker-room game and they asked if it was available in app form. Pollard asked his lawyer to look into it.
Finding that there was no copyright, Pollard was free to develop the game. He immediately got in touch with Moats.
"I knew he was the guy," Pollard said. "Nobody's going to take my money from me. So if I'm going to risk it, it's with a guy like that."
Moats, who didn't make it out of the Minnesota Vikings training camp in 2010, went to work on the game. The two hope Bourre (generally pronounced, and sometimes spelled, "boo-ray" by pro athletes) is the first of many apps they will develop for professional athletes.
"This helps players access fans and gives them another point of view," Moats said. "It's important for them to stay connected, and that's really what I'm basing that part of the business on. It's really about people reaching other people and interacting."
Development took more than three months, with an admittedly hands-on Pollard keeping watch.
"That's not my expertise, so I had to let him do his thing," Pollard said. "It wasn't easy, but we kept the blow-ups to a minimum."
Though the game had no public launch, Pollard already has received kudos from current teammates, including Ray Lewis, who helped develop a fitness app. Pollard said former teammates like Corey Redding (Indianapolis Colts) and Haruki Nakamura (Carolina Panthers) also have downloaded the game.
Bourre is popular in Louisiana and is won by taking "tricks."
In the electronic version, five players are dealt five cards each after they pay an ante. A "trump" suit is displayed; the lowest card in that suit, the two, is higher than even an ace in any other suit.
If a player opts not to fold, he pays another ante and can swap out any of his cards. The dealer then plays any card from his hand; the remaining players must follow suit if they can, or play a trump card. The highest card in the lead suit wins, unless it is trumped.
Whichever player takes the most tricks in the hand wins the pot. If a player fails to win a single trick, that player is "booed" and must pay an additional ante equal to whatever the pot was worth before the next hand.
With the app, players can play against the computer or join live games with other players.
Until now, the game was known mostly for sparking two famous intrasquad NBA disputes. In 2010, Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinitely without pay after he brought four handguns to practice because of a feud with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The fight started because Arenas had jeered at Crittenton for losing more than $1,000 in a game of bourre.
An unpaid debt from bourre also led to a scuffle between Memphis Grizzlies players O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen in 2011. According to news reports, Allen badgered Mayo to repay the "few grand" he lost in bourre and the two ended up throwing punches. Some NBA teams moved to curb gambling after the incidents.
Pollard said he feels he's found a way to take the game mainstream without bringing any of that baggage along.
"It's fake money, but the enjoyment is there," he said. "Once people know the game, they'll see how fun it is."
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