Bat Masterson, Gambler & Gunfighter

William “Bat” Masterson (1851-1921)

“I have been connected nearly all the time in the gambling business and have experienced the vicissitudes which have always characterised the business. Some days… plenty, and more days … nothing.”

Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson

Bat Masterson was born in Iberville, Quebec, Canada. Bat is arguably the most famous lawman of the Wild West. Buffalo hunter, politician, and a sheriff at 23 during which time he ran the Lone Star gambling concession, US Marshal and became later in life a writer. He was an avid gambler, fisherman, and later a sports editor and columnist.

Bat had a wide and well-earned reputation as a top gun and one that was so widely spread that men usually gave into him without forcing him to draw his guns. Bat in his youth  was a person who seemingly loved being in trouble or hovering on the edge of it. Bat belonged to a clan of lawmen, this being himself and his two brothers and they we’re as loyal to each other as the three musketeers! They committed themselves wholeheartedly to taming one of the wildest towns of the Wild West “Dodge City

One of five brothers, they were the offspring of a Kansas Rancher who eventually settled on a prairie farm near Wichita in 1871. Bat Masterson baptised Bartholomew but used the name William Barclay Masterson . The two youngest of the brothers George and Tom would never have any particular claim to fame. Ed,(Edward John Masterson) the older brother eventually became the marshal of Dodge City, Bartholomew (William Barclay) the second eldest “Bat” for short served as the sheriff of Ford County and Jim (James Patrick) the third brother followed Ed as Dodge’s Marshall. Of the three brothers “Bat” was regarded as the leader and the maker of “big plans”.


In 1872 at the age of 19, Bat talked Ed and Jim into leaving the farm life behind and an adventure in Buffalo hunting in the wilds of South West Kansas. Ed and Jim would return to the farm occasionally but Bat never returned. Bat followed the Buffalo herds from Kansa down to Indian Territory and into the Texas panhandle, meeting up with adventure that was enough to satisfy the most adventurous of farm boys. At a tiny town called Adobe Walls, which consisted of a total of two stores, a blacksmith and a saloon, he had his first taste of Indian fighting. For 5 days, 35 hunters held off an attack of 500 Kiowa Comanche, Cheyenne and Southern Apache warriors who were creating chaos in the region. Later he rode as a scout for Colonel Nelson Miles during an army campaign, once again in the Texas panhandle area against the same tribes.


In 1876, Bat has his first gunfight at Sweetwater, Texas. The details of the gunfight have never been completely unwound, but what is certain is that Bat took a girl called Molly Brennan from an US army sergeant called Melvin King. When King found Bat and Molly together at a saloon, King opened fire on Bat. Molly threw herself in front of Bat to protect him and the bullet went straight through her, killing her instantly and lodged itself in Bat’s pelvis. As Bat fell and with the sergeant cocking his pistol for another shot, Bat fired back. King died in the army camp the following day. Bat suffered a slight but permanent limp from this gunfight and started carrying a cane. At first this was because he needed it but later used one for effect alone.


Bat arrived at Dodge City in 1877 to “settle down”. Handsome with black hair and blue eyes and a well-built body he became something of a dandy and
High Noon Casino was at the leading forefront of frontier fashion.

On arriving in Dodge he wore a south-western sombrero that had a rattle snake band a bright red silk neck chief and a Mexican sash around his middle. Burnished silver plated six shooters in silver studded holsters and a pair of gold mounted spurs. An observer on Front Street jokingly said that all the finery would give Bat the edge in a gunfight by blinding his opponent with all the bling.

Bat had however returned to Dodge not bent on gun fighting but intent on doing business, which was gambling. Ed and Jim were already well established there and Jim was the co-owner of a saloon cum dance hall that was well reviewed by the Dodge City Times and Ed has just been appointed the assistant Marshall of Dodge City.

Bat being Bat, he was in trouble shortly after his arrival and found himself on the wrong side of the law. It all started when Marshall Larry Deger, a huge man who weighed around 300 pounds, was marching a small lowlife called Bobby Gill off to jail for disturbing the peace. Bobby took his time and was walking so slowly that the sheriff saw fit to speed him up by giving him a good few kicks in the rear end. Bat got involved by grabbing the Marshall around the neck, (one or two whiskeys too many? we wonder) which gave the prisoner a chance to escape. The Marshall then tousled with Bat and called for the bystanders to help and get Bat’s gun. With the assistance of a dozen or so men they managed to disarm Bat. Deger then hit Bat with a pistol until he was bleeding form the head and shoved him in jail.  The Dodge times recounted in an article every inch of the way was closely contested, but the city dungeon was reached at last, and in he went. If he had got hold of a gun before going in, there would have been a general killing”.

