Exploring the Rich History of Women in Gambling

Women have always been a part of the gambling industry, though their roles and representations have varied dramatically throughout history. In this blog, we will dive into the fascinating tales of women in gambling, from ancient civilizations to modern times of today.


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Ancient Civilizations

In ancient Rome, women were only allowed to gamble during the festival of Bona Dea. Things would change a bit when Emperor Nero came to power, and women were allowed to take part in more public activities.


However, as casino table games evolved, statutes regressed, and women were again forbidden from playing in public places. Despite this, many women still continued to play behind closed doors. The most notable example of this is the Faro Ladies, a group of aristocratic women who hosted private, faro card-playing parties in 18th-century England until they were fined and subjected to a smear campaign.


Archeologists recently discovered a cave in Utah that is assumed to be an old Native American ‘casino,’ with evidence indicating that it dates all the way back to the 13th century. According to archeologists, Native Americans partook in gambling activities that involved tossing sticks and predicting if they would land facing up or down. 


This act was believed to be played primarily by women who were gambling to allocate various jobs amongst themselves. Men also participated by placing their bets on the outcomes of the women’s gambling sessions.


The Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, gambling was seen as a sinful activity, and both men and women were prohibited from participating. However, this did not stop women from finding ways to gamble. In fact, many women turned to gamble to make a living by setting up games and betting on the outcome in gambling taverns.


The Renaissance

As gambling became more socially acceptable during the Renaissance period, women began participating more openly in gambling activities. In fact, some of the most well-known gamblers of the time were women, including Madame de Montespan, the official mistress of King Louis XIV of France in 1667. She was notorious for her love of gambling and her impressive skill at card games.


19th Century to Present Time

Gambling has become more mainstream, and women began to play a more prominent role in the industry. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, women were often employed as croupiers or dealers in casinos. They also took on the jobs of card dealers and slot machine attendants.


In spite of this, women were still not allowed to participate in certain games. They were also often paid less than their male counterparts.


It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that the role of women in gambling began to shift. With the rise of online gambling, more and more women began to play prominently. And today, women make up a significant portion of the gambling population and are equally as likely to gamble as men.


Famous Women in Gambling

Despite facing numerous barriers and obstacles, these women have persevered and made a name for themselves as some of the most prominent figures in the world of gambling. From casino owners and operators to professional players and game inventors, here are some of the most prominent women in the gambling world throughout history.


Eleanore Dumont

Eleanore Dumont

Eleanore Dumont, also known as “Madame Moustache,” was a French-born gambling woman who made a name for herself in the American Old West. She was born in 1829 in Paris and later immigrated to the United States in the 1850s, where she began working as a dealer and banker in various gambling establishments. Because of her sophistication and charm, she quickly became a favorite among the wealthy and powerful men of the Old West.


Dumont eventually opened her own gambling house, called “Vingt-et-Un,” in Virginia City, Nevada, in the 1870s. It was a lavish establishment featuring a bar, a restaurant, and several gaming tables. Dumont was the owner and operator of the establishment, and she was known for being very strict with her rules and enforcing them to the letter. Despite her no-nonsense attitude, Dumont was beloved by her clients and was known for her kindness and generosity.


Eleanore Dumont’s gambling house was a success and became a popular destination for the wealthy and powerful of the Old West. However, Dumont eventually fell on hard times and was forced to sell her establishment. She continued to work in the gambling industry, but her fortunes declined, and she died penniless in 1880. Despite her tragic end, Dumont is remembered as a pioneer in the gambling world and an important figure in the history of the American Old West.


Barbara Enright

Barbara Enright

Barbara Enright is a professional poker player and one of the few women to have made a name for herself in the male-dominated world of professional gambling. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1953, she grew up playing cards with her family and soon developed a love for the game that would eventually lead her down the path of professional gambling.


After graduating from college, Enright began working as a professional poker player, traveling from town to town to participate in tournaments and cash games. She quickly made a name for herself as a skilled and formidable opponent, winning numerous tournaments and earning substantial prize money. 


