The best women gamblers who were ‘all-in’
History's women gamblers have carved a legacy that influences modern day gambling as we know it. Having risen to great heights and amassed small fortunes along the way, their courage, skill and dogged determination at the table were unparalleled, spanning poker, baccat, blackjack and other timeless casino games. This article will uncover some of the best woman gamblers who helped make casinos what they are today.
For the most part, we’ll be backtracking through history. From New Mexico at the turn of the century, through to the lawless Western Frontier. But, we’ll start the journey off in Hollywood, with an entrepreneur, and budding Olympic athlete, turned A-list poker star.
Molly Bloom: Hollywood's “Poker Princess”
Image: Hollywood Life
Author of the best selling memoir, “Molly’s Game”, which was adapted into a casino movie, Molly Bloom rose to wide acclaim, and mass controversy, throughout most of the last decade.
The pinnacle, modern day woman gambler, Molly Bloom, widely known as LA’s “Poker Princess” was the sole organiser of high stakes, unregulated, underground poker games that ran throughout the upper echelon of Hollywood and corporate America.
With her first tournaments taking place behind the scenes at the infamous Viper Room club on the Los Angeles strip, Molly soon gravitated to private suites, five star hotels and dazzling mansions from New York to Las Vegas.
Her clients included many notable public figures, including A-list actors, sports stars, politicians and captains of industry. In a single game, hands were known to go as high as $4 million on a single wager.
In 2016 she was implicated in a $100 million money laundering/illegal gambling operation. Facing up to 10 years in prison, Molly Bloom pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to one year of probation and 200 hours of community service.
Although she rarely participated, Molly Bloom's understanding of poker and the inner workings behind the scenes made her a force to be reckoned with on the Hollywood gambling circuit for the better part of 8 years.
Eleanor Dumont: Queen of the Western Frontier
Image: Legends of America
A notoriously skilled gambler, Eleanor Dumont rose to prominence in the Wild West during the California Gold Rush in the 1850’s.
Born in France, Eleanor's family came to America during the height of the gold rush in search of a better life. Having spent time growing up in multiple locations, Eleanor put her gambling skills to the test throughout California, South Dakota, Nevada, Arizona, and San Francisco.
Constantly on the move, Eleanor was exposed to gambling at an early age through her father. Dabbling in casinos from city to city, and eventually settling down in Nevada, where she went on to open her own gambling parlor, dubbed “Vingt-en-un”, which was a popular card game at the time and a precursor to blackjack.
Eleanor dealt her own games and the establishment became highly popular with scores of men arriving to witness, at the time, the “novelty” of a woman gambler dealing cards.
Eleanor went on to partner with a local businessman, Dave Tobin and rebranded her gambling parlor as "Dumont's Place". Having flourished for some years, the partnership went sour and Eleanor found herself on the road again.
Elenaor Dumonts life ended quite tragically when she committed suicide in 1879 after losing a high stakes game of Vingt-en-un, owing her opponent a sum of money that she just couldn’t get back from.
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Lottie Deno: Texan Poker Legend
Image: Wide Open Country
Hailing from a wealthy racehorse breeder’s family, Lottie Deno was a famous poker player from Kentucky in the mid 1800’s.
Her father was a notorious gambler and she learned the trade under his guidance. She soon found herself mastering a host of different card games and putting her knowledge to the test (to great effect) at a number of early casino establishments.
At the end of 1865, Lottie settled down in San Antonio, Texas. She rose to fame as a house gambler at the University Club and fell in love with a local businessman named Frank Thurmond.
Her life took a turn for the catastrophic when Frank was accused of murder and had to go on the run. The couple moved through Texas and found themselves in Fort Griffin, a frontier outpost which, at the time, was known for its gambling culture and general lawlessness.
Here, she came to be known as the “Angel of San Antonio” and “Mystic Maud”. She went up against the best in town and fearlessly played enough poker games to amass a small fortune. She eventually moved to New Mexico and started her own gambling salon in Silver City.
For over a decade, Lottie Deno embodied the thrilling and dangerous life of an outlaw gambler. She eventually left gambling behind her, settled down with Frank and went on to found the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
Alice Ivers: “Poker Alice”
Image: Legends of America
Alice Ivers was an English-born poker player who built her gambling legacy, (like most others on this list), in the lawless American West of the 1800’s. Widely known as "Poker Alice", her skills at the table were unchallenged at the time.
Alice married the American Frank Duffield, a skilled poker player in his own right, who taught her all the top secrets of the game. After Frank got shot in a poker game turned sour, Alice tried out several different jobs, including teaching. But the draw of poker was always “on the cards” and she eventually started to play full time.
Around this time, a woman gambler was still a novelty, and scores of men would challenge her to poker games, which she would inevitably win outright. Crowds would gather to watch her play and she rose to mass popularity over her poker career, spanning over 2 decades. At the height of her fame, she would make up to $6,000 a night, which at the time, was unheard of.
In 1910, Alice opened the “Poker Palace” saloon in South Dakota. In 1913, some drunken soldiers entered the parlour and the scene quickly devolved into chaos. Alice fired her gun, killing one man, and injuring another. She was arrested, and although pronounced innocent by way of self defence, the establishment was shut down for good. Alice died at 79 after a gallbladder operation
Kitty LeRoy: Gambling Great of the Wild Wild West
Image: True West
Kitty Leroy was a professional dancer by the age of ten. She was also a crack shot with a gun and a savvy gambler by the age of 12. By the age of 15, she was married, but the quiet family life did not agree with her.
She traveled west and by 20 had married a second time. After finding her performance career to be dwindling in Michigan, Kitty Leroy became a full time dealer and rose to prominence in the American Western frontier. A skilled poker player, Kitty moved to Deadwood, Dakota Territory, around 1876.
There, she opened a gambling saloon, and got married for a fourth time. Known for her fiery temper, she called it off with husband number four, after hitting him on the head with a bottle in a heated argument.
Kitty continued to successfully manage her gambling saloon until her fifth marriage. Husband number five, Samuel R. Curley, was an extremely jealous man and in a fit of rage, shot Kitty dead on the 6th of December 1877, and then committed suicide.
Maria Gertrudis Barceló: The New Mexico Master Gambler
Maria Gertrudis “Tules” Barceló was a New Mexican saloon owner and professional woman gambler. She became known as the “Queen of Sin” for her otherworldly gambling ability and debaucherous dealings.
Maria was most likely born in Sonora, Mexico, though there is speculation that she might have been of French descent.
In 1823, she married Manuel Sisneros but retained her maiden name as well as all her property. Just two years later, she was fined for operating an illegal gambling operation, so she moved to Santa Fe and established another saloon there.
According to a number of acquaintances, Maria made her living by running a house where open gambling, drinking, and smoking were enjoyed by all, with no thought given to any “social degradation” that the lifestyle may bring with it.
Maria's life was a bit of an undocmumented mystery, and it’s difficult to ascertain what may or may not be true. One certainty is that, during her time, Maria was a widely successful gambler and became a wealthy woman over the course of just a few years.
Maria Barceló died in 1852. She left several houses that she owned in Santa Fe and her fortune of around $10,000 to her siblings.
And, there you have it, some of the top women gamblers who helped pave the way for the global casino industry and what it is today. If you're looking to put your skills to the test and claim top rewards on 500+ different games, register an account with Bitcasino today.