Who are the iconic women gamblers of all time?
From simply not being welcomed to the gambling table or even forbidden by the law to join the game to being given the same opportunity to show their gambling skills in modern casinos, women gamblers have gone a long way. And even though it is still largely a male dominated field and it’s more likely for men to choose a career in gambling, there are more than a few women who were able to make names for themselves and leave their mark on the gambling industry.
On International Women’s Day, we want to acknowledge the women in our community and worldwide who have the love for gambling!
Born in 1844, Carlotta J. Thompkins, also known as Lottie Deno, was an amazing woman with extraordinary gambling skills. She came from a wealthy family and her father was a passionate gambler who also raised racehorses. After her father died in the Civil War, Lottie went to Detroit to find a suitable husband but a chance meeting with her father’s former jockey Johnny Golden would kick start her gambling career.
Johnny and her gambled on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers during the Civil War until they split in 1863 and Lottie became a house gambler for University Club in Texas. During that period she met Frank Thurmond, a man she would marry and spend the rest of her life with.
Before settling down in Deming, Texas with Frank, Lottie gambler all over West Texas. In San Antonio she was known as the Angel of San Antonio, in Ft. Concho as Mystic Maud but she loved the Lottie Deno nickname which supposedly came from a game of cards when one player suggested that she should call herself “Lotta Dinero”. Some of her gambling opponents were iconic figures in the West and after beating the legendary poker player Doc Holiday, she was also given the nickname Poker Queen!
Lottie and Frank secured their happy ending - in 1882 they moved to Deming, New Mexico and spent the rest of their lives as the highly respected members of the community. Lottie gave up gambling and was a devoted church member. She died in 1934.
Alice Ivers Tubbs, better known as Poker Alice, is one of the most prominent gambling figures in the Old American West. Without a doubt, she is the most famous female poker player from the Wild West era!
Born in England, Alice and her parents moved to the US when she was a little girl. At the age of 20, she met and married mining engineer Frank Duffield who, like most men in mining towns across the American West, enjoyed gambling. Alice would accompany her husband and watch the games silently in the beginning but it wasn’t long before she joined in the game and was able to show her amazing poker and faro skills.
Unfortunately, Alice was widowed only a few years into the marriage and left to fend on her own so she decided to try gambling as a way to earn a living. Although she preferred poker, she made sure her faro gambling and dealing skills were also top-notch and was in high demand as both player and a dealer. She started traveling from one mining camp to the next and soon got her famous nickname Poker Alice.
Once she made a name for herself, she was welcomed in every gambling house in the Wild West. Aside from her superb gambling skills, Poker Alice was also known for her great beauty and fashion sense. She was always carrying a .38 revolver and not afraid to use it and due to her religious beliefs, Alice never gambled on Sunday. One of her favorite sayings was: “Praise the Lord and place your bets. I’ll take your money with no regrets!”
Alice married 2 more times but both husbands died long before she would meet her ultimate end. She continued to gamble into her old age, celebrated as one of the true frontier gamblers, and was heard once saying: “At my age, I suppose I should be knitting. But I would rather play poker with five or six ‘experts’ than eat.”
Poker Alice died in 1930. She lived a tumultuous life even in her old age but was without a doubt, one of the most prolific gamblers of her time which earned her the status of a legend among best female gamblers in history.
One of the top female poker players and earners, Kathy Leibern has been professionally playing poker for over 2 decades. Also known as a PokerKat, she was the first woman to win a poker tournament with a $1 million prize.
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in business and finance and working for some time in her chosen field, Kathy realized that it’s not for her after all. Her gambling story starts in Colorado where she moved after quitting her corporate job and began playing $5-limit poker for fun. Her skills were soon noticed by the casino and she was invited to be a prop player which perfect her gambling chops.
Poker became Liebert’s passion and it wasn’t long before she decided to join the professionals. She was at World Poker Tour final tables 6 times and won a World Series tournament in 2004. It is estimated that PokerKat has won over $6 million from live tournaments, making her the second-biggest female earner in professional poker circles.
New York-born Vanessa Selbst is the most successful professional female poker player of all time. This Yale graduate has reached many important milestones as a professional poker player - she won 3 World Series of Poker bracelets, is the only woman to reach Number 1 in the Global Poker Index so far, and the only player to win the North American Poker Tour Main Event 2 years in the row.
Selbst started her professional poker career in the early 2000s and entered her first Las Vegas World Series in 2006. Known for her aggressive play, she has been part of more than 25 final tables in different poker tournaments. She is also the female poker player with the most earnings in modern history as she was able to amass more than $12 million in winnings so far.
At the end of 2017, Selbst decided to step away from the poker world and shift her focus on the financial world. However, it wasn’t long before she found her way back. In 2019, she joined the World Poker Tour and has been active in the poker community ever since.