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Poker Alice – The best-known female poker player she became a legend in Deadwood

Goran Blazeski

Poker Alice’s real name was Alice Ivers she was born to Irish Immigrants on February 17, 1851, in Sudbury, England, where she attended an elite boarding school for young women before her family moved to Colorado.

When she was 20-years-old she met a mining engineer by the name of Frank Duffield and the two married.

Frank Duffield who was a skilled poker player taught her poker and since she was a quick learner Alice became a skilled poker player herself.

Unfortunately, shortly after their marriage, her husband was killed while resetting an unexploded dynamite charge in a mine at Leadville.

Now Alice had to support herself and with her education, she might have taught school but she decided to turn to the poker tables for a living.

Officers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry playing cards in front of tents. Petersburg, Virginia, August 1864
Officers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry playing cards in front of tents. Petersburg, Virginia, August 1864

She had discovered she was good at counting cards and figuring odds. In fact, she became so good that the miners and other gamblers started calling her Poker Alice.

Eventually, she became a legend in Deadwood, South Dakota and one of the best-known female poker players in the Old West.

Poker Alice was a very attractive woman with blue eyes and lush brown hair and wore only the finest clothes.

Poker Alice knew that she was attractive and used her looks to distract male players. She was known for puffing on big fat cigars while sitting in the most fashionable and frilly dresses

She also learned to deal and traveled in cities all over Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and South Dakota playing and sometimes working as a dealer.

Even when she was working as a dealer Poker Alice was paid well due to her skill and beauty.

Poker Alice (pre-1930). Photo Credit
Poker Alice (pre-1930). Photo Credit

In New Mexico, she broke the bank at one of the saloons, and the dealer was forced to close the game.

In 1890s Alice was reputed to have been able to make as much as $6,000 gambling on a good night – around $160,000 in today’s money.

In 1890 Alice Poker married W. G. Tubbs, who was working as a dealer in the saloon of one Bedrock Tom in Deadwood, South Dakota. Together they had 4 sons and 3 daughters.

Tubbs was working as a housepainter and they lived a peaceful life away from saloons and gambling halls.

But in 1910 Tubbs contracted pneumonia and died and Alice had to pawn her wedding ring to pay for his funeral and afterward, went to a gambling parlor and earned enough money to get her ring back.

Gambling at the Orient Saloon in Bisbee, Arizona, c.1900
Gambling at the Orient Saloon in Bisbee, Arizona, c.1900

Poker Alice married George Huckert but George died in 1913 and that  made Alice a widow for the third time.

During Prohibition, Alice opened a saloon called “Poker’s Palace” the establishment was well known for gambling, liquor, and prostitution.

The police closed down the house because of an incident and Alice spent some time in jail.

Here is another story from us: The Queen of Frontier Gamblers- Lottie Deno was Texas’ most famous poker player

Alice died on February 27, 1930, after a gall bladder operation in a hospital in Rapid City. She was buried in Sturgis, at the St. Aloysius Cemetery.

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News