We all have secret weapons for handling stress. Mine is "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers. I am pretty sure we can all agree on the fact that the 1978 music video is a major human achievement. Is the song catchy? Check. Is it uplifting? Big time. Does it impart invaluable life lessons about financial planning, risk-taking, and the right way to sport facial hair? A thousand times, yes.
Why am I even talking about this? Because Kenny Rogers just announced that he's retiring and I never got to see him play "The Gambler" live. My heart will be forever broken, but I've decided to channel my pain into this list of 3 famous frontier gamblers Kenny Rogers would approve of. They may seem like a disparate bunch but they all have one thing in common: there's zero percent chance they would have counted their money at the table.
1. "Poker Alice:"
The only daughter of a schoolmaster, Alice Ivers was born in England in 1853. Victorian women weren't exactly known for their superlative poker skills and inveterate cigar-smoking. Ivers defied the odds. When she was a young woman she moved to Colorado, where she met her first husband, Frank Duffield. Sadly, Duffield passed away in a tragic accident a few years after they married. Luckily for Ivers, her first husband taught her some pretty boss poker skills before he shook the mortal coil. What did the newly-widowed Ivers do? She hit the gambling circuit, earning herself the nickname "Poker Alice" in the process. Ivers eventually got a gig working in a saloon that was owned by Bob Ford, the man who killed Jesse James.
By 1910, Ivers had picked up a serious cigar habit and opened up her very own den of inequity in Fort Meade, South Dakota. “Poker’s Palace" was a one-stop shop offering gambling, liquor, and prostitution. It was, by all accounts, an "anything-goes" type of place. Except for one cardinal rule: no gambling on Sundays. In 1913, some rowdy soldiers decided to break that rule. That wasn't a great idea. Ivers shot one of them and seriously injured another. "Poker Alice" didn't end up doing any hard time. At her trial, the judge let her go, declaring "I cannot find it in my heart to let a poor old white-haired lady go to the penitentiary."
2. Wyatt Earp:
Another famous gambler, Bat Masterson, said that "the story of Wyatt Earp is the story of the West." We're inclined to agree with him. Although he's best-known for his participation in the the legendary 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Earp was a man of many talents. As a young man, he worked as a buffalo hunter, saloon-keeper, brothel owner, constable, Deputy U.S. Marshal, and stagecoach driver. He was also a preternaturally gifted gambler. In January 1881, Earp took a job at Tombstone's Oriental Saloon, where he worked as a "manager." Long story short: He was hired to walk around with a gun and scare the bejesus out of rowdy customers. When he wasn't terrifying the clientele, he ran the faro tables. When Earp was hanging with "Doc" Holliday, five-card draw poker was his game of choice.
3. "Wild Bill" Hickok:
James Butler Hickok —known as "Wild Bill" Hickok—went west at age 18. Why'd he decide to head for the frontier? The Illinois native was on the lam when he arrived in Kansas in 1855. Like many legends of the Old West, he ricocheted from outlaw to sheriff on a regular basis. Hickok also worked as a stagecoach driver, actor, professional gambler, and Union Army spy. Renowned for his drinking, gambling, and gunslinging skills, his adventures came to a screeching halt on Aug. 2, 1876. Hickok was in the middle of a bracing poker game when he was shot from behind by Jack McCall. Ever wonder where the term "Dead Man's Hand" comes from? It refers to the hand of black aces and eights that Hickok was supposedly holding at the time of his death.