Let's Welcome KATHY OTTEN and Poker in the Old West!

The fillies are excited to welcome historical author Kathy Otten to Wildflower Junction today! She lives in the open farm country of western NY with a husband and three college age kids.

Kathy Otten

Growing up in a small Vermont farm town, she’s a horse nut whose parents owned the general store.  She grew up watching  Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, and John Wayne on TV, and visiting historic places like Old Sturbridge Village and the Shelburne Museum.

Today Kathy will be giving away a PDF or signed copy of her last Western historical, Lost Hearts. So don’t forget to leave a comment. “ He is sworn to bring her to justice, but only she can heal his wounded heart.”


Many thanks to everyone at Petticoats and Pistols for having me here today. While doing research on poker hands for my new release, A Tarnished Knight, I discovered that what qualifies as a winning hand today, would not win you the pot 1874 when my story takes place.

While many opinions exist as to the origins of poker, most attribute it to a popular French game called poque.  Settlers and sailors brought the game with them from France to settlements in Canada and New Orleans.


Players were dealt five cards face down from a deck of twenty, ten through ace in each of the four suits. There was no draw and a limited number of combinations for a winning hand, one pair, two pair, three of a kind, a full house, and four of a kind.  The best hand you could have was four aces or four kings with an ace kicker. At that time there was just one round of betting.

The full deck of fifty-two cards was introduced in the 1820’s. More people could play and the draw was introduced which increased the popularity of the game.

By the 1830’s ordinances were passed in most towns forbidding gambling and gamblers took to the riverboats which ran up and down the Mississippi.

Jonathan H. Green, was one of those gamblers. In his writings he mentions variations of a game called poque. The game was played with 20 cards, using only the aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. Two to four people could play, and each was dealt five cards. Greene named the game poker.

During the gold rush, miners would spend their evenings playing poker.

The popularity of the game grew in Civil War camps and many additions were made to the game.

After the war poker became a staple of frontier settlements and western saloons. It became a symbol of manliness and toughness.

In August 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back by Jack McCall, while playing poker at a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. While no one really knows what cards he was holding when he was killed, there after aces over eights, became known as the “Deadman’s Hand.”

images_Deadman's_Hand (2)

By 1877 rules showed that a flush (all cards in the same suit) beat any straight, however, a straight flush (five consecutive cards of the same suit) had not yet been declared the top hand, so that four of a kind could beat a flush or a straight flush. The two unbeatable hands remained four aces and any card, or four kings and an ace.

Low Ball and Split-pot poker appeared in the 1900’s and community poker games became popular in 1925. By the 1950’s five card draw had fallen out of favor in lieu of games like Seven Card Draw and Texas Hold’em.

Yet the image of cowboys sitting around a saloon table playing a game of Five Card Draw will always remain as iconic to the Old West as the Colt Peacemaker, cattle drives and shoot-outs.



Moulton, Candy, The Writer’s Guide To Everyday Life in the Wild West From 1840-1900,Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH, 1999

Kathy Otten Cover

Fleeing her abusive husband, Victoria Van der Beck is captured by down-on-his-luck bounty hunter, Ryder MacKenzie. As she comes to love this man who hides his face in shadows, she wonders if he could be valiant knight for whom she’s been longing. Is he the champion who would save her from the evil prince, or is MacKenzie just a paid lackey determined to return her to her husband?
Ryder MacKenzie never believed anyone could love him, for he was cursed the day he was born. He only wants to be left alone to live on his ranch in peace. But rustlers have stolen his cattle. He’s been ambushed and his horse killed. Now his one chance to get his life back is to return a society princess to her husband. Maybe his luck is about to change. A least she isn’t pretty.


The peacefulness of Ryder MacKenzie’s home settled into her soul with every breath of air she drew, soothing the restless need to run that had consumed her since she’d hit Nicholas with the whiskey bottle.

When she wandered back to the cabin, she expected Ryder to be in bed, but he was still in the tub, his knees drawn up, pale and knobby, his head resting on the rim.

She grabbed Beau by the scruff of his neck and shoved him outside closing the door with a sharp bang.
Ryder jerked upright, sloshing water over the sides.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll come back.”


