The Evolution of Women in Gambling: Now and Then

December 27th, 2018
Back The Evolution of Women in Gambling: Now and Then

As I am sitting at a poker table waiting for the hand to be dealt and taking a sip of whiskey on the rocks, I lift my eyes from the green surface of the table and the skilled fingers of a dealer who is shuffling the cards with precision of a surgeon who is in the middle of a complicated procedure...

In the distance…

… through the smoke curtain from my cigarette, I catch a glimpse of a gorgeous blond woman at one of the neighboring poker tables, carefully looking at the cards in her hands. She placed her bets and after she had won the round (it was not a big win), EXCITEMENT changed her countenance from the attempted poker face to a smile stretching from one ear to another, with tears of joy running down her cheeks.

As I am looking around I see women playing all kinds of different games – poker, roulette, craps, slots, you name it and they are there – committed, winning, losing, having fun. All of that made me wonder…

Has it ALWAYS been like that?

Did women have the same passion for gambling 100 years ago, 200 years ago? Were they even allowed to place bets in a world where men dominate? Have women influenced the industry in a truly quantifiable way?

Memory Lane

The history of gambling is a long one, spanning for thousands of years! Games of chance and skill existed in ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, India. Greece and many others. Such activities were deemed as FUN and people enjoyed them no matter what their status, gender or age was, but I will refer to interesting parts only:

THE PARTS where ladies had star roles!

Glorious Rome

Even though we cannot pinpoint the exact moment when the first woman gambled and her personality remains under the veil of mystery and it shall never be discovered…

…it is fair to say that Roman culture can give us an insight into the role women had, both in social life and in the gambling milieu of the time.

Bona Dea was a festival devoted to women only. On that day, they had the chance to do something men were doing both in public and in the privacy of their home whole year round. They could play games of chance but just because they were not completely shut down when it comes to betting, it doesn’t mean they had the same rights as men…

because they DIDN’T.

Under the rule of Emperor Nero, things would change for the better! Women could engage in various public games and even sports.

Wild Wild West

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…

the Westward Expansion could be analyzed for months. It was a bloody business and the cities established on the outskirts of the country usually had troubles with law and order, with a lot of criminal activities going on all over the remote lands.

As desperate times call for desperate measures, WILD times in the Wild West called for wild women. Now, I may have gone out on a limb here, but this isn’t far from the truth.

Plenty of courageous women, or ill-behaved depending on the standpoint you take, became expert players. Although they had a notorious reputation as women, their names as gamblers were heard throughout the country. Even men stood in awe of these ladies who broke out of the constraints of American exceptionalism.

Maria Gertrudis “Tules” Bracelo also known as “Queen of Sin”, Charlotta J. Thompkins or Lottie Deno and Kitty Leroy should be remembered as one of the GREATEST female contributors to gambling, and games which were thought to be designed for men. Their destinies are long and complicated and I could go on for hours writing about them but there’s still so much to say.

Traditional Values and Modern Times

It took a long time for men and women to become EQUAL in a casino. Although females did gamble and gamble a lot, they usually hid their activities from family and some friends as such a lifestyle was not appropriate for a lady.

Even so, we cannot simply overlook the influence women had in gambling. They used to engage in such practices more often than we are led to believe today, which made it easier for a modern woman to gamble freely without being frowned upon!

LUCKILY, society has evolved. Nowadays, in a large number of states, gambling is perceived as a form of entertainment that is available to both boys and gals equally. Women can now order a drink and engage in playing their favorite game in a casino or via the internet.

“Sir? Sir? Excuse me, Sir?” …

I hear a dim voice somewhere in the distance and I snap BACK to reality. The dealer said it for the third time that it was my turn to make a move. I apologized for daydreaming and being absent minded and I call. I started this round with two Queens. And queens indeed they are!

Women and Their Gambling Habits

So many questions still remain without answers. I strongly believe that women and men have different chipsets but could they want different things in life just because they are of a different gender? I’ve been thinking a lot about woman gamblers and I know WHY I GAMBLE, but…

…why do THEY do it?

One would suppose that money is the main reason. Perhaps it is, but I’m sure there’s more to that than meets the eye. It’s that thrill, the excitement, the unpredictable- the whole universe of emotions and passion inside the games that attracts all of us. It’s how men see things and I see no reason why ladies would be any different.