That same afternoon Ed, Bats brother, performed his first act as assistant Marshall and arrested Bobby Gill and threw him in Jail next to Bat. The following day in court, Bobby got off with a $5 fine and a ticket out of town, but Bat being the brother of a law man had to pay $25 plus costs. He developed a long and abiding dislike for the Marshall Larry Deger as a result.


Quick to make his mark, Bats fame and daring spread quickly assisted by the Dodge Times and while his brother Ed became the Marshall of Dodge City, Bat became the sheriff of Ford County. Bat quickly cleaned up his act and discarding his sombrero and sash started to wear a black tailored suit and a black bowler hat. Bat was described by Eddie Foy as “A trim good-looking young man with a pleasant face and carefully barbered moustache, well-tailored clothes, hat at a rakish tilt and two big silver-mounted, ivory-handled pistols in a heavy belt.”

Two weeks after assuming office, Bat proved the confidence that the people had given in appointing him and the creation of the legend as a lawman was entrenched. At a place called Kingsley in Edwards County about 35 miles from Dodge City six bandits tried to rob a train, unsuccessful in this, they fled into the countryside. Two separate operations were set up one by the Marshall of Edwards County and the other by Fort Dodge who sent out troops. Bat did not join either of these parties and instead set up his own operations and by anticipating the bandits movements he took his posse in a driving blizzard to Crooked Creek, about 55 miles from Dodge where they hid in an abandoned camp. Two of the outlaws approached seeking shelter and Bat send one of his men out as a decoy to invite them into camp. As they were brushing the snow off their coats Bat arrested them and turned them over to Edward County. Back in pursuit of the other 4 bandits, Bat took his posse 80 miles south of the neck and into Indian Territory. This hunt was not successful but a month later two of the outlaws arrived in Dodge City hoping for news of the position of the Sheriff’s posse. One of these men was spotted at a dance hall. Bat called for his brothers and took out the bandits without a gunfight. The fifth bandit managed to escape the law for over six months and the sixth was never captured. Bats triumph however was complete.

The smart young lawman became a familiar sight as he patrolled and took his buggy around his area, an enormous area which covered 100 miles from east to west and 75 miles from North to South. Outlaws and horse rustlers started to give the area that Bat covered wide berth.

Ed Masterson
Ed Masterson, Bats older brother.

In April 1878, Bats brother Ed was killed while trying to disarm two drunken cowboys. The town mourned Ed Masterton’s death and every business in town closed down and the windows draped in black cloth.


After leaving Dodge and over the next forty years, Bat travelled extensively flitting from boom town to boom town, returning to Dodge when his brother Jim needed him, this was in particular for one incident where his brother’s life  , he travelled what he called “a thousand miles” to get back to Jim and come to his aid.

In Colorado he turned up as a gambler in the town of Leadville, in Trinidad as the town Marshall and in Creede he combined both of the above. As Creede’s Marshall he kept such a tight rein that a newspaper reporter wrote “all the toughs and thugs fear him as they do not other dozen men in camp. Let an incident riot start and all that is necessary to quell it is “There comes Masterson”.” As the manager of the gambling house he walked around his own premises in a lavender corduroy suit.

As the years passed and took their toll on Bats reflexes, speed and eyesight he knew he could not live on his reputation alone and so he left the lawman and gunfighters life. In one year in Denver he managed a saloon that had a variety show and it is reputed he married one of the performers, Emma Moulton, and although concrete evidence has never been found that they did marry, their relationship endured until the death of Bat. He also turned to promoting prize fights, he lost his bank roll on bad bets and started to drink heavily.


Bat eventually arrived in New York, earning his living as a sports writer. Bat Masterson by now a national celebrity had left his lawman and gun slinging days for good and when he was offered appointment by President Theodore Roosevelt as the US Marshall for Oklahoma, Bat said no to the president in this sad but touching letter. “I am not the man for the job. Oklahoma is still woolly, and if I were Marshall some youngster would try to put me out because of my reputation. I would be bait for grown up kids who had fed on dime novels. I would have to kill or be killed. No sense to that. I have taken my guns off, and I don’t ever want to put them on again.”

Bat passed away from a heart attack while sitting at his desk in New York City on the 25th October 1921.

