Frontier Gambling

Frontier Gambling

Frontier Gambling - By G. R. Williamson

The cover of this book states  it covers the Games, The Gamblers and the Great Gambling Halls of the Old West.  It does exactly that in a vividly descriptive narrative that will help you feel the passion of the gamblers of those Old West Stories we all love.


This book gives you what it claims and then so much more.  It covers Old West History from a unique perspective not often explored.  Most works about the history of the Wild West will mention gambling in passing, focusing on other historical aspects of the era.  This work puts into perspective how the gamblers of the Old West shaped the events more commonly referred to.  This is mostly because almost every man who went West was a gambler.

As Mr Williamson points out in his book, even the act of heading West into the frontier was an act of gambling in itself.  It included gambling your life itself to seek the potential that awaited.  Many died, most failed to achieve great wealth and only a few created the life they dreamed of and that we fondly look back up.

So I thank you Ron Williamson for your work, the quality of which I now marvel at.  I can barely imagine the amount of research that went into creating this book. something made amply clear with only a cursory glance at the Bibliography.

I encourage you all to pick up a copy of this work and at the end of this page, you will find information on pricing and how to get one.  If you aren’t particularly interested in the gambling aspect of Old West Stories don’t assume this book is not for you.  If you are interested in the lifestyle of the Old West at all (and lets face it, you would not be on this site if you weren’t) there will be information and stories here for you.  An aspect of this book that particularly appeals to me is the Glossary and Index pages.  They are some of the most comprehensive I have seen and Ron has kindly consented to allowing me to recreate his Glossary here on this web site.  So to get a feel for a part of his high quality work, take the link to GLOSSARY and check it out.  As of January 2012 this page is entirely the work of Mr G, R, “Ron” Williamson but as time progresses, I will be adding additional items to this page covering the wider areas covered by Old West Stories.

The other  part I mentioned are the Index Pages.  They are comprehensive and very easy to use.  I know I will be keeping this book on my shelf within easy reach for reference purposes.  I own many wonderful books that contain magnificent information of great value BUT do you think I can find it again without reading the whole book?  This book has over 400 entries in the Index and several pages listed, eg: Bat Masterson alone is mentioned on 10 separate pages.

So the short review is:-

“A great work that makes a significant addition

to the historical record of the Old West.”

The Detailed Review

For more information, read on for a more in depth review of the work, of the author and his other works as well as links to further information on events and characters.

The Author:-  G.R. (Ron) Williamson

G R "Ron" Williamson

Ron Williamson is a storyteller, western writer, Old West History presenter, a member of The Western Writers of America and The Wild West History Association.  His keen interest in real Old West Stories and authentic Old West History and broad knowledge of the topic are apparent in the book reviewed here.  The author of this web site is a keen Old West Stories addict but I am just an enthusiastic amateur.  Ron has given several presentations at the National Outlaw & Lawman History Association (NOLA) and at the Wild West History Association (WWHA) annual meetings on topics including John Coffee Hays, Ben Thompson, King Fisher and frontier gambling.

Ron has added significantly to my knowledge and his book has provided a plethora of reference sources that would take me a life time to fully explore.

Story telling stems from his early childhood treks with his grandfather whilst growing up in the rough brasada of South Texas.  The Mexican legends, the wild west lore and old west history that I love to read was learned by Ron as he listened to vaqueros around campfires.  While reading and studying about old west history is fascinating, experiencing it through the stories passed down by those who lived the legend gives the magical era a reality that a book can never fully recreate.  

Ron has published articles in newspapers and in national magazines.

His first try at screen writing resulted in a top writing award at the Golden Triangle Writers of Beaumont, Texas. 

The following year his second screenplay took the top award at the University of Texas -Arlington/Greater Dallas Writers competition. 

In 2003 he won a top award at the Kern Film Festival in California.

His book, “The Texas Pistoleers: Ben Thompson & King Fisher” was published in 2010.  The book covers the fascinating lives of two of the most feared pistol fighters of the American West.  Based on extensive historical research The Texas Pistoleers tells the true story of the infamous characters and their mystery-shrouded deaths at the Vaudeville Theater in San Antonio on a chilly night on March 11, 1884.  This is the real Old West History.

