(Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert)
Poker Alice (pre-1930)
February 17, 1851|
|Died||February 27, 1930
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
|Occupation||Gambler; Brothel operator; Rancher|
|Children||Seven children from second marriage|
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.
"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.
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. Alice drove her husband's body in a wagon 50 miles to get him a decent burial. To pay for his funeral, she 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.
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 always to have carried a gun with her, preferably her .38, and frequently smoked cigars.
Poker's Palace and jailtime
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 Ivers' "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.
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 gallbladder operation at the age of 79. Ivers was buried at the St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
In 1960, Barbara Stuart played Poker Alice in a three-part episode of the Rory Calhoun CBS western series, The Texan. Calhoun as series character Bill Longley, a heroic figure rather than the real outlaw of the same name, pursues the bandit El Sombro to the fictitious corrupt community of Rio Nada. In the episodes "The Taming of Rio Nada", "Sixgun Street", and "The Terrified Town", Poker Alice is shown as an unlikely frontier gambler, the mother of seven children who had once been a dealer for Bob Ford in Colorado and spent her later years in Deadwood and Sturgis, South Dakota.
Ivers has been fictionalized in several films, including the 1978 TV movie The New Maverick with James Garner as Bret Maverick and Susan Sullivan as Poker Alice Ivers. In another television film, Poker Alice, Elizabeth Taylor plays the cigar-smoking and bordello-owning poker player. The film is so fictionalized that the character is given another surname.
- "OLD WEST LEGENDS;Poker Alice - Famous Frontier Gambler".
- Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 111
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