Poker Alice in the Old West
We might meet a lot of colorful people playing poker in Houston but there was a time when things would be very surprising indeed if you were to sit at a table and find a lady ready with chips. There was one, though, and she not only played poker, supporting herself despite the tricksters out there, but she also came ready with a sharp knife and occasionally a six-shooter just in case.
Alice Ivers was born in Devonshire, England, in 1951 but moved to the United States at a young age. She started out in Virginia but ended up in Leadville, Colorado, for a gold rush. There, she met a mining engineer and married at the age of twenty. Her husband enjoyed gambling and she would watch quietly at his side. It wasn’t long, though, before Alice decided she wanted to play as well. She ended up pretty good at it, too.
Unfortunately, a few years after she was married, her husband was killed in a mining accident, and Alice was left to survive on her own. She didn’t want to work in the mines, and the town didn’t have a school where she might have taught. So, she decided to try her hand making money playing cards. Not only did she do well with that but she also became a dealer in high demand.
She made quite a stir in the various mining towns in Colorado. She was a stunning beauty in her youth and she also wore the nicest and newest fashions. She was also a hell of a poker player! In fact, she busted the bank at a gambling house in New Mexico, winning $6000! Her travels eventually took her to Deadwood, South Dakota, where she met her next husband. Where did she meet him? At the poker table, of course!
The two had seven children and Alice gave up her poker career for a while but when her husband died in 1910, she returned to the tables. During prohibition she opened a saloon with alcohol, poker and prostitutes in ready supply. She might have run the saloon for the rest of her life if she hadn’t been forced to shoot a drunken customer!
Alice continued to frequent poker rooms for the rest of her life, famously saying at the age of seventy-five that she’d rather play with expert poker players than eat. By then, her looks and her fashionable attire were gone but you know what? I think there’s plenty of beauty in a rough and tumble old woman who smokes cigars and knows whether she should check, raise or fold!