How Governor Edwards Hosted Bipartisan Poker Games in Louisiana

According to a report by New Orleans news outlet,, Louisiana’s outgoing Governor, John Bel Edwards (D), has been known to enjoy a good game of poker. During his eight-year tenure, the governor’s mansion frequently hosted low-stakes poker nights. These gatherings included state senators, high-ranking officials, and lobbyists, showcasing a different side of the state’s political scene.

These poker games were a far cry from the high-stakes games reportedly hosted by former Governor Edwin Edwards during his time in office from 1972 to 1996. John Bel Edwards emphasized the difference, telling, “If you try to equate these games with those of Edwin Edwards, you will be making a tremendous mistake. That was not the purpose for why they were held. That’s not the way they were conducted. We always had fun, always. That’s why we did it.”

The card-playing sessions were held about three times a year, with a hiatus during the COVID pandemic. These events were bipartisan, often including Senate President John Alario (R) and his successor Page Cortez (R).

He’s not a bluffer, I can tell you that.

Key participants in these games included Shawn Wilson, the secretary of transportation; Matthew Block, the governor’s executive counsel; Chief of Staff Mark Cooper; and Senator Jay Luneau (D), among others. While the stakes weren’t high, the games were described as quite engaging.

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Shawn Wilson shared his experience with “Everybody won at some point. Nobody lost too big. It was a fun time.” He also commented on the governor’s poker skills, saying, “He’s not a bluffer, I can tell you that. You can see straight through his bluff in cards.”

Former Governor Buddy Roemer (R) was also known for his poker skills. In the 1980s, he reportedly won substantial amounts from poker, earning as much as $25,000 a year and even declared these winnings on his income taxes.

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