Bat Masterson is buried at Woodlawn cemetery, Bronx, New York and his epitaph reads “He was loved by everybody.”
High Noon Casino

The Gambler – Kenny Rogers

The song “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers

was one of my fathers Kenny Rogers - The Gamblerfavourite songs, as it is mine and for many others. The words are poignant, powerful and the song is soulful.  A huge hit for Kenny Rogers back in 1978 .. this song is an evergreen.

Here are the Lyrics to this Beautiful Song.

On a warm summer’s evenin’ on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with a gambler; we were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a starin’ out the window at the darkness ‘Til boredom overtook

us, and he began to speak.
He said, “Son, I’ve made my life out of readin’ people’s faces, And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don’t mind my sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces.
For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice.”
So I handed him my bottle and he drank down my last swallow.
Then he bummed a cigarette and asked me for a light.
And the night got deathly quiet, and his face lost all expression. He said, “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Now ev’ry gambler knows the secret to survivin’ Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser, and the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”
So when he’d finished speakin’, he turned back towards the window, Crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep.
And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even. But in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away, know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

First lady of Blackjack – Madame Moustache

“Madame Moustache” Eleanor Dumont (also called Eleonore

Madame Moustache - First Lady of Blackjack
Madame Moustache – First Lady of Blackjack

Alphonsine Dumant), has carved her path into notoriety and the history books as a famous gambler of the Old West. Madame Moustache is one of the first known professional blackjack players in America, for thirty years this plucky lady blazed her trail throughout the American West.

San Francisco 1849 – The beginnings of the First Lady of Blackjack

Mysterious in her origin, it is rumoured that she came from France because of her accent and others say New Orleans may have been her place of birth. It is estimated that she was born around 1829. Whatever the truth of her beginnings she turned up in San Francisco in 1849.

Here, she was known as Simone Jules, a petite and pretty French woman in her early twenties. It was here that she quickly established herself as a gambler; she worked as a card dealer at a hotel there called “The Bella Union” where she favoured the game of “Vingt-et-Un. (the forerunner to blackjack). She became known for her ability to handle stress at the card tables and her professionalism. When she was suspected of cardsharping, she left town, but not without making a fair amount of money first.

Nevada City, California 1854 – Her own Business

In 1854, elegantly dressed and wearing fine jewellery Eleanor stepped off a stage-coach in Nevada City, California. She booked in and registered at the local Fepps hotel as Eleanor Dumont. To the curiosity of many, she opened up a sophisticated gambling parlour called the “Vingt-et-Un” (French for 21) on Broad Street.

In her parlour she served champagne instead of whisky, permitted only clean and well dressed and well-behaved men into her establishment and forbade swearing in her presence. This Saloon soon became “the” place to be!  Eleanor was beautiful, witty and charming as well as appealingly foreign, and most importantly, she dealt the cards like a true professional.  No women were allowed in her establishment, other than herself.

Men rushed in from miles around for the privilege of watching a woman dealer in action, which was a real rarity at the time. She kept very much to herself and is not known to have had any relationships during this period in time. She rolled her own cigarettes and drank champagne, she flirted with, yet kept the men that frequented her parlour at a discreet distance, touting herself as a lady.

Europa CasinoVingt-et-Un the forerunner of Blackjack

Dumont’s favoured game, vingt-et-un (French for 21), which was a novelty at the time, and was much like modern blackjack as we know it today with the following differences:

  • Aces were only counted as 11 and didn’t have the option of also being a 1
  • Two aces were also a vingt-et-un (even though they add up to 22)
  • Wagering didn’t take place until after the cards had all been dealt
  • The dealer was the only player who was allowed to double
  • There were slightly different pay outs for card combinations
  • One of the different pay outs was a 10-to-1 for an ace of spades and either of the black jacks.  This high pay out eventually led to the game commonly being called blackjack later even after this pay out was removed.

Her place became so popular, that Dumont took on a partner, David Tobin, a professional gambler from New York, and they opened an even larger place called the “Dumont Palace”.  They added the much more popular games of Faro and Chuck-a-luck and this, her second venture was as equally successful as the first.

Two years after her arrival in Nevada City, she started to develop a pronounced moustache, later earning her the unfortunate nickname of “Madame Moustache.”

Columbia, California 1857 – Murder

The gold eventually ran out in Nevada, but she followed the new strikes and headed to Columbia, California, and in 1857 she set up a table in a hotel there.

Through her success, Dumont had been able to amass a small fortune and she decided that she wanted to leave her profession.

