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Vol. 4 - No.01 January, 2022 Nooseletter Home SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Poker in the Old West
Poker in the Old West
In so many Wild West movies and stories you see and hear about cowboys playing poker or cards. This raises some questions. What was the most common style of poker played at the time? What kind of poker was Wild Bill Hickok most likely playing at the time he was shot? Standard five card draw? Or some kind of game no longer familiar to present day card players?

The bottom line is nobody seems to know what particular poker game they were playing at the Number 10 Saloon in Deadwood that day.

I doubt if anyone thought it was very important at the time. Joe Rosa, Hickok’s biographer, has never seen it written anywhere either.

The late Bob DeArment, author of “Knights of the Green Table” said, “I’ve never seen a reference to the particular poker game Bill was playing at the time and I don’t think anyone else has either. From things I have read by students of poker history, five-card stud and draw were the games played in the West. Seven-card stud seems to have come later. I would say it was the other way around; there are many more variations of the game today than there were then.”

If you’re interested in reading more about the game of poker Rosa recommends Des Wilson, wrote a book, “Ghosts at the Table: The amazing story of Poker. . . the world’s most popular game.”

Faro was the most honest game probably the most popular because the player had almost an even chance of winning. Non-professionals figured it was the toughest one for the house to cheat. They often times would “buck the tiger” or bet against the house. That’s how the legendary Arizona lawman and Rough Rider, William “Bucky” O’Neill acquired his nickname. It was a favorite until the 1920s when craps became popular.
About the Author
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales.
by Marshall Trimble at True West Magazine
Call 818-395-5020 for more information
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