Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Professional Gamblers in the Old West

Most every western I've come across references the most popular cowboy pastime of the frontier. The triple W, some called it...whiskey, whoring and wagering.

Saloons, brothel's and gambling halls popped up all across the frontier when new towns sprang up, outside army forts and along wagon trails and railroads. Most were crude establishments of nothing more than tents, which allowed them to pick up and move if needs be, while other permanent structures were made of wood.


In the early west, gambling was considered a profession by some. Professional gamblers made a career out of finding high stakes games and bet their fortunes on them. One popular game in the west was a bluffing game that transformed into our modern day poker. Other's included Black Jack, Monte and the most popular was Faro. The foremost Faro player was a man by the name of Charles Cora, who won $85,000.00 and broke several Faro banks. He was banned from playing at gaming halls all across New Orleans.

Most gamblers were easy to spot as their expensive suits and flashy jewelry always gave them away. Tristan Avery, the hero in my story The Gambler, was no different. One glance at him told my heroine, Emmaline, exactly who he was.

The Gambler (Book 3 in the Willow Creek Series)

Emmaline lifted the shotgun and pulled back the hammer. She sighted in on the stranger riding up the road and waited until she knew he was within hitting distance. She pulled the trigger and grinned when he ducked, his horse dancing underneath him enough to knock him from the saddle to end up sprawled on the ground. He cursed as the horse ran a few feet away and Emmaline sighted on him again and waited.

He stood, dusted off his pants with his hat and turned toward the cabin. One look at him and she knew it was the gambler from last night. Butterflies started dancing in her stomach. What did he want? She waited, watching him take a few steps closer and aimed for a spot by his head and pulled the trigger again. He shouted, ducked and hunkered low to the ground.

“Stop your damn shooting!”

Holding his hands up as if to surrender, Emmaline lowered the barrel an inch. “State your business.”

He straightened and reached into his coat pocket. Emmaline lifted the gun again. “Hang on a minute,” he said. “I’ve got the deed to this property.” He waved it in the air and took a few more steps closer.

Emmaline let him get close enough to see his face. He was handsome and his clothes told her he had enough money to buy the place three times over. His brocade vest was a rich purple in color, shot with gold threads throughout, his black jacket tailored. His hair was blonde and cut short, which was unusual for these parts, and she was sure he was up to something. After their encounter last night, him riding out here to give her the deed back was too ridiculous to think. “That’s close enough, mister.”

He stopped, repositioned his hat on his head, and tossed her a smile she was sure was supposed to flatter her. It didn’t.

Glancing down at the paper in his hand for a brief moment, he looked at the cabin and the surrounding forest. “This is the Hunt place, right?” He stared at her, his head tilting just a fraction before his brows lowered. “Are you the girl from last night?”

Emmaline raised the gun again. “Unless you’re here to give me the deed, you’ve no business here. Now either hand it over or go grab that horse and get back on it.”

The man grinned and lifted his hand, the paper he held blowing in the breeze. “Can’t do that, Ma’am. According to this piece of paper, you’re standing on my property. If anyone should leave, it would have to be you.”

“I can make you leave.”

He smiled and tucked the deed back into his jacket pocket. “And I’ll go get the sheriff and have you hauled out of here like an unwanted squatter.”

She huffed out a frustrated breath, glared at him for a full minute and turned, walked back inside the cabin, and slammed the door behind her.

Emmaline placed the gun back on the shelf and walked to the stove, laying her hands over the top to warm them. The old hunk of iron was barely throwing off heat but compared to the brisk wind outside, it felt like heaven.

Her thoughts were a tangle of what ifs. The man outside wouldn’t be here if he didn’t want the land and her situation had turned from bad to worse. She should have known Harold would eventually ruin them beyond repair and now that he had, knowing she’d been right left a bad taste in her mouth.

The rumbling of her stomach echoed in the room and the tears she’d been fighting rolled down her cheeks. She swiped at them angrily, refusing to be beaten, once again, by her idiotic stepfather’s choices. He’d been a careless bum his whole life and she’d forgiven him one time too many. Not this time. She’d never forgive him for leaving her homeless. She couldn’t.

Hearing the door to the cabin open, she wiped away the rest of the tears and stared at the wall. “I don’t recall inviting you in.”

“Well, legally, it's my cabin so I don’t need your permission. You are officially trespassing and unless we can come to some sort of agreement…”

She whirled and locked eyes with him. “Evicting me already? Such a gentleman. I bet the ladies just fall at your feet with such sweet talk.”

He grinned and she tried to ignore the dimple in his cheek or how much younger he looked in the bright light of day. He couldn’t have been more than a couple years older than she was. And he was even more handsome up close. His eyes were bluer than they appeared in the saloon and his fancy clothes and fresh barbered look appealed to her. She scowled when she realized she was looking at him as any woman would a man she found attractive and reminded herself he was a lying, cheating, murdering dog. “Get out.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the door, his smile widening. “Make me.”

Read more about Tristan and Emmaline in their book, The Gambler, which is available at a special price for a limited time in The Avery's of Willow Creek boxset. The Lawman, The Outlaw, The Gambler and The Rancher are being offered for .99¢ until Nov. 6th. Find the boxset at the following links.

The Averys of Willow Creek by Lily Graison 

Travel back to the 1800′s and tangle with ornery town marshals, Indians and schoolmarms who are anything but docile. Willow Creek may be a sleepy little frontier town but the characters who live there are as untamed as the land itself!


About Lily Graison

USA TODAY  bestselling author Lily Graison writes historical western romances and dabbles in contemporary and paranormal romance. First published in 2005, Lily has written over a dozen romance novels that range from sweet to spicy.

She lives in Hickory, North Carolina with her husband, three high-strung Yorkies and more cats than she can count and is mother of two and grandmother of three. On occasion, she can be found at her sewing machine creating 1800’s period clothing or participating in civil war reenactments and area living history events. When not portraying a southern belle, you can find her at a nearby store feeding her obsession for all things resembling office supplies.

To see the dresses Lily has created, visit her Pinterest page.

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  1. HI Lili, great post. I have always wondered how Faro is played. Right now I have the image of the gambler in his white suit charming people LOL.

  2. The Gambler. Wow. I can see why gambling was so popular in many places where men pretty much ruled and dominated. With no tv, no movies, few women, and certainly no iPads or Notepads, what else could a man do?
    I know nothing about FARO. I always thought plain old poker was always the game of choice.
    When our grandsons were young--5, 7,9, etc., I taught them to play poker. They did not have a tv at home--children must learn to entertain themselves.--but they did love board games. When we tired of those, I broke out a deck of cards and taught they to play a simple game. Soon, their mother joined us, and finally their dad. (Granddad did not join in. He just kept reading.)
    Thanks for the entertaining post--very good. And congratulations on your book.


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