Poker Alice – Poker Queen of the Wild West
Alice Ivers Duffield was better known for most of her life as Poker Alice. By the time she became known as Poker Alice, she was living in the wild, Wild West of America during the last half of the 1800s and the first thirty years of the new century.
Poker Alice stood out as one of most unique characters in a time and place where unique characters were a dime in a dozen. She was rarely seen without a long black cigar poking out of her mouth and spoke with a British accent. Although a hard drinker when she wasn’t gambling, she never touched the stuff when money was on the line.
A walking, talking contradiction, Poker Alice was fanatical about never gambling on Sunday and those who dared to push her on this ironclad rule often ran the risk of gunplay. In fact, it is known that at least one person who dared to break this rule of hers actually died.
British lady takes on poker and America
Duffield was born in England and didn’t move to America until after her 12th birthday, where she attended school in the South and grew up a refined lady. After moving to the Colorado Territory with her parents, Alice married a mining engineer. Following her husband’s death, she found herself in the position of having to financially support herself. A teaching job only convinced her that she wasn’t cut out for that particular profession, so she got a job dealing cards in a saloon. Before too long it was obvious that Alice had found her true calling.
Known for threatening to shoot cheaters in the face
Alice quickly developed a stunning dexterity with the cards and soon began to win an unbelievably high percentage of the time. Over the course of time, she shrugged off her Southern Belle gentility and adopted the ways of the west; soon she was packing a revolver and had begun smoking those big cigars. Her vocabulary also became much coarser and direct; she was known for threatening to shoot cheaters in the face.
One of the best traveling gamblers
Before too long Poker Alice had headed farther out west, making a name for herself as one of the best of the traveling railroad gamblers by hustling the other passengers into high stakes games. Then she hit the big time casinos and plied her trade against the best poker pros in the country. But her greatest joy as a gambler was doing what every gambler hopes to do: breaking the bank.
She did exactly this at a casino in New Mexico and took her winnings with her on a lavish spending spree back in New York City. Only after she’d gone through all her winnings did she head back out west.
Taking advantage of the boom brought on the Black Hills gold rush, she landed a job dealing cards to prospectors hoping to strike it rich before heading back to Colorado and dealing cards in a saloon owned by none other than Bob Ford, the man who shot Jesse James dead.
After that, her next stop was Deadwood, South Dakota. Alice again married, choosing to leave the gambling business behind to raise chickens on a farm with her new husband. But following his death, and now nearing 60, Poker Alice headed back to what she knew best.
Her own casino and whorehouse
Poker Alice opened her own casino/whorehouse in Fort Meade, SD. She remained unique even under these circumstances, allowing neither gambling nor whoring on Sunday. Unfortunately, one night this plan didn’t sit too well with the nearby soldiers and they attempted to force their way in on a Sunday; the result was a shooting death at the hands of Poker Alice.
Although tried and found guilty, Alice won the sympathy of the judge and avoided jail time. She couldn’t avoid the ire of the army however, any more than she could avoid the reformist elements who especially took exception to her combining religious observation with gambling and whoring and eventually she was forced to finally retire before passing away in 1930.
– Poker Alice – Poker Queen of the Wild West – 2007 Rakeback Ltd