Poker is a man’s sport, right? Well, think again. Although many people connect this sport exclusively with the male population, many women also play poker, both as amateurs and professionals, and they rock it. It is true that the game still interests primarily male players, but there is a growing number of women taking their part in poker. Whether it’s in a Las Vegas casino or as is even more common in the covid age, an online poker table. Women have actually been professionally involved going way further back in the past, much further than you might be thinking. And by that, we mean the 19th century.. We take a look at some famous historical female poker players and throw in a few modern ones to boot.

Mayme Stocker

Mayme Stocker, along with her husband, moved to Las Vegas in 1911, chasing the railroad industry. What they didn’t expect is for the now famous desert town to become home. Whilst the husband worked on the railways and did a bit of whiskey running during the Prohibition era, Mayme opened a soda shop named “Northern Club.” They sold food and drinks of course, but it quickly became known as a gambling spot. Only five-card games were legal in Vegas at the time, think classics like bridge, stud, 500, draw, and lowball poker. All of these games were allowed to be played at the Northern Club. In 1931 we saw huge changes and gambling was legalized in Nevada. You guessed it, Mayme applied for a gambling license, and incredibly, she happened to be the first, male or female, to receive a gambling license in the desert town. It is pretty unbelievable to know that Mayme Stocker built the gambling foundations on which today lie the countless mega-casinos of Sin City.

“Poker Alice” Ivers

Her nickname is well-deserved, as she was a very skilled poker player over the course of her lifetime. Originally from Devonshire, England, Alice moved in 1863 with her family to the U.S. By 1880, she was in Colorado, where she got married one year later. She became interested in the game as her husband Frank was a poker player. After the passing of her husband, Alice decided she would go all in and use the talents she had picked up along the way, becoming a full-time player. She dealt cards and won games all over the country, and at one point, she owned her own gambling den. In her old age, Alice continued living her filmlike life; she was married two more times but was jailed after shooting a man in self-defense and suffered attacks on her saloons. But even with all this happening, she kept playing and dominating poker games and smoking cigars until she died in 1930.

Barbara Enright

Barbara Enright is considered one of the greatest female poker players in a more recent era. At a young age she had already had a special talent for poker. In her twenties, while working several jobs, Barbara was playing the game for fun. The fun turned serious as she was making more money from poker than all of her three other jobs combined, so she decided to devote herself to playing it full-time and was a start of a great career. In 1995, she managed to get to the World Series of Poker’s final table, the only woman to do so. Unfortunately, she didn’t win but came an impressive 5th. She persevered, reaching poker summits with performance after performance, winning three WSOP bracelets and an open event at the WSOP. Barbara was the first female player admitted to the World Series of Poker Hall of Fame. Her list of achievements includes being the only poker player in three Hall of Fames: WSOP hall of fame, the Senior Poker Hall of Fame, and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. Not bad eh? Keep in mind, her career is still going strong.

Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa’s poker story started in her college days at Yale University during the mid-2000s. She played in small-stakes home games and online casinos. However, thanks to her natural talent for the game, she decided to try poker as a profession, even though she graduated from college and had a great job. That proved to be a great decision since, already in 2006, she reached the final table of a WSOP event. Her first big win came in 2010 at NAPT Main Event for an impressive $750,000. Her poker career’s biggest success was at the 2010 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event, held in Cannes. By winning this tournament, she added more than $1.8 million to her net worth. Vanessa’s second-largest win came in 2013 when she won the PCA High Roller Event, with added $1.4 million more. She has reached enormous popularity not just because of her immense poker results but also for an image of a bold and even reckless player, not afraid of anyone on the other side of the table. In 2018, she announced that she decided to retire from poker and give something new a try.

Vanessa Selbst

flipchip •, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons