We celebrated Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in March, but is there ever a bad time to celebrate the ladies of the gambling world? We didn’t think so either. Let’s take a look!
Gambling: The Early Years
No matter how technologically-advanced we get, gambling itself is practically a piece of living history. Gambling can be traced as far back as 4,500 ago in Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures (to name a few), starting out as part of pagan rituals.
Back then gambling was also a way to get friends and family together; later, it filtered into day-to-day life with people turning to ‘fate’ to help them make important decisions – think about the way we flip a coin, for example.
Men and women didn’t always have the same gambling rights, though. In Ancient Rome, men were able to gamble in public, while women could only do so on ‘Bona Dea’ – a women’s festival.
It was Emperor Nero who changed things up so that women could participate in various games and sports in public. We’re willing to bet that was before the whole ‘let’s burn Rome’ thing…
The Fabulous (and notorious) Faro Ladies
Who are the Faro Ladies? In the 18th century, when gambling in public was unheard of as far as aristocratic ladies were concerned, a group of women came together to host gambling events in their homes.
The ladies would play ‘faro’, a once-popular card game – that’s where they got their name. The well-known Faro Ladies were Mrs Albinia Hobart (who became Lady Buckinghamshire), Mrs Concannon, Mrs Sturt, Lady Sarah Archer and Lady Elizabeth Luttrell.
Gambling Ladies of the Wild West
Everybody loves a good Western. When you picture a rough, tough saloon, you probably see a pack of scary-looking, tobacco-chewing men with whiskey and guns playing cards around a rickety table.
But don’t forget the fillies! Sure, they were generally outnumbers by the men at the table, but it was totally legal. Awesome names like Poker Alice, Kitty Leroy and Maria Gertrudis ‘Tules’ Barceló are just a few women who cleaned up big-time back then.
Poker Alice (a.k.a. Alice Ivers) gambled her way through the West, forcing one dealer to actually end a game in New Mexico when she broke the bank with her gambling prowess. She carried a revolver, owned her own saloon, and got through three husbands. Brava.
Viva Las Vegas
During World War II, when the majority of men were overseas, women replaced them as workers back home. So naturally, places like Reno and Las Vegas filled up with female gamers and dealers like:
- Shirley Brancucci: the first female baccarat dealer on the Vegas strip
- Claudine Williams: teamed up with another woman to open an after-hours club at aged just 20; the first female to make the Nevada Gaming Hall of Fame
- Judy Bayley: a.k.a The First Lady of Gambling; the first woman to own a major Las Vegas resort
Wonder Women, Poker Pros
In 1977 the world saw the first-ever women’s World Series of Poker (WSOP)! Hurrah! Here are some of the ‘Wonder Women’ of poker:
- Vanessa Selbst: the only woman ever to hit number one in the world on the Global Poker Index (currently the top money winner in women’s WSOP)
- Annie Duke: sports a glittering World Series of Poker gold bracelet from 2004; formerly the leading cash winner in women’s WSOP history (a record now held by Vanessa Selbst)
- Kathy Liebert: won the very first Party Poker Million event in 2002; this was the first poker tournament boasting a huge $1 million prize
- Annette Obrestad: the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet at the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe
- Vanessa Rousso: a.k.a. Lady Maverick; she has been bringing home the bacon as a poker pro ever since 2005
The advent of online gambling changed things for the industry in general and women in particular. Today, the split between male and female players in the online casino world is just shy of 50-50.
However, when it comes to the executive world, unfortunately there still are not as many women as there are men out there. That being said, we can still celebrate a couple of big names in the business:
- Patricia Becker: with over 35 years’ experience in gambling, she is the first woman ever to be inducted as a Counsellor in the International Association of Gaming Advisors, and specialises in compliance and regulatory issues.
- Virginia McDowell: honoured with countless awards, the only female president and CEO of a major gaming operator who worked tirelessly from 2007 until retirement.
Women of the gambling world, we salute you, respect you and quite frankly need more of you. Whether you’re new to gambling or are a seasoned pro in the mood for a few good games, Winning Room, SlotsMillion and LVBet will never disappoint, no matter your gender!