Poker Alice – The First Great Female Poker Player

Posted August 31, 2009 by Andrew in Articles

Poker AlicePoker was a popular pastime in the days of the Wild West, and Hollywood pays homage to this sport in many films that either revolve around poker or feature it in one of its scenes. What Hollywood doesn’t tell you is that not all the poker players were men. Sure, it was a macho society where gambling was almost a “man’s job”, but there were a few women ahead of their time who actually played it professionally.

One of the most famous female poker players in the 1880s was Poker Alice. She was a smart, independent, and colorful woman who refused to let stereotypes keep her from meeting the men on the table as equals—something denied to most frontier women. Despite this prejudice, Poker Alice outplayed several of the “tough” men who would laugh at her whenever she asked to join a game, bringing home about $225,000 in her sixty-year career.

Poker Alice was born in England in 1851. Her real name was Alice Ivers. When she was three years old, her parents decided to migrate to America and it was there that she discovered poker.

Alice’s father was a schoolmaster, and her mother raised her to be the “prim” and “proper” lady. She studied in a fashionable women’s seminary, and when she was 20 years old, she did the “respectable” thing and married a wealthy and educated mining engineer, Frank Duffield.

Duffield was an avid poker player, and Alice dutifully accompanied him on his games. She learned to play. Then, the couple moved to Leadville (the largest and most lawless mining town in Colorado). Tragically, her husband was killed in a mining accident, and she had no way of returning home—and no job to support herself. So she put her mind gambling skills to use, and became known all over Colorado not only for her delicate beauty but her incredible poker skills. She defied all stereotypes by wearing gorgeously feminine dresses while puffing on a cigar, and though she was a master at bluffing and could outwit (and outswear) the best of them, she refused to gamble on Sundays. Alice’s motto was, “Praise the Lord and place your bets. I’ll take your money with no regrets.”

Alice’s fame spread from Colorado to across the country, and America was a-buzz with talk of the “beautiful lady gambler”. Gambling halls scrambled to invite her to play at their salons, knowing people would flock to be able to see, meet or even play against her.

Alice’s reputation was well deserved. In Silver City, New Mexico, she set the record at the Gold Dust Gambling House winning $6,000 in one evening.

Bob Ford (the killer of Jesse James) hired her to work as a dealer in his tent saloon. Alice happily returned to a quieter life, marrying another dealer W. G. Tubbs. Unfortunately, he died of pneumonia in the middle of a blizzard, and she drove his body for 50 miles in harsh weather conditions just to give him a decent burial.

Alice went back to gambling, and opened a roadhouse she called “Poker’s Palace”. She was already 70 years old, but she was still sprightly, even shooting a Calvary trooper in self-defense. “At my age I suppose I should be knitting,” she’d say, “But I would rather play poker with five or six ‘experts’ than eat.”

Poker Alice was a legend. She died in 1930 at the age of 80.


About the Author

Andrew

Andrew Keyes is a poker enthusiast, a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant. You can visit to get poker articles along with winning poker tips, tested poker strategies, the latest poker news, free poker tools, cool poker resources, and more! Visit today and you can download some of the best poker bots for automating your poker play!