Same Motifs, Opposite Reactions

Now, the smile and tears of joy of that dazzling missus… that’s so lady-like! I mean, don’t get me wrong, you rarely see a guy react like that, but ladies… perhaps they tend to be more emotional. Winning or losing, they wouldn’t express their feelings as INTENSIVELY as gentlemen would! You can feel the thrill of winning, the disappointment that goes along with losing, but it’s not as if they are gonna smash things around…

…at least, the majority of them will not. Exceptions will always exist!

Ladies stay ladies, no matter what happens!

Now is a good time to mention loyalty. Laugh as much as you can, but this is also an inevitable part. When you put loyalty and casino in one place, what you get is a woman sticking to one or two venues. By venues, I both mean swap brick-and-mortar and digital ones.

When you are satisfied with all the conditions a place offers, there are no reasons to change it. Of course, until a better one, with more attractive offers and conditions pops up. And they always do!

Online and Land-Based – What Do the Females Prefer?

There used to be a time when seeing a lady in a casino was shocking. Luckily, it’s not anymore! You will always find some old-fashioned people who don’t see past their noses, who do nothing but keep on judging. But, I have always hated all those prejudices.

There’s nothing ladies should be ashamed of when stepping inside a casino. Women and men have equal rights to enjoy, it’s up to them to decide how. As long as someone knows how to behave, and ladies mostly do. But is it possible that they prefer to stay home and explore the gambling options online?


Surely that great big online world has a very important role, as it gives more possibilities. Some people see it as a good...

...while the others see nothing but disadvantages.

Perhaps ladies prefer enjoying games from the comfort of their own homes, as they may not still be so sure whether the society will judge them. But that’s NOT the only reason. Neither is the first one.

An online universe offers a wider spectrum of games to choose between and some interesting options which are not available in land-based venues. And women love to play a round or two as they are doing something else at home. They have always kicked men’s behind in multitasking, don’t you think so?

The answer to the question – it is individual. Some women prefer to get in the heart of the action, while the others hope to get a jackpot with a click of a mouse.

Favorite Games

Speaking of choices, seeing a woman at a poker table is not so uncommon, but poker is actually not always the first game ladies would pick. One-armed bandit is what they love the most. Particularly the digital option. The colorful symbols, exciting gameplay, the quick pace, and twists, altogether is instant fun.

Bingo, an evergreen game, simple yet entertaining is the second most common choice.

So, what do bingo and slots have in common, you may wonder? They are both games of luck, and that’s what ladies like. They like to try luck with games of luck (teehee!) because they like the unpredictability.

Queens More Powerful Than Kings and Aces

In the last couple of decades, especially with the appearance of the Internet and the smart technologies, and therefore, iGambling market is globalized.

The differences between women and men are still visible and despite being programmed differently, both genders have the SAME chances of entering the gambling industry and become successful in the niche they find satisfying.

The fact that there are more males in this field is because they are generally more interested in gambling. But this doesn’t affect women who want to either become professional players and compete in tournaments or enter the industry. Perhaps not through the glorious front door immediately, but it’s changing!

There are plenty of examples of women who are successful executives, CEOs, managers, croupiers, and the list goes on. Women working in top-of-the-ladder positions have a say in which direction the industry is moving. One of the women I would like to mention is:

QUEEN in Business: Denise Coates

For Denise, it all started a long time ago, while she was still at school. Her father, Peter Coates owned a bookmaking firm „Provincial Racing“, and she used to work there as a cashier. Just to make a small note here, her father is a Stoke City F.C. chairman and a Bet365 director.

The next step was becoming an accountant, right after she left the University of Sheffield. Continuing the career in a positive manner, Denise was assigned a small chain of shops.

In 1995, after mortgaging the family-run business to a neighboring chain, she and her brother became managing directors of a risky betting start-up in a virtual world.

Did you know?

Recognizing the rising success of the online gambling business, she bought the domain and the website saw the light of the day in 2001. She is a co-CEO of the company, along with her brother John. The rest is pretty much clear, as Bet365 is not only among the pioneers but also a giant in that highly competitive industry.

