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Monday, November 16, 2015

Poker Alice: Gambler, Dealer, Wife, and Mother


Poker Alice
At my age I suppose I should be knitting. But  I would rather play poker with five or six  'experts' than eat."
-- Alice Ivers Tubbs; aka: Poker Alice


    Born in Devonshire, England in 1851, Alice Ivers and her family came to America and settled in Virginia when she was still a small girl. Her father, a conservative schoolmaster made sure Alice attended an elite boarding school through her teen years. Then the family moved to Leadville, Colorado where she met Frank Duffield a mining engineer whom she married at the age of twenty. 


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Gambling, almost unavoidable in the mining camps of the Old West, Frank became a regular player. Alice not wishing to stay home alone, often accompanied him. At first she quietly watched from a far, but having a sharp mind and a competitive spirit, before long she sat at the tables winning her share at poker and Faro.  




A few years into the marriage, Alice's husband was killed in an explosion and she was left with no means of support. There wasn't a school for her to teach in and other female occupations didn't appeal to her. Capitalizing on her gambling skills, she became a Faro dealer. A petite 5'4" beauty with blue eyes and silky brown hair, and dressed in the latest fashions, she was soon in great demand. 

     As she traveled from camp to camp, playing in cities all over Colorado including Alamosa, Central City, Georgetown and Trinidad. As a dealer and a player, she acquired the nickname "Poker Alice", and could often be seen in her frilly dresses while puffing on a large black cigar. She never gambled on Sundays, and carried a .38 revolver which she had no reservations about using. She was welcome everywhere as her presence always drew a crowd and was good for business. 


Expanding her horizons, Alice made her way to Silver City New Mexico. She won $6,000 a the Gold Dust Gambling House which prompted a trip to New York to replenish her fashionable wardrobe. 
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Later, in Creede, Colorado, she met and went to work for Bob Ford (the man who killed Jesse James. In 1890 she ended up in Deadwood, South Dakota, and met Warren G. Tubbs, a house painter from Sturgis. 


She saved Tubbs with her .38 when a miner pulled a knife on him. The couple married, moved to Deadwood to homestead on the Moreau river and raised 7 children. But luckier at cards than love, Warren contracted tuberculosis and despite her dedication to making him well, he passed away in 1910

After that, things spiraled downward. Gone were the fancy clothes as she enjoyed a good cigar. She ran a brothel and saloon in South Dakota, shot a man in self-defense, and after repeated convictions was sentenced to prison. However, Alice, 75 years old at the time, was pardoned by the governor.

At the age of 79 she underwent a gall bladder operation in Rapid City, but died of complications on February 27, 1930. 

In her later years, Alice claimed to have won more than $250,000 at the gaming tables and never once cheated. In fact, one of her favorite sayings was: "Praise the Lord and place your bets. I'll take your money with no regrets."

1 comment:

  1. What happened to her children? Why is there no mention of them since there were 7 where did they go?

    ReplyDelete