His second book “Frontier Gambling” is the work reviewed here. 

Ron lives with his wife Jean and his dog “Shooter” in Kerrville, Texas and his trusty Chihuahua, “Shooter”.

Ron can be contacted at

Characters, Locations and Events

This book is extensive.  The following list of topics is now exhaustive but will give you a good feel for the content:-

Card Games:-

  • Blackjack;
  • Brag;
  • Euchre;
  • Faro;
  • Monte;
  • Poker (of course);
  • Red Dog;
  • Seven Up;
  • Whist.

Dice Games:-

  • Chuck A Luck;
  • Hazard;
  • Klondike;

Wheel Games:-

  • Money Wheel (AKA Wheel of Fortune and Big Six Wheel);
  • Needle Wheel;
  • Pocket Watch Games;
  • Roulette.

Slot Machines:- Extensive list of machines described.

Keno:- Descriptions of equipment and variations.

The Gamblers:-

  • Alice Ivers (Poker Alice);
  • Bat Masterson;
  • Belle Siddons;
  • Ben Thompson;
  • Bill Gates (not the billionaire);
  • Bill Jones (Canada Bill);
  • Carlos Cora (1856);
  • Dick Clark;
  • Doc Holliday (with one fo the best photographs I have ever seen);
  • Dora Maria Gertrudis Barcelo;
  • Edward Chase;
  • George Devol;
  • John Behan (a side of this man I never knew about before);
  • J J Bryant (Colonel);
  • J J Cozad;
  • Jack Davis (Diamondfield Jack);
  • Long John Dunn;
  • Lottie Deno;
  • Luke Short;
  • Rowdy Joe Lowe:
  • Soapy Smith;
  • Tex Rickards;
  • Wild Bill Hickok;
  • William Thornton;
  • Wyatt Earp.

The Places:-

  • Benton, WYoming;
  • Blue Creek, Utah (1869);
  • Bob Ford’s Tent Saloon, Creed, Colorado;
  • Crystal Saloon, Austin, Texas;
  • Donahue Saloon, Flagstaff, Arizona;
  • Keystone Dance Hall, Cheyenne, Wyoming (1868);
  • Laramie, Wyoming;
  • Long Brach Saloon, Dodge City;
  • Mississippi Riverboats;
  • Newton, Kansas;
  • Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon, Deadwood, South Dakota;
  • Palace Variety Theater, Denver, Colorado;
  • Platte, Nebraska (Hell on Wheels 1866);
  • Portsmouth Square, San Francisco;
  • The Navarre Club, Denver, Colorado;
  • University Club, San Antonio;
  • Vaudeville Theater and Saloon, San Antonio;
  • Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Cheating Devices:- A description of a wide variety of devices and techniques used to cheat the honest player.

The writing style employed by Ron Williamson in “Frontier Gambling” has the touch of the master about it. – – – – – – – – – – If you watch the movie “True Grit” John Wayne or Jeff Bridges (depending on which version you have) draw you into the story and you can see yourself as the Texas Ranger tracking down the murderer and protecting Mattie Ross as you go.  – – – – – – – – – – If you read “Rogue River” by Kerry Newcombe you will become Cole Anthem as he battles to bring in a murderer and protect everyone around him as they flee Indians on a wild river ride.  – – – – – – – – – – If you Listen to the old “Gunsmoke” radio episodes and close your eyes you will become the brave and intrepid Sheriff Matt Dillon who would take on incredible odds to overcome evil and protect the citizens of HIS town.

This is the aim of the talented fictional narrative producers.  But not since Dee Brown’s epic “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” have I found myself drawn into the narrative of a non-fiction work on genuine Old West History in this way.  I highly recommend this book to all enthusiasts of Old West Stories.  I have a small shelf above my desk where I keep a few treasured works that I want to keep at hand.  “Frontier Gambling” by G R Williamson is being added to that shelf.

Buy “Frontier Ganbling” at Amazon.

Delivered to you door and also available in Kindle version.

Click the book for your link.


Frontier Gambling – By G. R. Williamson

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