In 1995, Enright made history by becoming the first woman to make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, the biggest and most prestigious poker tournament in the world. She finished in fifth place, earning a prize of $117,320. And in 2005, Enright made history once more by becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.


In addition to her success at the WSOP, Enright has had numerous other victories and high finishes in major poker tournaments worldwide. She has won three WSOP bracelets, including one in the Women’s World Championship, and has earned over $1.8 million in tournament winnings throughout her career. Enright is also known for her work as a poker commentator and has made numerous television appearances on shows such as “Poker After Dark” and “High Stakes Poker.”


Lottie Deno

Lottie Deno

Carlotta Thompkins “Lottie Deno” Thurmond was a famous woman gambler in the American Old West. She was born in 1844 in Indiana and was raised in a wealthy family. As a young woman, Deno became interested in gambling and quickly developed a reputation as a skilled player of various games, including poker and faro.


In the 1870s, Deno began working as a professional gambler, with her beauty and charm adding to her impressive playing skills. She was known for her exceptional memory and her ability to calculate odds, and she was able to consistently win large sums of money from her opponents.


Deno was also known for her generosity and kindness, often using her winnings to help those in need. She was well-respected in the gambling community and was known for her fair play and sportsmanship.  Despite her success as a gambler, Deno’s personal life was tumultuous, and she faced numerous challenges and hardships.


Despite personal difficulties, Deno continued to be a prominent figure in the world of gambling and was respected and admired by her peers. She died in 1934 at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most famous and successful woman gamblers in the history of the American Old West. 


Isabelle Mercier
Isabelle Mercier

Isabelle Mercier

Isabelle Mercier is a well-known woman in the world of professional gambling. She was born in 1972 in Quebec, Canada, and grew up with a love for sports and competition. Mercier attended the University of Ottawa, where she studied political science and law. After graduating, she worked as a lawyer for a few years before turning her attention to professional gambling.


Mercier began playing poker in the late 1990s. In 2002, she won her first major poker tournament, the Ladies’ Event at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), earning over $50,000 in prize money. She has since won numerous other poker tournaments, including the European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Monte Carlo and the PartyPoker.com Million in the Caribbean. In total, Mercier has earned over $1.5 million in prize money throughout her career.


In addition to her success as a poker player, Mercier is also known as a television personality and poker commentator. She has appeared on numerous poker programs and has provided expert analysis for major poker events. Mercier is a highly respected and admired figure in the world of gambling and continues to be active in the industry.


Linda Johnson
Linda Johnson

Linda Johnson

Linda Johnson is a poker player, poker coach, businesswoman, philanthropist, and industry executive who has made significant contributions to the game and the industry. She began her career in poker in the 1970s and, throughout her career, has won numerous tournaments, including three World Series of Poker (WSOP) ladies’ events and the Ladies’ No-Limit Hold’em Championship at the World Poker Tour (WPT) Legends of Poker. In total, Johnson has earned over $1.5 million in prize money.


In addition to her success in the game, Johnson is also known for promoting and protecting poker. She is a co-founder of the Poker Players Association (PPA), an organization dedicated to promoting the game and protecting the rights of poker players. Johnson has been instrumental in advocating for the rights of poker players and working to ensure that the game is played fairly and ethically.


A pioneer of modern poker, Johnson was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011, and to this day, she continues to be active in the industry. She serves on the board of directors of the World Poker Tour, works as a poker coach, and oversees her charity, Poker Gives.


Women in Gambling Throughout History

Throughout history, there have been many prominent women who have made significant contributions to the world of gambling. From Eleanore Dumont and Lottie Deno in the American Old West to Barbara Enright and Victoria Coren Mitchell in the modern era, these women have proven that gender is no barrier to success in the gambling industry. 


And while there is still room for improvement in gender equality in the gambling industry, it is clear that women have made significant progress and will continue to do so in the future.


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