Poker Alice

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By Gary Every  Alice Ivers was born in Sudbury, England in 1851. Her family left England and ended up in Colorado when she was a teenager. Alice Ivers married a mining engineer named Duffield. Her stint as a housewife was a short one because Duffield died in a mining accident before his wife had reached her twenty-first birthday.

The widow received a generous pension so it must have been boredom and not money which first propelled her to gravitate towards the saloons. She took a fancy to playing cards and soon earned the nickname “Poker Alice.” She also acquired a liking for fat cigars and kept a .45 revolver with her at the gambling tables but always refused to gamble on Sundays.

Poker Alice followed the gold rush to Deadwood, South Dakota. Her skills as a card sharp brought her a great deal of fame and fortune. Although Poker Alice never confessed to cheating it was certainly a standard practice of the times. It was obvious she admired the men who had the stuff to pull off such nefarious schemes. Poker Alice became adept at the tricks of the trade herself; her soft gentle hands were much valued in the card sharp business.

Soft hands were better at reading the notches and bumps found on marked cards. Poker Alice claimed she never cheated although her profession required her to learn the tricks of the trade to protect herself. She swore that in all her years of gambling, “I handled a cold deck only once, and that for a joke.” She traveled all across the west, riding the rails and hustling the tourists. At least until the locomotive lines got wise and banned professional gamblers.

Before the end of the century she had returned to Deadwood. Poker Alice remarried a gentleman named Tubbs. The newlyweds had a great deal in common for they were both professional gamblers. They decided to retire from their dangerous past time and purchased a chicken ranch. They enjoyed a rather peaceful, pastoral, but odorous existence of wedded bliss until Tubbs died of pneumonia in 1910.

Alice once again grew bored of the widow’s life. She returned to gambling, saving her winnings until she could afford to open up a saloon called “Poker Alice,” located in South Dakota between the town of Sturgis and South Fort Meade. Business was quite lucrative. For the benefit of the local soldiers Alice imported some soiled doves. Alice’s puritanical Victorian English upbringing revealed itself and none of her working girls were permitted to employ their trade on Sundays. Alice would round the girls up and drag them to church every Sunday as a condition of employment. Alice married again.

The groom was another professional gambler who went by the name of George Huckert. Prohibition now darkened the land but the local law stayed away from a celebrity such as Poker Alice. At least until Alice was charged with shooting one of the Fort Meade soldiers. Although the jury acquitted Alice by saying that she acted in self-defense, the irate D.A. did manage to close the saloon. In the late 1920’s George Huckert had gone to meet his maker.

Alice retired to a small house in Sturgis and kept chomping cigars until her own death in 1930 when Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert folded her last hand.

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