The Wild West of Gambling


In his forty years as a freelance writer and newspaper reporter, Bill Kelly had interviewed and written about hundreds of names familiar to us: Mickey Rooney, Rory Calhoun, Sylvester Stallone, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Broderick Crawford, Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Ginger Rogers, Ida Lupino, John Wayne, Aldo Ray, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, and Henry Armstrong are among many.

Bill Kelly

Bill has authored an astounding 15,000 magazine articles -- a phenomenal feat for any writer. He had appeared in Poker Digest, Card Player, Real West, True West, Treasure Search, Treasure Cache, Lost Treasure, South Bay, Country Review, True Detective, Inside Detective, California Highway Patrolman, Oklahoma State Trooper, Texas Highway Patrol, Inland Empire, Readerís Digest, Poker World, Ring Magazine, Boxing Illustrated, K.O., and Variety.

His freelance work has appeared in too many California newspapers to list here, but they include, Herald Examiner, Orange County Register and Press-Enterprise.

His critically-acclaimed Collectorís Edition of Bill Kellyís Encyclopedia of Gunmen is a reference book treasured by historians and Western buffs alike. Billís second book, Treasure Trails and Buried Bandit Booty, is a collection of true accounts of buried outlaw swag, and contains clues to reportedly hidden loot throughout the United States.

Bill recently appeared on the History channel as an old west historian in High Rollers: The History of Gambling.

His latest book is Gamblers of the Old West ($24.95). An autograph copy can be purchased by contacting Bill by e-mail: wildbill@cosmoaccess.net or by snail mail: 29759 Longhorn Dr. Canyon Lake, Ca. 92804.

Bill Was born in Tomís River, New Jersey, on May 5, 1927. He now resides in Canyon Lake, California, where he spends most of his waking hours writing tons of articles to be enjoyed by thousands of readers.

His book, EMPTY SADDLES, is a nostalgic tribute to the sagebrush sagas of the 1940s and 50s, and contains Billís interviews with fifty Cowboy stars that made cinema history. No release date has been set for this book at this writing

Archive of Wild West of Gambling








Original article ©copyright, 2000 Bill Kelly

Layout and design ©copyright, 2000 The GameMaster Online, Inc.

The GameMaster: Living The Good Life

Check out our Banners and Page Personalities page.
Get you're GameMaster Online page stuff now!
Collect 'em all!

dot white GAMBLERS OF THE WILD WEST by Bill Kelly


A product of Nevada, Jackson Lee Davis appeared in the Snake River Valley, Idaho, in 1894. A young man of 24, he was mannerly, with deep- set, gray eyes and a flowing blonde moustache. A gambler at heart, he was also a great prattler. His favorite topic was gambling, or mining for gold and diamonds. He regaled people who gathered at the faro tables or roulette wheels with his glowing tales of how one day he would strike it rich. The nickname, "Diamond Field Jack." bestowed on him by fellow gamblers, he considered a distinction.

He was also handy with a sidearm, having learned at an early age to draw fast and shoot straight. In his wanderings, many a card sharp paid the price for cheating Diamond Field Jack Davis.

Davis was also a cattleman. When sheepmen arrived in Utah his fellow cattlemen formed a gang of raiders to drive them out. In an effort to avoid bloodshed, Jack, held a meeting with the invaders and suggested a compromise. He suggested that the range be divided by an invisible line the length of the Shoshone Basin. The sheep would be kept east of the line, and all the land west of it saved for cattle. The sheepmen agreed.

For nearly two months things were quiet in the Shoshone Basin. Jack, who was working for the Sparks-Harrell Cattle Company, had the job of patrolling the Shoshone Basin to keep the sheepmen from breaking the treaty. He was selected for the job because of his prowess with a pistol or rifle. But Jack spent more time at the poker tables than he did patrolling Shoshone Basin.

