|"I would rather play poker with five or six experts than to eat."|
- Poker Alice Ivers, gambler [http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org]
Poker Alice Ivers is one of the more colorful characters in South Dakota’s history. Originally hailing from England, she was married as a young woman in the mining camps of Colorado. She learned to play poker by watching her husband, Frank Duffield, and caught on quite quickly. After his death, she made a living by playing and dealing poker. She had a fondness for fashionable clothing, and the lovely lady attracted quite a few men to the halls that she dealt in—either to test their gambling skills against her, or to gaze upon the novelty of a modest but beautiful woman working in a saloon.
After moving to the Black Hills area, she married Warren G. Tubbs, and card games were few and far between as she helped him ranch and raise their 7 children. It was surely hard work, but she remembered those years fondly. When her second husband died, however, she returned to gambling for her living.
In her later years she owned her own saloon between Sturgis and Fort Meade. “Poker’s Palace,” as it was called, provided a place for gambling, drinking (during Prohibition, no less) and prostitution. These were the years that Katherine Soldat talked about when Gene Van Alstyne interviewed her for the South Dakota Oral History Center. Katherine Soldat was the first woman mayor in South Dakota (for the town of Sturgis), and was a close friend to Poker Alice up until her death. She spoke very warmly of her, assuring her interviewer that Alice was a good, kindhearted woman who often fed her and anyone in need, took good care of “her girls,” and never gambled on a Sunday. Kindhearted or not, she often landed herself in trouble with the law, and the recording that follows is Soldat’s account of Poker Alice’s pardoning by the Governor of South Dakota when she had been convicted of “running a house of ill-repute.”
Gene Van Alstyne interviewing Kathrine Soldat, 1975 [SDOHP1247]
- Jessica Neal, SDOHC Cataloger/Curator
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South Dakota Oral History Center [SDOHP 1247].