Archive for July 21st, 2010
In the hey day of the Cow Towns gambling was one of just a hand full of forms of entertainment for the cowboys pushing cows on that long journey out of southern Texas and into Kansas. These men were mere boys in age but were trail seasoned and weather hardened.
Many lacked much, if any, formal schooling but they all knew the ways of the world. Well, at least their little world. They had honed the skills necessary to survive from day-to-day out on the plains but when they reached trails end it was a different story.
The true professionals of any town in the Old West were the Gamblers and the Painted Ladies. Those young men could shoot straight, ride like the wind and tolerate the elements but they were no match for the “Townies”.
Once the boys walked through those swinging doors it was a race between the gals and the gamblers to see who could relieve the cow pokes of their wages first. At least with the gals you received something for your money but with the gamblers, it was like taking candy from a baby and you received nothing in return.
Chuck-A-Luck was one of many gambling games designed to rid a cowboy of his hard earned money. The odds were all in favor of the “House” and if that wasn’t enough many of the cages used in the game were rigged so you couldn’t even get lucky and win.
The game itself was very simplistic. You had three dice and a layout with the numbers one through six. As the player, all you had to do was place your money on any number or numbers you believed would turn up when the dice were rolled. With a one in six chance of winning it’s no wonder Professional gamblers avoided the game like the plague.
As the game evolved the dice were placed in a cup and thrown, then through a horn shaped devise made of tin and eventually the dice ended up in an hour glass shaped cage.
The term, “Tin Horn Gambler” derived from this game and was coined by those very same Professional gamblers and directed at our trail seasoned cowboys.
Chuck-A-Luck is still played today in Las Vegas. Well, I should say, it was still played in Vegas the last time I was out there in 2003. And people still lined up to test their luck since no skill is involved in the game at all.
Cages and layouts came in all shapes and sizes and examples of each can be found at Old West Antiques. Stop by and check out the selection. You may just find that combination you can’t live without.