At the end of January 1896 Jack was too busy playing poker with the boys to notice two venturesome newcomers named Wilson and Cummings driving their sheep into an area between Goose and Deep Creeks under the cover of darkness. Knowing Jack's weakness for poker Wilson sent one of his boys into town to wrangle Jack into a game of five card stud. And so the woollies were driven across the taboo area and the agreement had been broke.

On February 4, two saddle-pards noticed two men playing poker outside a covered wagon. Tied to its wheels were two sheep dogs. Ten days later these same two horsebackers noticed these same two dogs. Near starvation, the dogs were so thin they couldn't cast a shadow. The dirt in front of the wagon was stained with dried blood. The two men dismounted to investigate.

Inside the wagon the proof of calamity loomed starkly clear. Wilson's blood-caked body lay sprawled on the floor. Beside him, the mutilated body of Cummings lay twisted from its death agony. The sheriff of Cassia County began an immediate investigation. The victims had been dead 12 to 14 days, the coroner said. Reportedly, Wilson's face and upper torso were covered with powder burns. Cummings had been shot in the abdomen and through the intestines. Both men had been shot with .44-calibre projectiles. A deck of blood-drenched cards were scattered outside the wagon -- and some of them had been picked up a half mile away, suggesting the two men had been playing cards when they were murdered, and the wind had scattered some of the evidence across the mesquite-patched flats.

Since the sheep had been driven onto the forbidden land patrolled by Diamond Field Jack, he fell under immediate suspicion. He admitted killing a sheepman over a card game, even boasted about it. Everyone knew of his unceasing effort to keep sheepmen in their place. Moreover, he had been seen lately gambling in the vicinity of Cummings' and Wilson's camp. The Joker of evidence enclosed him more with every turn of a card. A warrant was issued for Diamond Jack's arrest. He became a fugitive on the dodge.

Authorities for a hundred miles were notified with "Wanted" posters to be on the lookout for the wanted gambler. Along with his description, the flyer informed anybody who could read that the "Wanted" man had a strong penchant for gambling and could most likely be found dealing from the bottom in gambling saloon in their town. A ring was thrown up around his home territory of Nevada. It would be harder to sneak daybreak past a rooster than for Diamond Field Jack to escape the long arm of the law.

But Jack didn't head for Nevada, as expected. Instead, he galloped the alkali flats into Arizona. In Yuma, he lost heavily at the roulette wheel, got drunk and accused the owner of running a crooked game. He was arrested for disturbing the peace. And that was his mistake. When Yuma authorities realized they had the fugitive Diamond Jack Davis locked up in jail, they notified the Cassia County authorities. Sheriff's deputies arrived to escort him back to stand trial for first- degree murder. On the trip back, he regaled his warders with card tricks and even won fifty dollars from them.

The cattlemen's association stood firmly behind Jack. They hired the best lawyers they could find. The trial got underway on April 25, 1897 in the cowberg of Albion. Jack pleaded not guilty. The prosecution set the date of the murders as February 4th. The defense presented witnesses who said Davis was playing poker with them at the Middlestack ranch in Nevada on that date. Arguments flew back and forth in a gala display of legal finesse. Two weeks later, the all- male panel found the defendant guilty as charged. Judge Stockslager sentenced poor Jack to be hanged.

On the eve of his hanging, Jack suggested to the sheriff one last game of cards. The two were absorbed in their play between the bars of the jail when a clatter of hooves halted outside the jailhouse door. It was one of Jack's attorneys. He showed the sheriff a stay of execution from the Idaho Supreme Court. Jack's new trial ended with the same results. Only this time he was sentenced to life in prison. Five years later, Governor Hunt granted him a full pardon. Throughout the years, rumors persisted that Diamond Field Jack had been seen in one gambling casino or another, playing poker, or Faro, or setting his money on the black or red at the roulette wheel. But when someone mention mutton, it was noticed that he picked up his money and walked out the door.

He died in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1949, at the age of seventy-eight.