Monday, October 25, 2010

Poker Alice


Poker Alice Ivers Tubbs sometimes embellished her own legend, but Alice Ivers was either born in Devonshire, England, in 1851, or in Virginia to Irish immigrants. Her father was a schoolmaster and Alice was eastern-educated and refined. Her family followed the silver rush to Leadville, Colorado. Alice married Frank Duffield, a mining engineer, and together, the couple frequented gambling halls of Leadville.

Alice studied Frank's plays and learned the games. She began to play herself, and found she was clever at counting cards and figuring odds. After only a few years together, Frank was killed in a mining accident. There were very few respectable jobs available for women in mining camps, so Alice supported herself with her talent at the tables.


Alice was a finely-dressed beauty, and refused to gamble on Sundays. She played poker and faro, travelled and worked as a dealer in camps around Colorado. Her reputation and success earned her the nickname "Poker Alice". She proudly boasted that she "broke the bank" in Silver City, New Mexico, winning over $6000 in one night. She may have just saved her winnings over time, but she took a grand trip to New York City, and returned to Colorado dressed in the latest fashions. She then worked for a while in Creede, as a dealer in a tent saloon owned by Robert Ford, the man who killed Jesse James.

Alice moved on to Deadwood, South Dakota, to deal cards in another saloon. One night , a drunken miner puller a knife on the dealer at the next table, W.G. Tubbs. Alice pulled out her revolver and shot the miner in the arm. W.G. and Alice fell in love, married and had seven children together. The family moved from rough Deadwood to a quiet homestead near Sturgis.


After many happy years together, W.G. died of pneumonia, and again Alice supported herself at the card tables. She married the caretaker of her homestead, mostly for the sake of convenience, but soon she was widowed for a third time.

During Prohibition years, Alice opened a saloon and brothel called "Poker's Palace". It remained closed on Sundays. Alice once shot into a group drunken soldiers that became violent, killing one. She dressed in men's clothes and smoked cigars. For years, she was arrested time and again for drunkenness and for keeping a bawdy house. She was finally sentenced to prison for repeat convictions, but 75 year-old Alice was pardoned by the governor of South Dakota. Alice claimed to have won over $250,000 during her colorful career. Boastful, but never a cheat, she earned her living and her legend with her skill and spirit.


You may read more about Poker Alice here~ legendsofamerica.com. A gold mine of everything old west~ huzzah!