Poker players then and now

–    Did the crow have a pistol?         

– Wild Bill Hickock

Today’s poker pros are as tough as they get. Or are they…?

Gus Hansen: Sam Farha – can ‘kill’ you softly with a smile and expensive closing. Phil helmuth – ‘shut up and play.’  Negreanu: can read you like a book

And just look at the nicknames: ‘Kid Poker, ‘’Black Lotus,’ The Prince of Poker’, ‘The Professor, ‘The Poker Brat’ (really? The poker brat…?)

Some wearing replica cowboy hats or – gulp – baseball caps. Others come to play wearing baggy shorts, MP3 players plugged to their ears, and the all-important sunglasses. One would think the sun hovers directly above the poker table. They also pack a whole lot of attitude…some more, some less, but I doubt if any of today’s player antics would go unnoticed – or excused – by some of these guys, who prowled the old west looking for poker action and always arrived at the table armed and ready…

Canada” Bill Jones. A notorious 19th century con, Bill Jones got his nickname by moving to Canada at the age of 20. However, it was in places like New Orleans (where he earned his reputation as a gambler. “It is immoral,” he famously said, “to let a sucker keep his money.” Jones gained infamy as a cheater at everything from cards to horse racing.

John Wesley Hardin. This is a guy you may have seriously considered to fold your AAs pre-flop…Hardin is widely considered one of the deadliest men in the Old West who killed at least 27 men. Taunting while playing poker with him could prove mighty costly, yet he took as uch as he gave – in one game, he was blasted with a shotgun by a fellow gambler. Did anyone say no-limit poker?

Wyatt EarpNo introductions necessary for this cowboy…Earp’s notoriety is more of a lawman-turned-gunfighter than a card player, he spent many evenings playing alongside Doc Holliday, and he was not accustomed to losing at cards. Earp invested in race horses and bought a share of a tavern called the Oriental Saloon, where he even worked as a dealer! His was certainly an action-packed life, and along the way, he played poker with many colorful characters, not just Holliday, but also another famed gunman and poker player – Bat Masterson.

James Butler Hickokaka “Wild Bill.” Gunfighter, scout, lawman and poker player.  He earned his reputation for his gun-fighting and gambling abilities, having been involved in several legendary shootouts.  Perhaps the most famous, and worthwhile mentioning here, is his duel with fellow gambler Phil Coe in the streets of Abiline.  In answer to Coe’s supposed brag that he could “kill a crow on a win,” Wild Bill answered, “did the crow have a pistol? Was he shooting back? I will be.” His infamous murder took place while he was playing poker (friends claimed he had a premonition he would die), and the hand he held – aces and eights – became known as the “dead man’s hand.”

John Henry Holliday How many old west legends were dentists? Very few, and “Doc” Holliday is probably at the top of the list. He will always be linked to his friend Wyatt Earp, as not only because of his involvement in the famous Shootout at the OK Corral in the Tombstone, Arizona, but assisting Earp when the latter was surrounded by enemies in a saloon. He was described by Earp as “the most skillful gambler and nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew.” Although he was an accredited dentist, ”Doc” Holliday made gambling his profession.  When he wasn’t playing poker, he was playing Faro. Either way, he left a trail of bodies in his wake and played poker while he wasn’t involved in shootouts or disputes. Aren’t you glad you’re dentist doesn’t go around with a six-shooter? Then again, that drill is no less intimidating…

So, who would you rather stare down at the poker table…guys in sunglasses and baseball caps or fancy suits & jewelry – or men in black dusters with long whiskers, possibly a double-barreled shotgun hidden under his duster and very quick fingers…?