Famous Women Gamblers in History That You Likely Don’t Know About

Throughout history, people have mistakenly believed that men mostly dominated gambling – but that is not the case! Women have been vital to the development of gambling over the years, from the Pioneering Women of the 1800s and 1900s to the Poker Champs of today.  

In fact, records show that the very first Legal Gambling Licence was given to a Nevada woman named Mayme Stoker in 1931! Here we have shared some of the most famous women gamblers in history (some of which are a little infamous!).

Alice Ivers Duffield Tubbs Huckert

Alice Ivers is a legendary figure from the Old West. Originally from the UK, ‘Poker Alice’ moved to the United States where she met her first husband, Frank Duffield. 

Frank introduced Alice to poker, and following his death shortly after their marriage, Alice turned to poker as a way to support herself financially.  

Alice played all over the U.S., from Kansas to New Mexico – where she ‘broke the bank’ after winning $6,000. She was known to travel to New York after winning big and spend her earnings on the latest fashions. 

As a cigar-smoking, poker-playing, bootlegging brothel owner, Alice is thought to have hauled in winnings of over three million dollars during her lifetime, until she passed away in her seventies.

Maria Gertrudis ‘Tules’ Barcelo

Famously known as ‘Madame La Tules,’ she lived in the early 1800s and operated a saloon on the Santa Fe Trail. The saloon was frequented by many travelers such as traders, soldiers, and politicians.  

Throughout the west, Tules was famous for being the best dealer and monte player. She was somewhat politically influential through her friendships and knowledge, especially in regard to the United States’ acquisition of New Mexico. 

According to some accounts, she was a dazzling, quick-witted seductress; and to others, she was a cigar-smoking hag. Regardless of which of these is true, the effect she had is thought to have been more extensive than what is generally believed.

Lottie Deno

Lottie Deno was known as ‘the poker queen’ in the Wild West and was quite different from ‘Poker Alice’. 

Lottie was born into a considerably wealthy family; her father was a prominent horse breeder and gambler. As a girl, she traveled with her father often, and he introduced her to gambling and poker games. 

Her father died during the Civil War, and her mother sent her to Detroit to find a husband. It was in Detroit that her gambling career began. 

She later met her husband, and the two traveled throughout the United States gambling and spending time in saloons. Lottie quickly gained a reputation as the striking red-headed poker player, and it is even said that she once beat Doc Holliday!

Lottie eventually settled in New Mexico with her husband and led a quieter life. Although she had amassed a fortune in her gambling days, she eventually retired and started a church in her community. 

She lived comfortably until passing away at 89 years in 1934.

The Faro Ladies

In the 18th century England, gambling for women was not as acceptable as it was for men. Seeking an alternative form of entertainment, a group of ‘Lady Nobility’ held private gatherings for aristocratic women to play the game of ‘faro’.

Some of these notable women were Lady Sarah Archer, Lady Elizabeth Luttrell, Lady Buckinghamshire, Mrs. Albinia Hobart, and Mrs. Sturt.

This elite group of women were known as the Faro Ladies or Faro’s Daughters and relished the attention.

Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa is the first and only female player to reach the top ranking on the Global Poker Index.

She was born in New York and has a law degree from Yale.

She became the highest-earning female poker player in history in January 2013 when she won $1.4 million in the PCA High Roller.  

Over the course of her career, Selbst won over US$11.8 million in live poker tournament earnings.

Kristen Bicknell

Kristen began her career playing poker online during her freshman year of college. 

She achieved ‘Supernova Elite’ on PokerStars three years in a row- this meant she had to have played at least 2.5 million hands per year. 

Kristen enjoyed a successful career in poker, traveling the world and playing in tournaments throughout the UK, USA, Canada, Panama, Brazil, and Australia.

Her total live tournament earnings exceed $1.4 million. 

Kathy Liebert

Liebert began her professional poker career as a prop player at casinos in Colorado. 

She was the first female player to win the $1,000,000 prize at the 2002 Party Poker million event and has appeared in six World Poker Tour final tables. 

Her total live tournament earnings exceed $6.1 million.

Vanessa Rousso

Born to French and American parents, Vanessa Rousso began her professional poker career in 2005 during her summer break of law school. She was well-versed in game theory and took a great interest in poker. She dropped out of law school to pursue poker professionally but eventually obtained her degree. 

