Poker Alice’s real name was Alice Ivers. She was born in 1853 in Devonshire, England and educated there before moving with her family to Colorado. There, she met and married Frank Duffield, a mining engineer, who had taught her poker. After Frank was killed in a mining accident in Leadville, Colorado, she had to support herself, so she turned to gambling, card games in particular, because it was something she had discovered she was good at and lucky. Poker Alice become a legend in Deadwood, South Dakota and she is still represented in Deadwood’s “Days of ’76” parade. She died in Rapid City, SD on Feb. 27, 1930.
Soon after taking on life as a gambler, she expanded her range and operation and began traveling and gambling all over the West: through New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and South Dakota. In New Mexico, she broke the bank at one of the saloons, and the dealer was forced to close the game. Alice took over and played all night and left with a tidy profit.
Alice soon moved to Deadwood, South Dakota, where she became something of a local legend. She attracted a lot of men to the table and her deadpan expression (poker face) gave her a distinct advantage. Alice’s winnings at the table often totaled as much as $6,000 in one night.
In Deadwood, she met her long-term husband, Warren G. Tubbs, while gambling. The two were often adversaries at the gaming table but Tubbs never had much luck and Alice beat him regularly. Tubbs, however, supported his gambling habit through his paintings. She became Tubbs’ caretaker during his last years, which were marred by tuberculosis acquired while painting. After he passed away, Alice was unable to take his body out to bury until the blizzard was over. She had to hock her wedding ring to pay the burial expenses.
Alice then moved from Deadwood through Rapid City and on to Sturgis. Once there, she engaged George Huckert, an admirer, in a brief marriage. But he died soon after and for the third time Alice was widowed. Once again broke and without a man, she went back to dealing cards. In Sturgis, she ran a poker establishment and bootlegged alcohol to support herself until prohibition closed here down. Alice then catered to the soldiers stationed at Fort Meade by running a house of ill repute. A few other appointments as a dealer followed, such as one at the Diamond Jubilee in Omaha.
During the waning years of her life, Alice’s beauty faded and she took to wearing an old skirt, a man’s shirt and a worn hat. A lifetime of cigar smoking had taken its toll on her health. Though the thrill of the early days were gone, Poker Alice continued to play cards well into her sixties. She lived into her seventies, dying in 1930. She passed away on February 27 in a Rapid City hospital and is buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in the Black Hills.