The Top 5 Female Gamblers In History

Gambling is not just a niche interest for men. You might have thought it was, given the way that gambling companies have advertised to men in the past and the way that you’re far more likely to find men sat around a poker table or stood in front of a slots machine than women, but isn’t the case. There’s no biological reason that men would be better at gambling than women, and nor has there ever been any shortage of successful female gamblers – it’s just that they’ve never had as high a profile as their male counterparts.

That’s beginning to change in the modern era. Millions of people all over the world have a healthy relationship with gambling, and the increasing availability of the internet has allowed women to flourish in cyberspace, frequently beating men in the process of doing so. Gambling companies are beginning to catch up with this place. Within the past few years, we’ve begun to see the launch of UK Online Slots website geared specifically towards catering to women.

We’ve also begun to see the removal of online slots with sexist themes removed from those websites. Scantily-clad images of women were once used as a hook to draw men into playing online slots, but much like similar images are less and less likely to be used to sell alcohol now, they’re also disappearing from online slots. The world is changing, and women are winning more prizes.

In celebration of that fact, we’ve taken a look at the history of women in the gambling, and identified five all-time greats at the hobby!

Poker Alice

It’s a tell-tale sign that you’ve mastered a form of gambling when it becomes part of your name. The legend of Poker Alice is so well-known that it became a (mostly historically inaccurate) movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, but the true story of Alice Huckert is no less incredible than the film. She was born in England in 1851, but she was still a child when she moved with her parents to Virginia, USA. Her parents intended for her to go to a private school and become a high-society woman, but Alice had other ideas. She fell in love with poker at an early age and became an outlaw figure in the Wild West after she moved to Deadwood, South Dakota. Alice made a healthy living dealing cards, but she also liked to play, and she frequently beat the best men in the area in the process. She didn’t take kindly to men trying to strong-arm her out of her winnings either – history records she once shot someone dead at a card table. She wasn’t someone you’d want to mess with!

Lottie Deno

Here’s another gambling great of the distant past who’s better known by a nickname than her real name. Lottie Deno was actually Carlotta J. Thompkins. The ‘Lottie Deno’ was a corruption of ‘Lotta Dinero,’ a name that implied she always had a lot of money – and the money came from poker tables. Lottie was born in Kentucky in 1844 to a family with strong ties to gambling – her father bred racehorses, and she grew up rich. That meant she didn’t have to worry about taking big losses when she started playing poker on Mississippi riverboats, so perhaps her confidence was the reason she always seemed to win a lot more than she lost. From there, her life became colorful. She was known to be linked – perhaps even romantically linked – to gambler and gunfighter Doc Holliday. After moving on from him, she married another gambler named Frank Thurmond before eventually finding religion late in her life and spending her final years teaching in a Sunday school. That’s quite a turnaround!

Maria Gertrudis Barcelo

The fact that we’re able to name three successful 19th-century gambling women should tell you that the activity was once a lot more open to women than it became during the 20th century. Mexico’s Maria Gertrudis Barcelo may have had the best nickname of all of our gambling women – she was known simply as ‘The Queen of Sin.’ The card game Monte was her specialty, and she used to play it in a gambling den in the Ortiz Mountains of her home country until the law caught up with her and shut the illegal operation down. She went on the run after that, and tales of what she got up to after 1825 vary dramatically, but all of them agree that she never stopped playing cards. Her next appearance in any official records comes from her death in 1852. By that point, she owned several large houses, all of which had been bought with the proceeds of gambling, and she had the equivalent of $300,000 in cash.

Vanessa Selbst

We’ve spent enough time focusing on the past of gambling after starting this article by talking about how women have gained social acceptance within gambling circles in the here and now, so let’s take a look at a more recent example in the shape of Vanessa Selbst. Until she retired in early 2018, she was one of the best poker players of any gender anywhere in the world. Her list of career accomplishments is extensive, including picking up three coveted bracelets from World Series of Poker tournaments and netting approximately $15m in prize money. To this day, she remains the only woman to top the Global Poker Index, and win the North American Poker Tour twice in a row. Not only is she a great gambler, but she’s also smart enough to get out when the going is good – after retiring as a professional, she’s used the money she won to set herself up as a hedge fund manager.

Victoria Coren Mitchell

British television presenter and journalist Victoria Coren Mitchell is the living embodiment of the idea that women really can have it all if they want to. She has a successful career in front of the camera and is a respected journalist, but when she’s not doing either of those things, you’ll find her in the nearest casino. She made history in 2006 in London when she became the first woman in history to win the European Poker Tour, having shown signs of her promise when she won a Celebrity Poker Club tournament the previous year. She doesn’t get to tournaments as often as some other gamblers because of her heavy work schedule, but she did manage to get out to Sanremo in 2014 to win the European Poker Tour for a second time. It’s probably telling that for all her TV work, she considers herself to be a professional gambler first and foremost. Everything else she does is just a hobby.

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