She is widely known as Lady Maverick and has been voted among the sexiest poker players in the world. 

Rousso ranks among the top ten female poker players in the world, with total live tournament earnings of over $3.5 million. 

Annette Obrestad

Anne Obrestad is a Norweigan poker player who began her career playing online at the young age of fifteen. She claims to have never used her own money when playing online and won all her earnings from winning freeroll poker tournaments. 

She is the youngest woman to win a coveted World Series of Poker Bracelet in a tournament in Europe 2007. She won $2 million on this day; the day before her nineteenth birthday. 

Her total live tournament winnings exceed $3.9 million. 

Stars of Screen and Music

Shannon Elizabeth Fadal

An actress, model, and producer, Fadal once described poker as her second career.  From 2006-2010 she was a frequent Las Vegas visitor. 

She participated in the Main Event at the World Series of Poker, and throughout her poker career, she amassed a total of over $250,000.

Gladys Knight

Famous for “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “If I Were Your Woman,” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” multiple music award winner, Gladys Knight, performed and lived in Las Vegas for many years. 

She frequented casinos after being introduced to blackjack and enjoying it quite a lot. Soon she was spending a little too much time in casinos and developed an addiction to gambling. 

She states she realized she had a problem after losing $45,000 in one night, and playing for so long she forgot to take her son to school.

Luckily, she was able to find the help that she needed. She overcame her addiction and in 2018, she sold her Las Vegas home. 

Pamela Anderson

Ex showgirl, television star, producer, and activist, Pamela Anderson, loves the thrill of gambling, but is not known for her success! In 2007, Anderson confessed on the Ellen Degeneres Show that on one visit to Las Vegas, she lost $250k and traded the debt for, as she said – sexual favors!!

Female Gambling Executives

Virginia McDowell

Virginia McDowell was named Gaming Executive of the Year in 2009 by Casino Journal Magazine. This is one of the many awards she received throughout her career as a gaming executive. She eventually retired in 2016 from CEO of the major gaming company, President of Isle of Capri Casinos. 

She now serves as president and board chair of Global Gaming Women, which is an organization aimed at influencing and supporting women in the gaming industry. 

Patricia Becker

With her vast 35 years+ experience in the industry, she was the first woman to be appointed as a counselor with the International Association of Gambling Advisors. A qualified lawyer, she currently runs a company specializing in regulatory and compliance issues.

Claudine Williams

As a child during the Great Depression, Claudine was introduced to the exciting world of gambling and chance games, giving her earnings to her mother and sister. She quickly became fascinated by the sport and decided to pursue a career in it. By the time she was 21, Claudine had opened her first club.

She eventually moved to Las Vegas with her husband and business partner, Shelby Williams. It was there they would begin their career developing casinos. Her husband’s health declined soon after, and Claudine took over all of the responsibilities in building their new casino, Holiday Casino. Holiday Casino would later become Harrah’s.

Her success and influence in early Las Vegas will be remembered forever. In 1992, she was inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame. 

Judy Bayley

Judy Bayley was born in Texas, where from a young age she showed an interest in music and entertainment. After college, she married hotel chain owner and operator, Doc Bayley. They soon moved to Las Vegas to expand their business to the strip. 

Known as the ‘First Lady of Gambling,” after the death of her husband, Judy was the first female to own a Las Vegas Strip Resort- the Hacienda. 

Shirley Brancucci

In 1952, Shirley Brancucci started out as a cocktail waitress at Riveria Casino. After expressing interest in dealing, she went to dealer school and became the first baccarat dealer in Las Vegas. 

During this time, sexism in casinos was prevalent and Brancucci faced a lot of discrimination. At first, men would not play at her table if she was calling the game. Once getting to know her and seeing her skills for themselves, players started to appreciate and take a liking to her. 

Brancucci paved the way for female baccarat dealers; two years after the start of her career, another female dealer was hired, changing Las Vegas forever.

Janae Johnson is a staff writer who loves old movies, meeting new people, exploring the great outdoors, and learning with her hands. After graduating from the College of William and Mary, she applied her degree in English to an ever-expanding industry. She has spent years searching for thrills and fulfillment in her work, until she finally found her home at Planet 7.