Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ladies at the Saloon Tables

Another “Poker & Pop Culture” entry I wanted to pass along today.

Am still amid the Old West in the survey, working my way through some of the more celebrated examples of players of “saloon poker.” I’ll move over to the steamboats soon, as well as to the Civil War battlefields for a quick stop before moving forward into the 20th century in earnest.

This week’s entry is titled “Lady Gamblers and Poker Alice” and compiles a few stories of women who were known to gamble and play cards during the Old West era. Alice Ivers -- a.k.a. “Poker Alice” -- generally grabs all the headlines when it comes to pre-1900 women poker players. But there are a ton of others with equally interesting stories, and so I included references to several in what amounted to a little survey.

The culture’s response to the women who dared take seats at those saloon table games is intriguing as well, something I only get into briefly in the column. Many were predictably “punished” (in different ways) for their boldness, with a few even losing their lives as an indirect result. But some were also made into heroic figures (like some of the male gunslinging gamblers of the day), their stories celebrated and embellished greatly even while alive, and especially after death.

Image: “Beware Poker Players and Loose Women” (adapted), Debra Drummond. CC BY-SA 2.0.

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