One sad and desperately lonely summer night, I stumbled onto a new way to subdue my poker addiction – searching news archives for buried poker treasure. It began as an attempt to uncover information on Vera Richmond – the elusive heiress known as one of the first women to match bankrolls with the founders of the World Series of Poker – but quickly evolved into an open-ended, full-fledged treasure hunt. By the time I found enough entertaining headlines to put together this article for Listverse.com, I was beginning to feel a bit like a noble pirate. I’d dug up the unthinkable – a jury that played poker while deliberating, possibly the first instance of strip poker ever, and eight other better-than-fiction century-old news stories.
They say women didn’t start playing poker until much more recently, but I’m beginning to wonder if that was a yarn the men spun to discourage their most feared opponents from flocking to the felt. The Salt Lake Herald reported in a post-retirement interview with Lucky Baldwin in 1897 that he stated,
“Now, I don’t want to say a thing against the ladies, but they are natural born poker players. They have been made such by nature – so coy and designing, and dissimulation for them is not an acquired art. It is their second nature. Deception is easy for them to acquire, and they gracefully outwit men. They size up men more easily and quickly than we can fathom their thoughts.”
If you add take that quote and extrapolate its “truth” based on the fact that Amarillo Slim is known as saying he’d slit his throat if a woman ever won the World Series of Poker, despite the fact he was likely directing that insult at Vera Richmond (the poker playing heiress I was unable to find any news on), you can see why I am now suspicious of poker history as we know it.
I believe there are many stories of female poker players we don’t yet know – locked away in aging minds, dusty journals, and descendants hearts – and that somehow I will find them. If my theory is correct, many of these women didn’t play for high-stakes and were therefore led to believe their stories weren’t important. I beg to differ. I think their stories are worth studying on a sociological level and have begun brushing up on qualitative research methods in preparation for the data’s arrival. I never thought I’d be searching for buried treasure without a map or precise description of the prize, but my poker player instincts have spotted a tell which I aim to prove either true or false. Shoot me an email or leave a comment if you have any clues you wish to contribute.