Although she knew little about animals and ranching, she bought a ranch in Carson City, Nevada.  It is here, alone and out of her depth, she soon took a fancy to a handsome cattle man named Jack McKnight in whom she trustingly signed her property over to him for him to manage.  Sadly, Jack McKnight was a con man and in less than a month he had disappeared, selling her ranch and leaving her with all the debt.

Dumont tracked him down and killed him with two blasts from a shotgun.  Although she would later admit to the crime, at the time of the shooting, there was not enough evidence to charge her with his murder.

Pioche, Nevada, in the 1860s – Gambling and Prostitution

Needing money, she returned to gambling again and in 1861, set up her table in Pioche, Nevada.  Unfortunately, her youth had begun to fade and she started to put on some weight, losing her hour-glass figure.  In her youth, she used her fine manners and flirtatious chastity to lure men to gamble, but as time wore on, and women in camps became less of a novelty, the coarseness of the lifestyle began to become more evident as she began to openly smoke, drink whisky, and became more tolerant of the crude manners of the miners.

In 1864 Madame Dumont was known to have been in Bannock, where she became friends with the 15 year old Martha Canary “Calamity Jane” and introduced her to the “fine art” of prostitution.

After leaving Bannock, she and her girls apparently spent a hectic summer following after the construction camps of the Union Pacific Railroad, and then turned up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where miners were mining the Black Hills Gold.

Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1876 – The Mining  Rush Trail

At a certain point, she had added prostitution to her repertoire and then acted as a real “Madame.”  At first offering herself, and later hiring girls to work in her houses. As the money and mining dried up she would move on to the next mining town. As she followed the money she drifted through many Montana mining towns like Bannock, Fort Benton, and Helena.  She was found in Silver City and Salmon, Idaho, and Corinne, Utah.  Silver strikes brought her back to Nevada where she found herself in Virginia City.  Eventually, she would be found in Deadwood, South Dakota, and then Tombstone, Arizona.

In 1877, a Deadwood reporter said of her:  “A character who attracts the attention of all strangers is ‘Mme. Mustache,’ a plump little French lady, perhaps forty years of age, but splendidly preserved. She derives her name, which is the only one she is known by, from a dainty strip of black hair upon her upper lip.  She deals her own game, and is quite popular with the boys, who treat her with marked respect.  She has bright black eyes and a musical voice, and there is something attractive about her as she looks up with a little smile and says, ‘You will play, M’sieur?’” He continued by saying, “No one knows her history. She is said to be very rich.”

In Tombstone, she was known to drum up business by dressing her

Madame Moustache Brothel Advert
Madame Moustache Brothel Advert

girls in finery and driving a fancy carriage up and down the streets, smoking a cigar, to the cheers of onlookers.

As the same miners worked the same camps she frequented, her reputation began to precede her as an attractive, but aging moustached good-natured French lady, fair, strong, and savvy with the cards.

Tales, such as her holding off and getting the better of multiple robbers at once, refusing landing and entry to a steamboat at gunpoint that were reputed to be carrying the dreaded smallpox on board, and her generosity and kindness in offering hospitality to those down on their luck, or her friendship with Calamity Jane, followed her wherever she lived.

After spending some time in Eureka, she finally ended up in Bodie along with the forty surviving miners who had panned for gold at Sutters Mill in California and who all decided to gather in Bodie for a reunion.

Bodie, California, 1878 – The beginning of the end.

Bodie, California,was to be her final and fateful stop in 1878.  Her luck

Bodie, California. Madame Moustaches resting place.
Bodie, California. Madame Moustaches resting place.

had run out, and about a year and a half after her arrival here, she borrowed $300 from a friend to open a table.  Within a few hours, she had lost it all.  Without a word, she left the table, walked a mile out of town and committed suicide by drinking a bottle of red wine laced with morphine.  Her body was discovered the next day, on September 8, 1879, her head resting on a rock and with a note explaining that she was “tired of life.”

The Bodie Morning News reported her death on September 9:

“A Suicide — Yesterday morning a sheep-herder, while in pursuit of his avocation, discovered the dead body of a woman lying about one hundred yards from the Bridgeport road, a mile from town.  Her head rested on a stone, and the appearance of the body indicated that death was the result of natural causes.  Ex-officio Coroner Justice Peterson was at once notified, and he dispatched a wagon in charge of H.Ward [of the Pioneer Furniture Store] to that place, who brought the body to the undertaking rooms.  Deceased was named Eleanore Dumont, and was recognized as the woman who had been engaged in dealing a twenty-one game in the Magnolia saloon.  Her death evidently occurred from an overdose of morphine, an empty bottle having the peculiar smell of that drug, being found beside the body. . . .  The history connected with the unfortunate suicide is but a repetition of that of many others who have followed the life of a female gambler, with the exception perhaps that the subject of this item bore a character for virtue possessed by few in her line.  To the goodhearted women of the town must we accord praise for their accustomed kindness in doing all in their power to prepare the unfortunate woman’s body for burial.”