Now, you have Denise Coates as the world’s TOP-PAID female executive, married to Richard Smith, director at Stoke City F.C. Moreover, she has five children. The reason I point this detail out is to show that a lady can be equally successful both as a family and as a business person.

Net Worth

And her salary...well, I can use an unusual comparison to describe you this mouth-watering sum of money. If you were to take £50 notes and start stacking them up- you would have to make a tower twice as high as the London’s Shard Skyscraper. That’s HOW MUCH this amazing woman earns! She has been in the center of public’s attention for raising her salary to those unimaginable heights.

But, let me ask you something...

...why the heck would anyone complain about Denise’s pay ticket?

It’s not something that affects me or you directly. When someone tried hard and works diligently, there are no reasons he or she shouldn't have a satisfactory salary in the name of that. What I am trying to say is that this ISN’T a competition between men and women.

Coates is highly professional in her field. Had she chosen any other industry, she would have achieved magnificent results as well. Instead, she decided to climb the career ladder in the gambling world...

...and showed that she is capable, contributing to her company and the others involved directly or indirectly.

On the other hand…

… there are those who prefer to be in the center of the action. The business side is tough as it is, but it is a completely different universe when you are a player, competing, going to tournaments around the world, spending your time developing strategies.

Here, it is all about gambling in the true sense of the word. Such persons adore the excitement that games provide, they bathe in it and the one particular I am talking about is…

Poker Star: Vanessa Selbst

Do you remember the ladies who lived in the Wild West that I mentioned earlier? Well, you can consider Vanessa Selbst as a modern version of those women minus all the negativities that surround them.

By every standard, Vanessa Selbst is the MOST successful female player of all time. She is the only woman who managed to finish first in the world on the Global Poker Index and that alone gives her the right to be considered Poker Queen. Besides winning three World Series of Poker bracelets…

…this brilliant woman managed to collect close to $12 million in live poker tournament earnings!

And what makes her even more admirable is that fact that she was able to win two North American Poker Tour Main Event titles consecutively, making her the only player ever to record such an achievement.


Her card-playing career spanned for 12 dynamic years, but she decided to call it quits earlier in 2018. Instead of poker games, she ventured into hedge fund trading. As she is at the crossroads of her career, we cannot stop to admire what this woman has done for the gambling world and especially for poker games.

We have watched Vanessa making some brilliant moves as she was sitting at the poker table, but she has also made mistakes, just like any other poker player. It is all a part of the game.

Private Life

In case you believe that Vanessa Selbst has conquered the poker world by chance - you are WRONG! She has been quite successful in other fields as well. Raised and born in Brooklyn, Selbst attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for one year…

…and then she decided to transfer to Yale University, eventually obtaining a degree in political science.

Then, she got a scholarship and spent one year in Spain only to return to Yale and get the law degree in 2012. Vanessa Selbst was a coach and executive producer for DeucesCracked, an online poker training site.

There’s more to it:

On a personal plan, she is married and lives in New York City with her partner. Just like is the case with my prior selection – Denise Coats – it is essential to pinpoint the fact that both women succeeded in just as important aspect of life. They both managed to find the balance between career and family, which is something a few people do no matter the industry.

In a Nutshell

It has been a LONG road. Both for me and for the ladies in gambling, but nevertheless, everyone can learn a lesson from here.

Ladies play games because they want to have fun, they want to feel the excitement. As you can see, some of them even made a decent profession from out of that. Not only as gamblers but as important names in the industry. Some of them got significant AWARDS for outstanding contributions in various positions in companies.

Not all of them wish to be famous, though. Most of the women (just like men) simply enjoy a large variety of games in their free time. They may score some huge wins or not – it doesn’t really matter. They have no aspiration of building their careers in either land-based or online gambling. The most important thing is that…

…women should have a say!

They should have a say regarding both the issues and the positives the industry has to offer. They have elbowed their way through the ages to be in positions they are in today. And they will continue to fight in order to secure even better status in gambling.

After all, they are a valuable part of the industry – as consumers, creators, game-makers, business associates…

ONE thing matters.

Women gamble. They gambled in the past. They will continue to do so in the future.

“will continue to fight in order to secure even better status in gambling”

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