Gambling has long been considered an exclusive male domain. You may be surprised to learn that women have played a significant and important role in gambling through the years. From the very first pioneers who broke through gender barriers to today’s female Poker Superstars, women have formed a crucial part in making gambling and the online casino industry what it is today. In this article, we look at the Top 5 Female Gamblers in history, how they got there and what has made them so influential to making the online casino industry what it has become.
1. Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert – ‘Poker Alice’
Better and most affectionately known as “Poker Alice,” the three-times widower Alice Huckert was a bootlegger, professional gambler, and brothel owner (most usually filling all three occupations at the same time).
‘Poker Alice’ was one of the most significant and interesting female gamblers, leading an eventful life. She has been described over time as ‘a force to reckon with’, and one of the ‘first women to gain a reputation as a serious poker player’. Adding to Alice’s frontier mystique, she carried a .38 revolver with her at all times. Born in 1853 in Devonshire, England, Poker Alice later moved to Colorado, USA with her family.
She was introduced to the gambling world at the age of 20, after she married Frank Duffield, a mining engineer. She accompanied him to gambling halls in Leadville and observed how the game was played. She soon joined him at the gambling table and became proficient in the game. When Duffield was unfortunately killed in a mining accident leaving her with no means of financial support, Alice turned to gambling (poker in particular) to make ends meet and also doubled as a dealer.
Poker Alice became one of the most famous figures of the American Western frontier, spending her poker winnings on trips to New York to keep up with the fashions of the day, and also by re-investing her winnings into profitable ventures like selling illegal alcohol and operating a brothel.
Known for her endless chain-smoking of cigars, she forbade her brothel girls to work on Sundays because of her extreme “religious convictions.” When a group of soldiers decided to take matters into their own hands on a Sunday and get some action with Alice’s girls anyway, she shot one of the soldiers’ dead with her .38 and critically injured another.
Notoriety aside, Alice’s Poker skills are the stuff of legend and she is thought to have won tens of millions (converted to today’s money) at the tables. Alice lived well into her seventies, a cigar in her mouth until the day she passed away and died on February 27, 1930.
2. Maria Gertrudis Barcelo
Dona Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, (although she preferred the name ‘Madame La Tules’ – born approximately 1800 and died in 1852)) was well known as an expert gambler and a fiercely independent Mexican businesswoman. She opened a saloon in the centre of Santa Fe, New Mexico and her saloon was visited by many American traders traveling the Santa Fe Trail, in addition to many American soldiers and influential politicians. She was a very brilliant and astute woman, not to mention possessing a fame that extended from coast-to-coast as the best dealer and most expert Monte player throughout the Western territories.
She also played a significant role in historical events and was allegedly privy to high-level intelligence that she supposedly used to benefit the U.S. during an extremely turbulent time.
Madame La Tules’ influential relationships with Governor Manuel Armijo, Prussian August de Marle of the Missouri Volunteers are thought to have even altered the course of major events, such as alerting U.S. authorities of the Mexican-Indian conspiracy of December 1846.\
3. Lottie Deno
Yet another gambling woman of the wild West, Lottie Deno didn’t run brothels, didn’t smoke cigars, wasn’t embroiled in political intrigue or shoot people with her .38. However, Lottie Deno was nevertheless an extraordinarily prolific and talented gambler, earning the title of “Poker Queen”, when she bested the legendary poker player, Doc Holiday.
Lottie earnt a small fortune during her professional poker career and retired in comfort. Lottie Deno lived until the ripe old age of 89, a rarity in the turbulent rough and tumble times of the American frontier and is widely renown as the role model on which many of today’s female poker stars base themselves.
4. Vanessa Selbst
Moving forward to the present day, Vanessa Selbst could be considered as the modern-day embodiment of Lottie Deno. Vanessa Selbst was until recently (she retired in January 2018) a professional poker player known for her aggressive play and sometimes aggressive attitude at the tables, Selbst posted an impressive track record of tournament results with over CAD $15 million in live cashes. She won three World Series of Poker bracelets during her career, one in each of 2008, 2012 and 2014.
However, those results petered out to a startling degree over the last two years of her career. Selbst cashed in for at least $800,000 each year between 2010, her first year as a PokerStars Team Pro, and 2015. In 2016 and 2017 combined, she cashed for only about $120,000, widely thought to the decision-maker in her retirement to go back to her hedge fund manager roots.
Vanessa is the only woman to have ever reached the Number 1 position in the Global Poker Index. She is also the only poker player to win the same North American Poker Tour Main Event back-to-back.
5. Kristen Bicknell
Natural successor to Vanessa Selbst’s position as the World’s leading female poker player is Canada’s own Kristen Bicknell. 29-year-old Bicknell’s calm and charming looks camouflages a seriously good poker player, already up to number 21 in the world, ahead of hundreds of men and her star is rising with a bullet.
Kristen travels the world playing poker tournaments and in the last 12 months alone, the Canadian star has recorded cashes in major live poker tournaments in her native Canada, Panama, Australia the United Kingdom, the U.S.A and Brazil.
Kristen’s achievements are a source of inspiration for other female poker players around the world, who are gaining momentum and becoming more respected and feared at live poker tournaments. In a game which is still dominated by male players, it’s refreshing to see women like Bicknell build upon the hard work of the women who came before her to achieve unprecedented levels of success.