Miners lamented her passing and one such penned the following epitaph:

“Poor Madame Moustache!  Her life was as square a game as was ever dealt. The world played against her with all sorts of combinations, but she generally beat it. The turn was called on her at last for a few paltry hundred; she missed the turn, none of the old boys were there to cover the bet for her, and she passed in her checks, game to the last.  Poor Madame Moustache.” 

Local residents raised enough money for her funeral, and it is said to be the largest that the town had ever held. Although she is buried in the cemetery in Bodie, California which is now a ghost town, the exact spot of her grave has been lost with time.

High Noon Casino

The Middle Ages and Money In Sport

The Middle Ages and Money in Sport

Back in the days of old when knights were both hard-headed and practical

In medieval Britain the biggest money spinner was the tournament.

A knight on his horse
A knight on his horse

This could be viewed as the most professional sport of all times as it was entirely focussed on collecting booty and ransoms.

With the set up costs of a knight’s kit which was armour, arms and a horse costing more than a knight’s yearly income. A tournament could make or break you.

Later as the price of armour and horses went as high as £100, the risk of losing everything in a tournament became too great and ransoms and formal prizes of cash and plate replaced straightforward booty.

One of the Churches many objections to the sport was that it encouraged the sin of greed.

Money to be made in tournaments

Sports Betting today

Making money was formalised by Richard the Lionheart in Britain who in 1194 was making money in a big way from the sport. The Kings sources of income included ten marks from the five licensed grounds each time they held a tournament. In addition there were entry fees which were graded ranging from 20 marks for an Earl down to 2 marks for a landless knight. On top of this were fines for any non-payment and fees for pardons for any fouls in the field.

Sponsorship and funding

Just like sponsorship today, tournament teams were funded for the prestige they brought to their sponsors.  Keeping and maintaining a team of some 200 knights in the field was a hugely expensive business and was limited to nobility and kings with plenty of cash to burn.

Young Henry the eldest son of Henry II, was famous for his spending on tournaments, he met the daily bills and ransoms of a small army of knights, plus their squires, heralds and other personage. At the peak of his spending it was costing him £200 a day, which was, in those days, the equivalent of a good annual income of a nobleman.

As well as wages and prizes, expenses could also include transfer fees for star performing knights. When William the Marshall an English knight moved to the team of William of Flanders, he moved for a huge fee of one quarter of the rents of the port of St Omer!

Such big spending must have been great for the traders of the areas providing that the tournaments competitors didn’t trash the town, which they managed to do to Boston in 1288.

Profit Sharing and Alliances

The knights who competed in these early tournaments often used professional strategies that had more to do with making money and winning than honour and nobility. In 1170 William the Marshall entered into a profit sharing deal with Roger de Jouy in which they agreed to spilt the 103 ransoms they earned over the year.

Cost Cutting tactics

Cost cutting tactics were done by reducing the amount of the ransom you demanded to encourage a defeated knight to surrender to you as opposed to anther rival. You could have alternatively allow a captured knight to go out and fight again to earn his ransom fee.  In addition to ransoms there were formal prizes on offer for the best performance.

Political Appointments

There were valuable political appointments to be had for the most successful fighters, and William   went about as far as any man could, becoming the regent of England after King Johns death.

Horses – A Knights Mount

After a successful tournament there would be money to spend and the Friday horse market at Smithfield outside the City of London became the place to sell off captured horses, or to eye and try out a replacement or upgrade of your existing mount.
It is here that one of the first recorded races for money happened. King Richard challenged three knights to race over three miles for a purse of gold.

The new sport of Jousting

Jousting - a sport of the middle ages
Jousting – a sport of the middle ages

Even without the expense of maintaining a large unofficial army, Edward III was spending a £100 a week. One of the big incentives would have been the huge prizes on offer and there are references to diamonds being handed out to the winners of Jousts.

Gambling and Betting in Medieval times.

In the Middle Ages betting was extremely popular, especially after the Crusaders had returned from the Holy Land, and where, like the Homeric Greeks at the siege of Troy, they had kept themselves occupied during the long campaign with gambling and gaming.

