Gambling In The Old West - A Short History Lesson

Discussion in 'Lets Talk about gambling and more...' started by Marina, Aug 9, 2014.

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  1. Marina

    Marina Administrator Staff Member

    Just about everyone is fascinated by the culture and lifestyle of the old West; cowboys with gallon hats and spiraling moustaches continue to be the subject of popular culture and media even today.
    If you have an interest in gun-slinging, chap-wearing cowboys of the Old West (and who wouldn’t have an interest in that?) as well as a general enjoyment of the art of gambling (this means you),
    then you have come to the right place. Enjoy the following information about the Old West’s gamblers: a short history lesson for your reading pleasure.

    Western Betters

    As it turns out, our research indicated that Western people back in the old days bet on just about anything that was not standing still. If something was capable of moving, it was a prime target for a good bet.
    For instance, people of the Old West would bet on how fast an object could go, how far the said object could go, or how high something could go. Racing by foot, pitting dogs against each other, cock fights,
    barrel races, racing horses – you name it. Anything could be turned into a bet – and Old Western characters did just that.


    The Greatest Gamble

    Most people from the old West enjoyed horse gambling so much that they considered it the greatest gambling of all gambles. If a man or woman knew what he or she was doing during the races, he or she
    could become a wealthy individual. A person could change his or her stars at the racetrack, which is something that people still dream about today. When you look at the activities people of the Old West
    enjoyed, it becomes easy to find commonalities with different people in a different age. It would not be difficult to imagine yourself in a crowded horse race stadium cheering right along with a group of
    rugged Western figures, having just as good of a time as the best of them.

    Perhaps horse gambling was so popular because it had one of the largest payouts. Horse races in the West had even higher stakes than those found in the East, and Easterners who were fond of gambling often
    flocked to the West to experience the adrenaline of a good old-fashioned Western horse race. A race known as “the world’s richest race” took place in the year 1873 in San Francisco. The winner was paid out
    in pure gold (our hearts are pounding hard just thinking about it) and the winnings totaled to $20,000 – quite a sum in the 1800s.

    The Boxing Ring

    Horse racing was a definite favorite; however, betting on the punches and bruises in the boxing ring was an obvious runner up. Some people consider today’s version of boxing a little prude in contrast
    to the rough and tumble boxing rings of the Old West. Needless to say, boxing gloves were never used and the outcome of the event was far more violent than boxing matches during present day.
    With no limitation concerning the number of rounds played, boxing was one of the most riveting betting events of the time. Boxers kept at it until one of them fell over, unable to throw another punch.
    Those who had bet on the standing boxer received quite a sizeable payout, adding up to a possible $10,000. We can only assume that the betters of the Old West enjoyed boxing not only for the money,
    but also for the “rough”nature of the sport. What gruff Western individual would not enjoy watching two boxers battle it out?

    Dice Games

    Dice games were popular in the Old West just as much as they are today; in fact, many of the dice games we play today originated during the 1800s or before. The point is, most of the games
    we are familiar with today were present in the bars and streets of the Old West. Now that’s a cool history lesson!

    Famous Gamblers

    There were many infamous gamblers in the Old West, and their lives are very interesting if you ever get the chance to do a little research about them.
    This list of gamblers and tidbits about their lives may spark your interest:
    • George Devol. This charming Mississippi gambler made his mark on a riverboat during the 1800s. He worked on the river for over forty years, earning more-than-enough keep by playing poker and keno.
      His book, Forty Years a Gambler on the Mississippi, is a very interesting read for those who find the Old West intriguing.
    • Elanora Dumont. This fine-looking lady spent her time dealing out cards to (ahem) distracted male players who continually lost their money. Their money promptly went into her pockets and she
      eventually had enough money to own her own casino, the Dumont Palace. Interestingly, she later earned the nickname “Madam Mustache.” We are unsure as to why she acquired this peculiar nickname,
      but we are sure you will find out when you start doing a little research of your own.
    • “Soapy” Smith. This man was a very interesting character. He was named Jefferson legally, but you can hardly blame people for wanting to give him a more colorful nickname.
      Try checking out his biography the next time you hit the local library or bookstore. You may be entertained by this clever gentleman's gambling pursuits.

    To learn more about the history of gambling in the Old West, keep an eye on our forum or look for other resources on the web.
    You may be surprised by how interesting the history of the Old West can be. Besides, who wouldn’t enjoy reading about gambling and cowboys in the same sitting?
    Kotsy, Ellis and Mike like this.
  2. Ellis

    Ellis Well-Known Member

    What a good article again Marina! Really nice to read.
    Marina and Mike like this.
  3. Seaman63

    Seaman63 Well-Known Member

    In the countless old western movies I have watched over the years, gambling always was poker in a saloon and it always ended with a shooting. Maybe thats why I prefer slots...:D
    Ellis, Mike, Marina and 1 other person like this.
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