Were most of the Old West gunfighters professional gamblers?

Ron Bolza
Slatington, Pennsylvania

At some point, most of the famed Old West figures placed their bets at the poker or faro tables. “Doc” Holliday, trained as a dentist, found he could make a better living at cards. Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson became “sporting men” after some early years in other jobs (legal and otherwise). “Wild Bill” Hickok wanted to make a living at the tables, but was a far better gunhand than gambler.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. . His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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