Think of a casino and you no doubt think of James Bond, looking sharp in his tuxedo, swaggering in to play some poker or baccarat. Perhaps you also think of films like the Hangover; three groomsmen careening around Las Vegas after a wild stag party.
For many years, casinos seemed to be a place where women would simply float around in elegant evening wear as their male partners gambled. However, the times have changed and more and more women are joining the men at the tables to seek the thrills for themselves.
Ladies of Legend
Women have been indulging in various casino games longer than you may think. One of the most famous in gambling history was the notorious Poker Alice. Alice Ivers was introduced to the game by her first husband, Frank Duffield. After he was killed in a mining accident, she turned to the poker tables to support herself and could earn as much as $6,000 on a good night – not bad money if you can get it!
In her later years, she ran her own poker house and saloon. It’s thought that she earned about $250,000 playing poker, an amount that would be worth about three million dollars today, suffice to say she had a formidable poker face.
World Series of Poker’s Ladies Event
Ever since 1977, the World Series of Poker has run a special Ladies only competition to help more women become interested in the game. The idea was that it would create a non-threatening environment where women would feel welcome instead of the disdain they were often met with when they tried to join a table otherwise occupied by men. Nowadays women are turning up in their droves to ‘buy in’ at the tables giving a healthy gender mix to the game.
Internet Boom and Beyond
The eruption of online poker finally allowed women a chance to play alongside men in an unbiased setting. A gender-neutral username would prevent any judgement and would allow a new player to jump into a game with little harassment from the other players. Research even showed that the gender split was about 50/50 in the online games, an astonishing and welcome sign that time has had on this game.
More and more women began to appear at the physical casinos both in dealer and player capacity. Barbara Enright was the first woman to make it to the final table of a World Series of Poker competition in 1995. She won 5th place in the event and in 2007 was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Annette Obrestad was the first person to win The World Series of Poker Europe, a two million dollar win which is the largest a female player has ever walked away with, as well as the youngest person ever to grab a WSOP Bracelet. The TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell is the only person to win the European Poker Tour twice, with wins in 2006 and 2014.
It’s clear, women have most definitely fought to change the perception of casino games being a mans thing and where poker is concerned, it seems that women are to be seen as some of the most fierce opponents.