Famous female players of the Wild West
In the smoky saloons of the Wild West card games like Poker or Faro were simply part of it. Many might immediately think of a group of cowboys who gathered with a gloomy face at the gaming table and tried to pull the money out of their opponents’ pockets by clever bluffs. But what many don’t know: In the Wild West, the poker tables of the infamous Deadwood, Fort Griffin and Tombstone saloons were not only the meeting place for male players, but also for many talented female players. We’d like to introduce to you three of them here.
A real poker legend was Alice Ivers, born in 1851. The educated woman from England emigrated to Virginia with her family. At the age of 20 she met her first husband, Frank Duffield, in Colorado. As a good hobby poker player, he taught her how to play the game. When her husband died in an accident, Alice was left on her own. After initially trying to work as a teacher without success, she decided to earn a living with poker. Because Alice was skilled at card counting and usually correctly assessed her chances of winning, she was able to live a comfortable life by playing poker. Next to her elegant clothes, the big cigars she always smoked became her trademark. During her career as a player, she travelled to several cities in South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and more. It was said that "Poker Alice" could earn up to $6,000 in one evening – a huge amount of money at the time. When she eventually became a mother, she didn’t want her children to come into contact with the world of gambling. So she temporarily gave up her successful career and settled in South Dakota with her third husband Warren Tubbs. After becoming a widow again, she continued her career as a player. She also opened her own saloon during the prohibition, which was later closed.
Kitty Leroy was not only a legendary player, but also a saloon owner and a markswoman. Although she only turned 27, she was married five times. Already as a teenager she went to the Wild West to start an exciting and adventurous life. She settled in Dallas and – after a first marriage at the age of 15 – married her second husband at the age of 20. In Dallas she worked as a dealer for the card game "Faro", which was very popular at that time. She also was a talented player. It was not only her art of playing that made her famous, but also the fact that she always preferred to wear men’s clothes. When she got bored in Texas, Kitty finally planned to move to California and leave the Wild West. There she wanted to open a saloon with her second husband. But on the way there, she decided differently. She left her husband and went instead to Deadwood, where also "Poker Alice" stayed for a long time. After working as a prostitute in Deadwood, she successfully opened a saloon and got married again.
Carlotta J. Thompkins, her alleged real name, was also a well-known poker player in the Wild West era. She was born in Kentucky in 1844 and traveled frequently during her youth. Her nickname "Deno" derives from the Spanish word dinero (money). Since her father was a racehorse breeder and also a well-known player, Lottie grew up in wealthy circumstances. It was her father who taught her how to play cards and showed her some of his best tricks. Later, Lottie went to Detroit, Texas. After running out of all her money, she started gambling and traveled the country. In 1865 she lived in San Antonio and played at the University Club. Here she also met her future husband Frank Thurmond, who also was a professional player. Together they travelled through Texas. On her journeys she got several nicknames, including "Angel of San Antonio", "Mystic Maud" and finally "Lottie Deno". In 1877 she and her husband opened their own gambling hall at the Victorio Hotel in Kingston, New Mexico. Later she even became the owner of a restaurant. In Deming, New Mexico Lottie finally settled down and gave up her life as a gambler completely. She died in 1934, at the proud age of 90.
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You still haven’t had enough of famous women in the gambling world? Then we introduce you to Ema Zajmovic in this blog post. Did you know that she was the first woman to win the title on the 2017 World Poker Tour (WPT)? Have fun.