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Old West Gambling Games - Legal? Popular? Tombstone Tips, Issue #010
January 05, 2018

Insider Info Newsletter

January 2018


~ ~ Old West Gambling Games - Legal? Popular?

~ ~ December's Events/Insider Update Review

~ ~ The Latest at Tombstone Travel Tips


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As people moved into the West in the 1800s, life was hard. Most of these migrants were men. They were miners, soldiers, explorers, opportunists & teenaged orphans. Entrepreneurs looked for the right circumstances for a business.

With any free time, entertainment was what most were after. The entrepreneurs were quick to supply their needs. Gambling establishments opened up in mining camps & new towns out West. Most often they were inside the saloons. Let's see the Old West gambling favorites - particularly in Tombstone AZ!


#1 - Gambling's Old West High Point

~ ~ In those days, it was most popular between 1850 & 1910. As a new Western town was populated, gaming tables went up in tents. Bar-men built nice saloons, such as the Crystal Palace. Regular gambling games such as Faro, Roulette & Poker were established there.

~ ~ Many men gambled after their work-day. Others were professional gamblers. When Wyatt Earp came to Tombstone, he planned to earn money by gambling. He'd done it before! His friend, Doc Holliday, was a professional gambler.


#2 - Respectable Sport

~ ~ In the Old West, gambling was viewed as a legitimate way to make a living. It was also considered a fine way to have a night's entertainment. Some women gambled & were professionals in the business, too.

~ ~ They called it a sporting event. Those running the games invested their own funds to start the bank. They relied on their reputations as honest dealers. The saloons promoted their dealers as running a respectable game. They knew it brought in business.

Posting Announcing a Faro Game

#3 - Faro - A Popular Game

~ ~ Faro was well liked. It was easy to learn. It wasn't slow, hands went by quickly. Plus the odds for the player were the best of all! It was the most favored game in the 1800s.

~ ~ The first card decks had a Bengal Tiger illustration on the back-side. So it got the nickname: Bucking the Tiger. Sometimes a tiger picture was placed in the window to announce a game.

~ ~ After a while problems surfaced because of the odds. Dealers began all sorts of cheating systems. Equipment manufacturers got involved. They made cheat dealing boxes. In return, players began to cheat also.

~ ~ Legitimate gamers warned players that virtually all Faro games were dishonest. Cheating dealers were prosecuted. Cases even went to the Supreme Court. By the end of WWII, only a few games could still be found. They were in Nevada. It wasn't worth it to the gaming houses.

~ ~ But today, some people play it for fun - no money involved! You can find instruction in Old West towns like Tombstone or Cochise AZ. There's a Faro night at the Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch. At our house, we play once a week with friends - it's a good time!

Faro at Orient Saloon, Bisbee AZ in 1903

Bisbee Arizona was a copper mining town, about 23 miles Southeast of Tombstone. Brewery Gulch was the booming saloon area. Another saloon strip was along Main Street, & that's where the Orient Saloon was located.

Faro Board

Telluride Colorado, about 1910
Looks Like Poker, Faro & Roulette Available

#4 - Record Poker Game!

~ ~ The Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone was, among other things, a place for gambling. The exclusive game was in the basement. It was high stakes poker - $1000 needed to start to play: to get in the game!

~ ~ A record setter as the longest Poker Game in the West. Continuously ongoing, it lasted 8 years, 5 months & 3 days. Bat Masterson, George Randolph Hurst & Diamond Jim Brady were regular players.

Record Poker Game Preserved in Birdcage Basement

#5 - Gambling Comes to an End

~ ~ In the early 1800s, religious groups began opposing gambling per their morality. Their ire was aimed at lotteries prevalent in the East. Government officials in the Old West were influenced by what was happening back East. States started to enact laws banning gambling.

~ ~ The laws have gone back & forth until today. Now each state has various regulations about gaming. When Arizona became a state in 1912, gambling was officially outlawed.

~ ~ Currently in Arizona, gambling can be done in Tribal casinos, at a dog track or horse track (choose 1 per day!) & in the state lottery. Yet there is Class II gaming that's allowed. They call it Bingo rules games. There must be at least 2 players who play against each other - not against a bank or house.

~ ~ This law covers the poker games like you'll find in Tombstone. Check out the games at Doc Holliday's & Big Iron, both on Allen Street.


Gambling Legal - Tombstone Weekly Epitaph
Sat., July 8, 1882

Long Poker Games! - Who Has the Longest?!!

Article From The Weekly Arizona Miner
Friday, June 3, 1881 - Page 3

Prescott AZ Newspaper Article - Poker Rivalry!

Crystal Palace Sporting Games

Article From The Daily Tombstone
Saturday, January 16, 1886 - Page 3

Ad placed to bring people in for gaming, music & more!

(The little code at the end means the ad started January 15th and will run "tf" - til further notice.)

Gambling Outlook

Article From Arizona Silver Belt
Thursday, February 16, 1905 - Page 6

A gambler's viewpoint from an interview in a Globe AZ newspaper.

~ ~ From the old Wild West, until today - Gambling has been a mish-mash of laws, customs, likes & dislikes.

We hope we'll see you in town, viewing the items that reflect gambling history. Will you take in a local poker game!? Let us know what you think about them! Just reply to this newsletter for easy input! (Let us know if we can use your comments - credit with just a first name & last initial; or only initials; or anonymous.)



~ ~ Quiet town, as usual, on Christmas Day.

~ ~ Steve at Ringo's made his home-made Egg-Nog that everyone loves! Many were over just for that on Christmas. He & Addie also provided the meat servings for a pot-luck through the afternoon.

~ ~ The Four Deuces also had their usual pot luck, which quite a few attended. It was a Mexican style assortment!

~ ~ The Christmas Ball at Schieffelin Hall on December 9th was well attended - always a nice event!

~ ~ The Crystal Palace had a New Year's Eve Party. It was a little noisier at midnight on the streets. The local fire department's truck was blowing its horn & blaring its siren for a minute or two!

Crystal Palace - An Upper Level Begins!


* * The Crystal Palace Saloon has a definite new look inside. The contractor installed a "balcony-like" area framing at the front entrance area. (See the photo above.)

Just before Christmas - they got the balcony a more finished look. Still no stairway, but they put in a door to access the outer deck. The completion date is pushed back little by little ...

Locals Consider The Crystal's New Look!

* * The mine has been open consistently. (See photo below.) We haven't yet taken the tour by the new owner - but we'll let you know when we do. If anyone has - please let us know what you thought! Just reply to this email!

* * The Big Iron has a new look. They brought the poker tables to the front area, and the shooting gallery to the rear.

The Mine - Only 3 Days Closed!

* * Still need a 2018 calendar? Our 2018 Calendar features photos from around town - to remind you of Tombstone AZ & its fun events all during the year!


What's happening next month - check out our Events Page:
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Until Next Month,

Karen & Bill McGowan
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