Colorado, USA, has a long and colorful history of mining. Towns and settlements started to pop up after the early gold rushes of the mid - nineteenth century.
Many men from back east would leave their families and head to the mountains in the hope of hitting it rich. They would work hard in the day and play hard at night in the plentiful saloons and other less reputable establishments. The number one source of entertainment was drinking, but a close second was gambling. They would gamble on mule racing, fist fighting, hog tossing, tobacco splitting but mostly good old cards.
In the week men would drink and play cards close to their mine - they would know everyone at the table and, give or take the odd broken nose, these were civil affairs. The same cannot be said of the weekends.
With the mines closed and their families thousands of miles away, the men had nothing else to do then head to the towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek for epic drinking and gambling sessions. The mix of huge quantities of booze with the fact most people didn’t know each other meant many card games descended into violence.
Big money games often ended with either the victor pulling a gun and taking the pot or the winner of a full-blown shoot out. A player might have decided they deserved the spoils of a game, but their cards didn’t agree. They would then whip out their pistol to resolve the matter; the other players would then have a choice - pull out their guns or accept and let the money go.
One would think pulling a gun on a man with a pistol drawn was a foolish thing to do but it happened more often than not. The guy drawing has multiple aggressors to worry about and 25 hours of drinking doesn’t exactly help one's aim. Making money in these games had little to do with luck or card skill but nerves and fast decisions.
Col. S. H. Magilton, the famous Texan poker player and war veteran said of an ill-fated trip to Black Hawk in 1883:
“I hit some good cards early on and was making good loot. As the night rolled on I ended up killing a man and got a slug in me shoulder! The whole darn thing ended up as game of
Colorado Quick Draw!”