“Schenck Poker” and England's Poker Playing King

“Schenck Poker” and England's Poker Playing King

Monday, 25 November 2013

More great tales from Johnny Hughes.

Wdward, Prince of Wales (1841-1901), later King Edward VII of England, enjoyed a spot of no limit draw poker in his time. The game had been introduced to the English aristocracy by Robert Schenck, a Union Army general in the American Civil War, who became US Ambassador to England in 1870. Edward’s mother, Queen Victoria, also played a bit. At one reception for Schenck, hosted by Victoria, a duchess asked Schenck to write out the rules for draw poker. She published them, and they later became a pamphlet on both sides the pond. One version was entitled The Game Draw Poker, as Taught to English Aristocracy.

Schenck and Edward VII had a big game going with Albert Rothschild, of the banking family, one the richest men in the world. Edward was also good at whist, a forerunner of bridge, and gambled at it. He bet the horses too. Edward was a bit of a playboy and had a lot of babes, including famous actresses Lillie Langtry and Sarah Bernhardt.

When Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show came to England in 1887, Queen Victoria saw her first public performance in 25 years. The Kings of Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and Edward were in a wagon driven by Buffalo Bill when Edward remarked that he bet Bill had never held four kings before. Buffalo Bill said that with the Prince or Wales in there it was more like a royal flush. When Buffalo Bill died, The New York Times remembered him as an accomplished poker player.

Once, at a high society party, Edward was gambling at baccarat, a game that was illegal in England at the time, when one of the party, Sir William Gordon-Cumming, was accused of cheating. The cheater promised not to gamble ever again, but later sued the other players, but not Edward, for gossiping about him. One of the accused gossips was a mistress of Edward’s, named Brook, called Babbling Brook. It was huge news and dubbed “The Royal Baccarat Scandal” in the press. Edward had to testify. The alleged cheater lost the lawsuit and stayed out of society for the rest of his life.

Even though Queen Victoria had given Edward a hard time over gambling and the press he got, she eased up a bit later in life, even giving him small two statues of jockeys as a gift.

Meanwhile, draw and stud poker spread from the English aristocracy to everyone and all across Europe in the period after 1875. Sometimes it was limit, sometimes no limit. It was called “Schenck poker” at times, after one the earliest poker authors.

Johnny Hughes is the author of Famous Gamblers, Poker History, and Texas Stories, on all Amazonshttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Famous-Gamblers-Poker-History-Stories/dp/147594215X.

Tags: Johnny Hughes, Road Gambler