“No.” He leaned back and closed his eyes. “I’m done. I just want to wash my hair.”

“I can do it for you.” Before the words were out of her mouth, she questioned what part of her brain they’d
come from.

Maybe it was because Ryder was safe, and this was a chance to physically connect with a man on her own
terms, without fear.

Maybe she needed to satisfy the curiosity that had taunted her all week, urging her to explore the body of
this man she desired.

But maybe it was simply because he was Ryder MacKenzie, and in his own determined, unassuming
way, he’d touched her heart and become her hero, and there would never again be a man she so ached to




Available in e-format and paperback.

The Wild Rose Press


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24 thoughts on “Let's Welcome KATHY OTTEN and Poker in the Old West!”

  1. That’s interesting. I have never really thought about the history of poker. Your book sounds really good.

  2. Kathy, welcome to P&P. We’re thrilled to have you. What an interesting blog. Poker has always intrigued me. Though there are ten jillion variations of the game, I liked the simple one, five card draw. That provides enough excitement for me. Poker and betting has surely been around for a long time. I think a version of it was played in the Bible. Men are drawn to ways that offer an increase of fortune with little effort.

    I LOVE the covers of your books. They’re really pretty and definitely speak of the old West. Wishing you much success!

  3. Hi!

    Interesting post, and also interesting is one of my books, THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, which also is a story that has gambling in it — but Native American gambling. : ) Found your post fascinating.

  4. Hi Linda,
    There are similar variations dating back to the Persian Empire, and I think 10th Century China. Later Germany and Spain had versions of the French game.
    When I was a kid, my dad taught us five-card draw and stud poker.
    There are a few games of poker in my new book and in trying to refresh my memory as to what beat what I discovered that winning hands today were not winning hands when my characters played the game. That’s why I love research. I always discover something new.

  5. I agree–that cover is wonderful! 🙂 I think there’s nothing more romantic than washing the hair of someone you care about–what a good excerpt. You’re so good with your historical research and details. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Karen,
    Thanks for having me here today. Native American games would be fun to learn about too. I’ve read a few hisotricals which had scenes during games, but the info didn’t stick in my brain.

  7. Hi Lyndi,
    Thanks for stopping by. Nice to see a fantasy author at a western campsite. But somethings, like washing the hair of our hero, transcends genre.

  8. I loved reading about the history and rules of poker. I have never played but have always been curious about the game. My grandpa and his friends used to play on his birthday and I loved hanging out and watch. There would be about 40 men playing poke in his shop and as many women playing pitch in the house with many more kids playing in the yard or in the park across the street!

  9. Hi Melanie,
    I guess it’s that whole symbol of manliness and toughness that go along with poker. Usually the heroes in our novels are good poker players. 🙂 Though it might be fun to write a hero who was a lousy card player.

  10. Like the variation from the norm with the main characters. Physical beauty doesn’t appear to be a factor. It is the inner person that is important and draws them to each other.
    I grew up across Lake Champlain from Burlington, VT and also enjoyed Shelburne Museum and traveled to visit Sturbridge Village. Too bad you didn’t make it to Fort Ticonderoga. There is a lot of history there.

    Thanks for the information on poker. I have never really figured it out. I like the “original” version, poque. It is much simpler to play and understand. Since my ancestors came with the initial french trappers in Quebec, that is most likely what they played.

    Best wishes for a successful writing career.

    • Hi Patricia,
      Thanks for stopping by. Actually, I grew up in Whiting, VT, which is kind of across from Fort Ti. I’ve been there, but it’s built up and touristy. The fort at Crown Point, at the time I was there were original ruins, with the old chimneys from the officers’ quarters. We also tromped around in the cow pasture where the unexcavated ruins lay from what is left of the fort at Mount Independence, across from Fort Ti.
      Cool, that your ancestors were some of the original Canadians. I read a book once on the old French trappers. Some pretty interesting men.
      Take care.

  11. Hi Kathy!

    Fascinating post. I love learning about how things were.

    I’m not familiar with your work, but I definitely plan to become acquainted.

    I look forward to your future blogs, too.

    I’d love to win a copy of Lost Hearts.

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