In response to the violence and trouble that betting could cause, Richard I legislated to limit the stakes and restrict gambling to nobles. This was the beginning of 800 years allowing the wealthy to have their fun  while the working class were restricted.
In the following century the Council of Worcester tried to stop the clergy from gambling and further laws were introduced by Richard II in 1388.

Famous Gamblers – Poker Alice (1851-1930)

Poker AlicePoker Alice (1851-1930)

The images created of gamblers and gambling during the days of the Wild West by Hollywood and the silver screen is a very romantic one and many gun smoking, gamblers and cowboy legends have been immortalised on screen. One of the most famous gamblers of its time just happened to be a woman … Poker Alice!

The most famous female gambler of the Wild West was Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert known simply as Poker Alice. In the untamed days of the American west, Poker Alice was the queen amongst gamblers. Her gambling career spanned two centuries. She was a key figure of the 1880s and 1890s in which Poker Alice forged both her name and reputation.

Poker Alice, female, a gambler with a British accent and more often than not having a cigar protruding from between her lips. Poker Alice could hold her own in poker against any male opponent and was astute enough never to drink while playing.

Poker Alice had a fine fashion sensePoker Alice had principles and religiously observed the practise of not gambling on a Sunday, she vehemently protected this belief and even went as far as to shoot anyone who violated this religious law.

Poker Alice The Early years

Poker Alice was born on the 17th February 1851, in Devonshire, England and spent her early youth there until her parents immigrated to the USA when she was 12 years old. She was sent to a boarding school in Virginia and was educated and raised to be a genteel young lady. While in her late teens, her family moved to Leadville, a city in the Colorado Territory.

It was in Leadville that Alice transformed herself into the fearless, gun wielding, cigar smoking, professional gambler she became.

It is here she met her first husband Frank Duffield. Frank Duffield was a mining engineer who played poker in his spare time. After just a few years of marriage, Duffield was killed in an accident while resetting a dynamite charge in a Leadville mine. Alice was left in a tough financial position after Frank’s death and after failing in a few different jobs including teaching, she turned to poker to support herself financially.

Alice would make money by gambling and working as a dealer. Alice made a name for herself by winning money from poker games. By the time she was given the name “Poker Alice,” she was drawingPoker Alice playing

                   Poker Alice in action

in large crowds to watch her play poker and men were constantly challenging her to play. During this time Alice is reputed to have been able to make as much as $6,000 gambling on a good night — a huge amount of money back then.

Alice used her good looks to distract men at the poker table. Winning large sums of money she would spend most of it on the latest fashions. She always had the newest dresses, and even into her 50’s was considered a very attractive woman. She was also very good at counting cards and figuring odds, which helped her at the table when playing poker.

Alice was known to always carry a gun with her, preferably her .38.

Alice met her next husband around 1890 when she was a dealer in Bedrock Tom’s saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. When a drunken miner tried to attack her fellow dealer Warren G. Tubbs with a knife, Alice threatened him with her .38. A romance blossomed and they married soon afterwards. They had 4 sons and 3 daughters.

While her children were growing up, Alice tried to keep them away from the gambling houses and at one point she and Tubbs decided to buy a homestead a ranch northeast of Sturgis on the Moreau River. When Tubbs passed away in 1910 from pneumonia, it is reputed that Alice was forced to pawn her wedding ring to pay for his funeral. This led her straight back to the gaming tables.

After Tubbs died, Alice hired George Huckert to take care of the homestead while she went back to Sturgis to earn some money. Huckert proposed to her several times until she famously said: “I owed him so much in back wages; I figured it would be cheaper to marry him than pay him off, so I did.” His back wages were about $1,008. The marriage was short. Huckert died in 1913.

POKER ALICEPoker’s Palace and Infamy

It was around 1910 that Alice bought an old house on Bear Butte Creek near the Fort Meade Army Post, South Dakota and opened the Saloon. Apparently the house was small and needed extra rooms and “fresh girls” to perk up the business, so Alice went to a bank for a $2,000 loan.

This is how the story is reported, in words spoken by Alice herself: “I went to the bank for a $2,000 loan to build on an addition and go to Kansas City to recruit some fresh girls. When I told the banker I’d repay the loan in two years, he scratched his head for a minute then let me have the money. In less than a year I was back in his office paying off the loan. He asked how I was able to come up with the money so fast. I took a couple chews on the end of my cigar and told him, `Well it’s this way. I knew the Grand Army of the Republic had an encampment here in Sturgis. And I knew that the state Elks convention would be here too. But I plumb forgot about all those Methodist preachers coming to town for a conference’.”

