Woman poker player with cigar and whisky

Women gamblers ahead of their times

Noticing a lady at a poker table today is not weird at all. However, it was not so all the time, especially not in the 19th century. As much as doing the housework or bringing up the children were activities attributed to women so was gambling associated with men. Once in a blue moon some women appeared at the poker tables and caused consternation, but as it usually is novelty wore off eventually, and the ladies became indispensable elements of some casinos.

It is also worth noting that all this happened in an era in the US that determined the lives of thousands. California Gold Rush is the magic name that drew gullible families from all over the world who believed to become rich in no time. Many of them had to realize that all that glitters is not gold but then it was too late to return to their homelands and somehow they had to make ends meet. Families broke up, women were left alone with children and they had to be brave and bold enough to tap to an area mostly dominated by men in order to make enough money to raise their children. The most prominent and luckiest lady gamblers of the 1850s are the following ones:

Alice Ivers
The British lady got in touch with poker when her first husband got her interested in the game. The husband died but her passion for poker remained and she did earn some fame for herself by winning money in Silver City, New Mexico and she also worked as a blackjack dealer at a saloon in Crede, Colorado. She is said to have been the only woman dealer in Colorado and it is also rumoured that she made about a thousand dollars a night.

Dona Maria Gertrudes Barcelo
She moved to Santa Fe from Mexico as a single mother with two children. Maria started to play the locals’ favourite game monte (marney) and she became quite popular in the gambling house. Her beauty and charm made her the most well-known gambler of her time and she is said to have been the richest and the most influential woman in Santa Fe at the beginning of the 1800s.

Lottie Deno
She was the most famous woman gambler of the American West, the Poker Queen. The character from the long running American show Gunsmoke Miss Kitty Russel was based on her. She met her husband while gambling and they operated a gambling room together in New Mexico for a couple of years. When they gave up the business, her husband became the vice president of Deming National Bank.

Eleanor Dumont
Madame Moustache, as she is better known, was a blackjack dealer originating from France. In the 1850s she opened a gambling parlour named ‘Vingt-et-un” mainly for miners in Nevada. Due to a marriage with a con man she lost everything she had. Eleanor managed to get a grip on herself but due to a misjudged play she became so depressed that overdosed morphine deliberately and was found dead. Eleanor was inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame in 2006.

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