So who was this lady of legend known across the west, and the wilds of the Internet, as Poker Alice?
You can read all kinds of crazy tales and quotes about her, but are they true? What did she tell the world about herself? Since she wasn’t famous in her heyday (except among the casino owners and gambling hall regulars), what do we actually know about her?
Well, here’s one story I can pass along fairly confidently. When she was interviewed by a famous writer for the Saturday Evening Post in 1927, she gave an account about a hair-raising gunfight she got caught up in while she was in Creede. She said:
“One night I was returning to my little log cabin in Creede when suddenly, from both sides of me, shots began to spurt in the semidarkness of the little town. Vaguely I saw a man behind a woodpile and another opposite, each with a revolver and each pulling the trigger with intent to kill. I did the natural thing—I made for the first and nearest saloon, since saloons were about the most plentiful of business houses in the town. Steve Scribner’s place was handiest, and while Steve tried to push the door closed to lock it, I pushed as enthusiastically to get in, while the shooting went on behind me.
“Let me in!” I shouted. “It’s only Poker Alice!”
“There was nothing else, incidentally, for Scribner to do; I was jammed in the door by this time. Wilder and wilder the shooting became, suddenly to cease that the noise of exploding cartridges might give way to heightened wailing.
“I’m a son of a gun!” said Steve Scribner beside me in the darkness. “Is that one of those fellows who’s just been shooting to kill? He’s balling like a baby!”
“The sound grew louder, accompanied by words: “Don’t shoot any more! Don’t shoot any more! You’ve knocked both of my thumbs off!”
“Then the battle, which had been intended a moment before as a struggle unto death, became quickly an affair of humor.”
Did it happen the way Alice described it? Yes! How do I know? Because in the spring of 1892, the local paper, The Creede Candle published an article describing that very event.
I’m pretty sure at times in her life, Alice lied about her age. She might have stretched the truth a time or two. But I know she was more often honest about her wild adventures as a professional gambler in the west’s most untamed boomtowns.
She didn’t get those wrinkles in her photo by living a quiet life—or even just by smoking big cigars!