Poker Alice

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Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert, usually known as "Poker Alice" Tubbs
Poker Alice Ivers.jpg
The cigar chomping Poker Alice (pre-1930)
Born (1851-02-17)February 17, 1851
Devonshire, England
Died February 27, 1930(1930-02-27) (aged 79)
Rapid City, Pennington County
South Dakota, USA
Cause of death
Failed gall bladder surgery
Resting place
St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota
Residence Sturgis, Meade County
South Dakota
Occupation Gambler; Brothel operator; Rancher
Religion Proclaimed Christian
Spouse(s)

Three-time widow:
(1) Frank Duffield
(2) Warren G. Tubbs

(3) George Huckert
Children Seven children from second marriage

Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert (1851–February 27, 1930), better known as Poker Alice or Poker Alice Ivers, was a famous poker player in the American West.

Her family moved from Devon, England, where she was born, to Virginia, United States, where she was reared and educated. As an adult, Ivers moved to Leadville, Colorado, where she met her first husband, Frank Duffield. He got Ivers interested in poker, but he was killed a few years after they married. Ivers made a name for herself by winning money from poker games in places like Silver City, New Mexico, and even working at a saloon in Creede, Colorado, that was owned by Bob Ford, the man who killed Jesse James [1]

Early life[edit]

“Poker” Alice Ivers was born in England, to Irish Immigrants. Her family moved to Virginia when Alice was twelve. As a young woman, she went to boarding school in Virginia to become a refined lady. While in her late teens, her family moved to Leadville, a city in the then Colorado Territory.

Personal life[edit]

It was in Leadville that Alice met Frank Duffield, whom she married at a young age. 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.

Ivers was known for splurging her winnings, as when she won a lot of money in Silver City and spent it all in New York. After all of her big wins, she would travel to New York and spend her money on clothes. She was very keen on keeping up with the latest fashions and would buy dresses to wear to play poker.

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. After this incident, Tubbs and Ivers started a romance and were married soon after.

Alice Ivers and Warren Tubbs had four sons and three daughters together. Tubbs and Ivers did not want their children to be influenced by the world of poker, so they moved to a house just northeast of Sturgis on the Moreau River in South Dakota. Tubbs was not only a dealer, but a housepainter as well. It was most likely this house painting that caused him to fall sick with tuberculosis. Warren Tubbs died in 1910 of pneumonia during a blizzard. To pay for his funeral, Alice had to pawn her wedding ring, which led her back to the poker tables.

Alice’s third husband was George Huckert, who worked on her homestead taking care of the sheep. Huckert was constantly proposing to Ivers, yet for a while she did not agree. Eventually, however, Ivers owed Huckert $1,008, so she married him figuring that it would be cheaper than paying his back wages. Huckert died in 1913.

Poker career[edit]

After the death of her first husband, Alice started to play poker seriously. Alice was in a tough financial position. 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. Ivers made a name for herself by winning money from poker games. By the time Ivers was given the name “Poker Alice,” she was drawing in large crowds to watch her play and men were constantly challenging her to play. Saloon owners liked that Ivers was a respectable woman who kept to her values. These values included her refusal to play poker on Sundays.

As her reputation grew, so did the amount of money she was making. Some nights she would even make $6,000, an incredibly large sum of money at the time. Alice claimed that she won $250,000, which would now be worth more than three million dollars.

Ivers used her good looks to distract men at the poker table. She always had the newest dresses, and even in her 50s was considered a very attractive woman. She was also very good at counting cards and figuring odds, which helped her at the table.

Alice was known to always be carrying a gun with her, preferably her .38, and frequently smoked cigars.

Poker's Palace and Jailtime[edit]

In 1910, Ivers opened “Poker’s Palace,” a saloon in Fort Meade, South Dakota, which offered gambling and liquor downstairs, and prostitution upstairs. The saloon was always closed on Sundays because of Ivers’ proclaimed religious beliefs. However, in 1913, some drunken soldiers disobeyed Iver’s “no work on Sunday” rule and started to get unruly, chaotic, and destructive of the house. It was then that Ivers shot her gun, supposedly to quiet down the soldiers. The shot ended up killing one of the soldiers and injuring another, resulting in Ivers' arrest, along with the arrest of six of her prostitutes.

Ivers’ time spent in jail was short, but she got through it with the help of reading the Bible and smoking cigars. At the trial, she claimed self-defense and was acquitted. After the trial, her saloon was shut down.

While in her sixties, Alice Ivers was arrested several times after the “Poker Palace” incident for being a madam, a gambler, and a bootlegger, as well as her drunkenness. She would comply with the law and pay her fines but kept her business. In 1928, she was arrested again for bootlegging and her repeated offenses of conducting a brothel. Despite this sentence to prison, Ivers did not end up confined because she was pardoned by then Governor William J. Bulow of South Dakota, who took this action because of her old age.

Legacy[edit]

After being forced to retire by the anger of the military and other people who were upset with her blend of religious elements at her house in Sturgis, Alice’s health began to fail her. Alice Ivers died on February 27, 1930 in Rapid City after a gall bladder operation at the age of 79. Ivers was buried at the St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Ivers has been fictionalized in several films and numerous television series, including the 1978 TV-movie The New Maverick with James Garner as Bret Maverick and Susan Sullivan as Poker Alice Ivers. The TV-movie Poker Alice, in which the titular cigar-smoking and bordello-owning poker player was portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor, was fictionalized to the point that the character had a different last name.

References[edit]