“Poker’s Palace,” as she named it, offered gambling and liquor downstairs, and prostitution upstairs. The saloon was always closed on Sundays because of her religious beliefs.

However, in 1913, some drunken soldiers disobeyed Poker Alice’s “no work on Sunday” policy and started to get unruly and destructive. Poker Alice used her gun to try and gain order. The shots ended up killing one of the soldiers and injuring another, resulting in Alice’s arrest, along with six of her prostitutes. At the trial, she claimed self-defence and was acquitted. Her Saloon, however, was shut down.

While in her sixties,  Alice was arrested several times after the

Poker Alice in her later years
Poker Alice in her later years

“Poker’s Palace” incident for being a madam, a gambler, a bootlegger, as well as for drunkenness. She would comply with the law and pay her fines but kept her business.

In 1928, she was again arrested and sentenced for bootlegging and her repeated offenses of conducting a brothel. Despite this sentence to prison, Alice now 75 years old escaped incarceration as she was pardoned by then Governor William J. Bulow of South Dakota because of her old age.

Poker Alice’s fame, or notoriety, followed her beyond her waning Poker Alice's Graveyears. She died on February 27, 1930 in a Rapid City hospital after a gall bladder operation and is buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Her “house” stood vacant for many years and it was scheduled for demolition until a Sturgis businessman bought it and had it moved to its present location on Junction Avenue in Sturgis where it is now a bed and breakfast inn and a popular tourist destination for poker enthusiasts worldwide.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Famous Gamblers

FAMOUS GAMBLERS … there are many tales and legends concerning famous gamblers, some of them taking us back centuries. Many of these are strange though true, whilst others are somewhat questionable!

Famous Gamblers of the Roman EraPlay Casino Games at Europa Casino

We start off with the famous gamblers Emperor Julius Caesar and his friend Mark Anthony, who were avid gamblers and spent much time betting on cockfights and playing dice.

Emperor Claudius is a famous gambler from the Roman Era. Another of the famous gamblers or the roman era  Emperor Claudius, was an obsessive dice player who even had the inside of his carriage reconstructed so that he could play dice while travelling. The Roman dramatist, Seneca, did a skit on the death of Claudius; showing him in hell forever condemned to shaking dice in a cup without a bottom!

Two other famous gamblers and Roman emperors who were equally obsessive and that loved to gamble were Nero and Caligula who bet sums of up to 400 000 sesterii (+-$50,000) on a single throw of the dice. Caligula recouped his losses by arresting or executing his wealthy subjects and confiscating their wealth!

Henry VII was well-known for his love of gambling, a pastime at odds with his image as a miserly king. Today, we can look at the carefully-maintained Privy Purse Accounts to see the amounts Tudor royalty lost at cards. Though even royalty was not supposed to gamble during certain religious holidays, neither Henry VII, or his son obeyed that rule. Henry VIII was particularly bad at the game primero.

King Henry V111 of England rivalled the Roman Emperors in gambling addiction and excesses by actually managing to lose the church bells from the City of London!!

Famous Gamblers of the Wild West

Many famous gamblers are found amongst the legends of the Wild West and not least was the Marshall Wyatt Earp. He was the part owner of a gambling house in tombstone, Arizona and his card playing skills considerably boosted his marshal’s salary.

Wild Bill Hickok one of the most famous gamblers of all time, actually died while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota. He was shot in the head from behind whilst he was sitting with his back to the door by an assassin hired by crooked gamblers. They were afraid that his being elected sheriff would put paid to their illegal dealings. At the time of his death, Hickok was holding a pair of eights and a pair of aces. This hand has since famously been known as the “dead man’s hand”.

Calamity Jane a famous gambler is pictured here with a gun
Famous Gamblers – Calamity Jane with gun

The following famous gamblers all knew each other from the boom towns: Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Lottie Deno, Bob Ford, Moustache Maude, Doc Holliday, and Big Nose Kate Elder. The number of movies that have been made about this bunch is amazing. Over Fifty-five of America’s best-known actors have played both Wyatt and Doc.

Poker Alice shot one man who accused a boyfriend of cheating and killed another later. Lottie killed a man who swindled her with both barrels of a shotgun. Doc killed one man who grabbed his chips, and another who looked at the discards.

Most of the famous lady gamblers of this era used high fashion as a trademark, all carried guns, and used them! Lottie Deno was the role model used for Miss Kitty in the movie Gun smoke. Elizabeth Taylor played Poker Alice and Doris Day is just one of many to play Calamity Jane.

