Alice Ivers never sat down to play poker without holding at least one gun

Alice Ivers

Deadwood Cardsharp

“It was the damnedest faro game I ever saw. The game seesawed back and forth with Alice always picking up the edge; a few times it terminated only long enough for the player to eat a sandwich and wash it down with a boiler maker.”

Gambler Marion Speer’s comments on the poker game between Alice Ivers and Jack Hardesty, 1872

A steady stream of miners, ranchers, and cowhands filtered in and out of the Number 10 Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. An inexperienced musician playing an out-of-tune accordion squeezed out a familiar melody, ushering the pleasure seekers inside. Burlap curtains were pulled over the dusty windows, and fans that hung down from the ceiling turned lazily.

A distressed mahogany bar stood alongside one wall of the business, and behind it was a surly looking bartender. He was splashing amber liquid into glasses as fast as he could. A row of tables and chairs occupied the area opposite the bar. Every seat was filled with a card player. Among the seat of male gamblers was one woman; everyone called her Poker Alice.

She was an alarming beauty, fair-skinned and slim. She had one eye on the cards she was dealing and another on the men at the game two tables down.

Warren G. Tubbs was studying the cards in his hand so intently he didn’t notice the hulk of a man next to him get up and walk around behind him. The huge man with massive shoulders and ham-like hands that hung low to his sides peered over Tubbs’s shoulder and scowled down at the mountain of chips before him. Alice’s intensely blue eyes carefully watched the brute’s actions. He casually reached back at his belt and produced a sharp knife from the leather sheath hanging off his waist. Just as he was about to plunge the weapon into Tubbs’s back, a gunshot rang out.

A sick look filled the man’s face, and the frivolity in the saloon came to a halt. He slowly dropped the knife. Before dropping to his knees, he turned in the direction from which the bullet had come. Alice stared back at him, her .38 pistol pointed at his head. The man fell face first onto the floor. His dead body was quickly removed to make way for another player. In a matter of minutes, the action inside the tavern returned to normal. Tubbs caught Alice’s gaze and grinned. He nodded to her and waggled his fingers in a kind of salute. She smiled slightly and turned her attention wholly back to the poker game in front of her.

Alice Ivers never sat down to play poker without holding at least one gun. She generally ca