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SunLit Interviews

A Colorado author already played Poker Alice in historical re-enactments. Now she needed the truth about the 1870s gambler.

The true timeline of the legendary figure's life proved difficult to pin down, which sent Liz Duckworth deep into the historical archives

Liz Duckworth.

Liz Duckworth is a freelance copywriter and editor and the author of several books including “Poker Alice Tubbs: The Straight Story” (Filter Press), “Wildflower Living” (WaterBrook Press) and “A Perfect Word for Every Occasion” (Bethany House) as well as three children’s picture books.

She has performed multiple times as Poker Alice Tubbs throughout Colorado. Having grown up in Colorado, she has long enjoyed a passion for western history.

Her website offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Poker Alice: PokerAliceHistory.com.

The following is an interview with Liz Duckworth.

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit


What inspired you to write this book?

In 2011, I first became aware of the amazing life of Poker Alice Tubbs, a lady gambler from the 1870s onward throughout Colorado and the Wild West. I began to perform stories from her life as a historical re-enactor, but the more I learned, the more “fake news” I discovered. There were many contradictions and tall tales as well as undocumented “facts” about Poker Alice, so I decided to document as much as I could and tell her incredible story as accurately as possible.

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?

I love to read history, especially about the old West, and enjoy historical fiction based on fact as well. There are so many books out there that give us insights into the challenges of life more than a hundred years ago for those who were breaking new ground west of the Mississippi.

Poker Alice Tubbs, with her trademark cigar.

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?

It introduces the story of my search for the truth about Poker Alice and provides the opening tale of how she started out as that rare thing, a lady poker player in Victorian times.

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

It was thrilling to read materials I couldn’t otherwise access by visiting the collection at the Denver Public Library and at the historical center in Deadwood, South Dakota. Seeing some of the contents in her wallet found after she passed away was truly awe inspiring. I loved the journey and I especially enjoy sharing her story in her voice to many different groups who are interested an unorthodox life and the world of mining boomtowns.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?

The hardest thing was creating a timeline based on material from a wide variety of sources. Many other timelines I’ve seen in online articles and read in book chapters aren’t based on sourced content, and they are misleading. Some suggest Poker Alice was in Deadwood along with Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane in 1876. But I don’t believe she was ever there until she said she left for Deadwood in 1892. So I had to build a timeline that agreed with facts I could tie to her own statements and very early newspaper articles that quoted her in the 1920s.

“Poker Alice Tubbs: The Straight Story.”

What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?

Poker Alice was quite a controversial figure when she lived in Sturgis, South Dakota, especially after she accidentally killed a Fort Meade soldier in 1913. As she grew older and broke the law more often, many of the good citizens of Sturgis felt she brought shame on the town and was a bad influence. Yet today, her name lives on, and her home has been moved to a prominent spot downtown.

What project are you working on next?

I am working to update articles on my website and blog: PokerAliceHistory.com. Next year (2020) brings a spotlight to the women’s suffrage movement, and I want to write an article about Susan B. Anthony’s standing-room-only appearance in 1876 in Lake City. The courthouse where she was scheduled to speak, the Hinsdale County Courthouse, is still standing today. And I continue to schedule appearances in costume and in character as Poker Alice Tubbs. Her story never gets old to me!

Buy “Poker Alice Tubbs: The Straight Story” at PokerAliceHistory.com

— Excerpt: “Poker Alice Tubbs: The Straight Story” by Liz Duckworth