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The Luckiest Gambler in Wyoming History

Three Lions, Getty Images
Three Lions, Getty Images

The 2017 World Series of Poker is underway in Las Vegas. To celebrate, here’s a look back at the luckiest gambler in Wyoming history.

Of all the card games ever played in the Cowboy State, and there have been many, the stakes were never higher than a legendary poker game at a Douglas saloon in 1906.

George Pike came to Wyoming in the late 1880s following a cattle drive north from Texas. A controversial figure in the infamous Johnson County War, Pike was tried, and acquitted, of cattle rustling several times.

While some historians suspect Pike was actually gunned down by rival ranchers, one version of Pike’s death remains steeped in local lore.

According to legend, Pike had just won a large hand during a poker game at Lee Pringle’s Saloon in Douglas. Eyewitnesses, including local Sheriff Charles Messenger, claimed that Pike had a heart attack and died at the table while collecting his winnings.

Of course, in those days, it wasn’t polite to quit a poker game when you were winning. Convinced that Pike would have wanted to continue, the other players at the table propped up Pike’s lifeless body and dealt him in.

Amazingly, Pike’s luck continued, at least with the cards. A local bystander played his hands and eventually won enough money to send Pike out with the biggest headstone in town.

The epitaph on Pike’s grave read, “Underneath this stone in eternal rest, sleeps the wildest one of the wayward West. He was a gambler and sport and cowboy too, and he led the pace in an outlaw crew. He was sure on the trigger and staid to the end, but he was never known to quit on a friend. In the relations of death all men are alike, but in life there was only one George W. Pike.”

Although he was originally buried north of Douglas, Pike’s remains were moved to the Douglas Park Cemetery in 1908, where his headstone remains on display to this day.

 

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