Doc, Wyatt, Bat, and Luke Short were all famous gamblers, gunfighters, gambling house owners and close friends. Several of these gamblers were involved in pimping, including Wyatt Earp and his brother, Poker Alice, and Moustache Maude. Wild Bill’s pal Calamity Jane was a famous gambler and poker player and sometime whore. Doc’s long-term lady, Kate Elder, was a whore. When Doc killed someone and was jailed, Kate set fire to the jail and then held the jailers at bay with pistols in both hands.

Famous Gamblers of 18th – 20th Century

By contrast, we look at the elegant salons of 18th century European society and here we find the famous lover, Casanova, who was also a famous gambler. In fact gambling was his living! He won more than he lost, plunging from riches into poverty regularly throughout his gaming career.

Beau Brummel a famous gambler
Beau Brummel a famous gambler

The famous UK gambler and dandy, Beau Brummel, belonged to Whites and Brooks London gaming clubs where he regularly gambled for high stakes. Another member of Whites Club named Bligh was a suicidal schizophrenic and was playing at the same table as Beau Brummel one evening. Brummel after losing 1000 guineas pretended to be absolutely distraught and called to the waiter to bring him a candlestick and a pistol so that he could “light his way to death.” Bligh calmly took two loaded pistols from his coat pockets. He presented them to Brummel saying,” Mr. Brummel, if you are really serious to put a period to your existence, I am happy to offer you the means without you troubling the waiter!”

Brummel’s gambling eventually ruined him financially. At the age of 62 he died in a madhouse. The change in his fortunes was blamed on the loss of his lucky charm (a coin with a hole in it) which he had given out in error to a hackney coachman.

The wealthy British store owner, Gordon Selfridge, was not an addicted gambler himself, but his protégés, the famous gamblers, the Dolly Sisters, were true gamblers – in every sense of the word, mostly using Selfridge’s money!

The Dolly SistersThe Dolly sisters were cabaret artists and were seen performing by Selfridge who then invited them to visit him at his villa in Deauville. Their visit lasted nearly a quarter of a century during which time these two famous gamblers managed to gamble away $8,000,000.00 of his fortune! On one particular occasion, whilst playing a game of baccarat, they lost the equivalent of 10.000 pounds. Selfridge sent them diamonds “to compensate for your losses my darlings!” However his money was not limitless, and at the age of 83 he went bankrupt.

Nick the Greek Danadalos, another famous gambler also known as the “King of Gamblers” won more than $50,000,000.00 during his lifetime. In 1949, in a Las Vegas casino, he played poker against his arch rival Johnny Moss. The game lasted five months with breaks every four or five days for sleep. At one point during the game, Nick won $1,000,000.00 in a single hand but eventually fortune smiled on Moss and Nick reportedly lost$2,000,000.00. Nick’s reign as “King of the Gamblers” was over and he ended his playing days in Californian bars playing $5 poker games.

Perhaps the most well-known names in 20th Century European Gambling circuit belonged to a group known as “The Greek Syndicate”. The group consisted of five members: Eli Eliopulo (Greek), Nicolas Zographos (Greek), Athanase Vagliano (Greek), Zanet Couyoumdjian (Armenian), and Francois Andre (French). They regularly played against some of the World’s richest men, such as the Aga Kahn, the Baron Henri de Rothschild and the ex-king Farouk of Egypt.

Each member of the syndicate ended his gambling career far richer that when he started out and this was largely due to the gambling abilities of Nico Zographos. He mastered the mathematics of gambling and combined with his incredible memory (he could remember every single playing card throughout a game of baccarat) he made a formidable opponent.

Although all the original famous gambler members of the syndicate are now dead, it still exists today and still achieves more consistent success than any comparable group in Europe.

Modern Day Famous Gamblers

LIZ LIEU  – One of Pokers hottest current lady players.

Annie Duke
Annie Duke

AMARILLO SLIM PRESTON – The first celebrity poker player and a famous gambler.

ANNIE DUKE – She is one of the modern day famous gamblers and is considered the Best “All Round” Lady poker players.

DOYLE “TEXAS DOLLY” BRUNSON – He is a famous gambler and the best known legend of poker.
Another of the modern day most famous gamblers although existing only on the silver screen is the famous “James Bond – 007”, who famously plays Baccarat and Texas Holdem Poker.

Click here to try your hand playing with  English live dealers.


Enhanced by Zemanta