Annie Duke

annie-dukeNew Hampshire-born Anne ‘Annie’ Duke, née Lederer, is a former professional poker player who has more recently found fame as an author, consultant and public speaker. Nonetheless, she holds a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet for winning an Omaha Hi-Lo Split event in May, 2004 and also cashed for $2 million when winning the WSOP

Tournament of Champions – for which no bracelet was presented – in September the same year. The latter event, which accounts for nearly half of her $4.27 million total live earnings, was an invitation-only freeroll, with just ten invitees.

Under the auspices of her brother, Howard, Duke started to play poker seriously at the Crystal Lounge in Billings, Montana from 1992 onwards and, having made a promising start, progressed to WSOP events in Las Vegas in 1944. She cashed in three events, including the Main Event, or World Championship, collecting in excess of $50,000 in prize money and subsequently moved to the ‘City of Lights’ to pursue her poker career.

Duke is also remembered for her association with Ultimate Bet, the Costa Rica-based online poker site that cheated players out of tens of millions of dollars from 2004 pnwards, and Epic Poker League, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, 2011, after running just three poker tournaments, with debts of over $5 million. Consequently, she remains persona non grata in the eyes of many in the poker community.

Claudine Williams

claudine-williamsThe late Claudine Williams, who died in 2009 at the age of 88, was the first woman to run a casino on the Las Vegas Strip and the first woman to be inducted into the Nevada Gaming Hall of Fame. Born near the town of Mansfield in Desoto Parish in rural Louisiana, Williams later moved to Houston, where she met her future husband, Texan entrepreneur Shelby Williams. Together, they bought the Silver Slipper Casino in Las Vegas, which they sold, at a profit, to billionaire Howard Hughes for $5.4 million in 1968.

With the proceeds of the sale, the Williams embarked upon their next venture, building the Holiday Casino, adjacent to the Holiday Inn, on the opposite side of the Strip from Caesars Palace. Shelby Williams died in 1977, at which point Claudine Williams became president and general manager of the Holiday Casino, making her the first woman in Nevada to do so. Williams operated the Holiday Casino until 1983, when she sold her remaining share to Harrah’s and the property was renamed Harrah’s Las Vegas. Nevertheless, she was appointed chairperson of the resort, maintaining an office and acting in an advisory capacity to company executives, for many years afterwards.