There is evidence of Minchiate, maybe also a form of Tarot, in New Orleans in the mid-19th century, which must have arrived earlier, so you are not wrong to imagine it played in Haiti. It comes from William Pinkerton, an Irishman who had been a sailor:
“With all its variety of cards, tarocchi is a childish, insipid, monotonous game. I have often seen it played in the coffee-houses of New Orleans, frequented by the Creole descendants of the French and Spanish settlers of Louisiana. The great point of the game is to form verzicole, or sequences; the Matta or Fool representing any other card, of which its holder might be deficient, to form the sequence.”
First post in the thread (from Michael Hurst), with references and links
Here is my best response on that thread. Sorry I can't see the date on that, since Aeclectic is a reference only site now.
Hi Michael, Philebus et al.,
I was also quite struck by Pinkerton's mention of seeing tarot played in New Orleans, and the term "verzicole", which AFAIK is unique to Minchiate.
Since the term is purely Italian, it makes me wonder how it could be used by French speakers. The term is adopted into French as "Brizigole" by the time of the earliest printed rules "Regles du Jeu des Tarots", in 1637 - "Si quelqu'un a les quatre hautes ou les quatre basses de triomphes, ce qui s'appelle Brizigole, gaigne une marque de chacun." ("Regle" in the booklet for the Vieville tarot, p. 12, and note 15; see also http://www.tarock.info/depaulis.htm
p. 6)(translation: "If somebody has four highest or the four lowest trumps, which is called Brizigole, wins a point for each one.")
Since it doesn't seem plausible that it was "re-Italianized" by the early 19th century in Louisiana, it appears that Pinkerton is really reporting a purely Italian term, from the game of Minchiate, in mid-19th century Louisiana. It is possible that the French players of this game were using a French 18th century rulebook for Minchiate. Here's something from Dummett and McLeod, "History of Games Played With the Tarot Pack" (Mellen, 2004) -
"Not only did Minchiate spread from Florence to other parts of Italy, to Rome and the Papal States, to Sicily and Liguria: it also became known abroad. In France, Nicholas de Poilly produced a Minchiate pack with highly non-standard designs in 1730, and in 1775 an instruction booklet Regles du Jeu des Minquiattes was printed. At least two descriptions of the game were published in German. One such was included in the second edition of the Die Kunst, die Welt erlaubt mitzunehmen in den verschiedenen Arten der Spiele (Nuremberg, 1769); this was a translation of that given in Il Giuoco Pratico. A separate account, which appears to be independent, was published in Dresden in 1798 under the title Regeln des Minchiatta-Spiels (RMS); this is a very careful description, more explicit than any of the Italian ones and painstaking in its reproduction of the Italian terminology, which, however, it sometimes misspells. It is unlikely, though, that the vogue for Minchiate outside Italy was ever very widespread.
"The game of Minchiate is generically similar to that of Tarocchino. In both cases, the principal form is a four-handed game with fixed partnerships. In Minchiate, as in Tarocchino, there are scores for special combinations of cards, both when held in the hand of one player and declared at the beginning of play, and also when contained among the cards won in tricks by a pair of partners; and, as in Tarocchino, these scores swamp the points won in tricks. Both games have a bonus for winning the last trick; and neither has any idea of a special bonus for winning it with the trump I. In detail, however, the two games are very different." (pp. 327-328)
Unfortunately, Dummett and McLeod don't give an account of the French version's rules, so I can't say whether the Italian terminology was preserved, as it was in the second German account (RMS) mentioned by them. I suspect it would have, since there seems no indication that the game ever became naturalized and lost its Italian roots. There is no hint of a long independent development of the game in France, so the terms probably came straight from Italian. Thus, there is no problem in seeing French-descended Americans in New Orleans in the early 19th century (thanks Julien for asking about Pinkerton, and thanks Michael for finding the answers, because it tells us how he might have got to the port-city of New Orleans and about when. If he were a sailor early in life, that might mean he started about age 16, which would be (depending on the date of his birth, given in the two accounts variously as 1809 or 1811) around 1825 or 1827. If we give him a decade or two at sea, he might have seen the game played in New Orleans anywhere from 1825-1845) playing Minchiate with Italian terms.
It is doubly fascinating for me to find evidence of tarot (or Minchiate) in America. A while ago I asked on various groups if anyone with German ancestry in America could research family archives to find evidence of tarock coming over with the first immigrants. I suspected it would be in the Mid-West primarily. I never thought to look in French New Orleans! (Duh) I'm sure there must be other early evidence of tarot in America - or French Canada.