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History’s Top 10 Women Gamblers

Oftentimes when we think of gambling in casinos we succumb to the stereotypical images of tables of men in pristine suits, swigging expensive whiskey or brandy from tumblers, cigars in hand and surrounded by a bevy of beautifully dressed women fawning over them, as they gamble away another fortune.

And while these particular images may still exist to a certain extent in contemporary times, there has been a noticeable shift, in the guise of women sitting at these tables and gambling for themselves, free from the shackles of the over-bearing man. And this is certainly a welcome turning of the tables, for it must be noted that in the US, women were not legally allowed to gamble in casinos until well into the 1960s.

And so, it is good to be able to state that since those Neolithic times, women have risen to the very top of the gambling ladder, crushing it at some of the most prestigious gambling tournaments across the globe, and, subsequently walking away with millions of dollars in prize money.

In this post, we will have a look at these pioneers and revolutionaries who pushed the boundaries against gender discrimination and evened out the playing field, enabling future generations of women to take a seat at the table.

1. Claudine Williams

Claudine Williams was born in 1921 and bought her first casino before she was 21 and who, in Las Vegas, proved that women could stand up to men in the corporate world of gaming.

She also holds the honor of being the first woman to ever be immortalized in Nevada’s Gambling Hall of Fame and remains one of the only women to be in this category. Claudine Williams is one of those pioneers who transformed the city’s major industry and helped make Las Vegas synonymous with fun and fair value. More importantly, though, it has been the size of her big Texas heart, which compelled her to do so much good for so many people in the gambling community and beyond. A very much missed and important figure of women’s rights.

2.Poker Alice

This inspirational lady was born in England but moved to America as a child. In Leadville, Colorado, she met her first husband, Frank. When her husband was tragically killed in an accident, she picked up poker and other card-games to support herself and discovered that she had an incredible talent for it. Through her fame or infamy (depending on the person), she eventually developed a reputation for playing poker, and people would come from all over to either watch her play or to challenge her.

3. Judy Bayley

Born in 1915, Judy Bayley became one of the biggest figures in the casino industry in Nevada. Her husband, Warren Bayley, had a long-held ambition to build a motel and casino. In 1956, the husband-and-wife team moved to Nevada and set up the Hacienda motel.

After the untimely death of her husband Warren in 1964, she took control of the casino and managed to succeed in making it an even bigger success, despite not actually having any experience running any type of business, let alone a casino. To this day, Judy Bayley is affectionately referred to as ‘first lady of gambling’.

4. Kathy Liebert

Kathy Liebert is a titan and one of the biggest modern poker champions in the world today. She reached the finals in six different world tournaments and achieved top positions in several other tournaments too.

She’s also won one World Series tournament, making her proudly the second-biggest female winner and earner from the dog-eat-dog world of professional poker.

5. Annette Obrestad

Bursting on the gambling scene at the ridiculously young age of 15, Annette Obrestad used her parents’ credit card to sign up for various online poker sites. Between 2005 and 2006 she had amassed over $1 million in prize money. She earned some of the biggest online casino payouts during her profitable times at online casinos. She’s currently the 6th in Poker Earners, with just shy of $4 million in total winnings and earnings.

6. Vanessa Selbst

Commonly regarded by most as the greatest female poker player ever, Vanessa Selbst has certainly made quite a splash in the female poker scene since she first made an undeniable statement back in 2006, at the Las Vegas World Series. Ever since that major event, Selbst has proven herself, over and over again, to be one of the true masters. Vanessa Selbst currently holds the #1 position on the poker earnings leaderboard, with nearly $12 million earned over her illustrious career.

Her talents aren’t simply limited to just the poker table. She’s studied at MIT and Yale, achieving a degree in law, and works as a hedge fund manager when she’s not sitting at the poker tables. An all-round achiever and legend in her own life-time.

7. Gladys Knight

This wonderful lady knows how to play. And win. And win big. Known as the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight is a multi-platinum singer with seven Grammy awards to her name.

Knight is known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s with her group The Pips, which also included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and cousins William Guest and Edward Patten.

Although never involved with the professional scene, she spent a lot of time in casino halls across Vegas and California, all the while improving her skills.

Knight suffered through a gambling addiction that lasted more than a decade. In the late 1980s, after losing $60,000 in one night at the baccarat table, she joined Gamblers Anonymous, which helped her quit the habit.

8. Kristen Bicknell

This wildly successful gambler hails from Canada. Kristen Bicknell holds the impressive title of 3rd place in the list of highest poker earners.

Way back in 2011, while in university, Kristen started playing online. She very quickly became adept, which ultimately led her to become a celebrated name in the gambling world.

In fact, by the time 2017 rolled around, she was ranked as the number one female professional poker player in the world. In the intervening years, Kristen Bicknell has earned over 5 million dollars. Not too shabby.

9. Victoria Coren Mitchell

Victoria Coren Mitchell has established herself as one of the UK’s biggest female poker players. Besides having achieved that status, she is also a published author and a BBC presenter.

So far, she’s earned more than two and a half million dollars from professional gambling. All done while holding down a highly successful career.

10. Carlotta ‘Lotte Deno’ Thompkins

This lady is an impressive figure and the proper O.G. ‘Lotte Deno’, real-name Carlotta Thompkins, was born in Kentucky in 1844. She had a tough upbringing and because of this life, she had no choice but to learn everything concerned with gambling from her father.

She succeeded and, subsequently blazed a trail throughout Texas and New Mexico, gambling and being rewarded with huge wins at every place they touched base. She quickly became a gambling legend throughout Texas and the Wild West.

She is one of the oldest female figures in gambling history, and deserves every accolade for being a stalwart in the female progression of gambling in a male-dominated world.

Last Word

There has been a myriad of women having made gambling history. Up until today there may not be as many women in gambling compared to men, but that doesn’t invalidate their accomplishments. If you are a young, old, or any kind of woman looking to play poker or wanting to hit the tables professionally, you have plenty of inspirational role models with aspirational goals, to look up to!

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