Women of Gambling

Maria Gertrudis Barcelo

Maria-Gertrudis-Barcelo-300x171Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, otherwise known as ‘Doña Tules’, ‘Madame La Tules’ or simply ‘La Tules’, was one of the most infamous women in the history of New Mexico. Born in the Mexican state of Sonora in 1800, Barcelo moved north to the village of Tome in what is now New Mexico, but at the time was part of Mexico, with her family in 1821. She married late, by traditional standards, at the age of 23; two years later, in 1825, she and her husband, Manuel Antonio Sisneros, established a gambling operation at a mining camp in the Ortiz Mountains, near Santa Fe.

A decade or so later, Barcelo bought a lavish gambling hall and saloon on Burro Alley in Santa Fe, aptly named Barcelo Palace, which soon became a favourite with the fashionable society of the regional capital of Nuevo Mejico. No mean gambler herself, Barcelo was particularly skilled at Monte – a card game played with the traditional Baraja española or ‘Spanish deck’ – and reputedly made vast sums of money from her clientele. During the Mexican-American War, from 1846 to 1848, U.S. forces occupied Santa Fe and, paradoxically, while acknowledging Barcelo for her influence on the local population and even accepting her offers of financial support, treated her with a level of contempt.

Jennifer Tilly

jennifer-tillyBorn Jennifer Ellen Chan, Academy Award-nominated actress and voice actress Jennifer Tilly is probably best known as the murderous doll Tiffany Valentine Ray, a.k.a. ‘The Bride of Chucky’, in the ‘Child’s Play’ franchise and as the voice of Bonnie Swanson in ‘Family Guy’.

However, Tilly has the distinction of the being the first ‘celebrity’ player to win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event, collecting $158,335 in prize money and a WSOP bracelet for beating 600 opponents in the $1,000 Ladies Only Event – No Limit Hold’em at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in June, 2005. In September, 2005, she also collected $25,000 for winning World Poker Tour (WPT) Ladies Night No Limit Hold’em – an invitational event with just six invitees – at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.

Despite stating that, at one point, she was more interested in poker than acting, Tilly announced her retirement from poker, as a career, in 2008, saying that she intended to treat the game ‘more like a hobby’. Nevertheless, Tilly has total live earnings in excess of $1 million and continues to play, albeit more sporadically than was once the case, in the WSOP and elsewhere on the poker circuit. Tilly has been in a relationship with professional poker player Phil ‘The Unabomber’ Laak since 2004.

Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa-SelbstBrooklyn-born Vanessa Selbst is a former full-time professional poker player who officially ‘retired’, after a 12-year career, at the end of 2017 and embarked upon a new career as a hedge fund trader with investment management firm Bridgewater Associates.On New Year’s Eve, 2017, Selbst tweeted that she was ‘parting ways with PokerStars and moving on from poker in general’, but subsequently played in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event – from which she made an early exit – in 2018, much to the consternation of some detractors within the poker community.

Nevertheless, Selbst remains the most successful female poker player of all time, with three WSOP bracelets and $11.85 million, in live earnings alone, to her name. She also has the distinction of being the only female player to be ranked number one on the Global Poker Index. She is, far and away, the top female poker player according to the all-time money list, over $5.5 million ahead of her nearest pursuer, Kathy ‘Pokerkat’ Liebert. Despite failing to cash, at all, in 2018 and tournament winnings of just $8,231 in 2017, Selbst still ranks 62nd on the all-time money list.

Kathy Liebert

kathy-liebert-300x200Kathleen ‘Kathy’ Liebert, also known online as ‘PokerKat’, was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1967. A graduate from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Liebert pursued a career as a Wall Street business analyst before starting to play $5 limit poker in Colorado in 1991. She was subsequently asked to ‘prop’ – that is, play poker for an hourly wage, but using her own bankroll – for a local casino, but it was another eighteen months or so before she headed to Las Vegas to play in a poker tournament.

Successful at low buy-in tournaments, but careful to play within her means, Liebert gradually worked her way up through the ranks. She recorded her first tournament win in a $200 + 30 Omaha Hi/Lo event at the LA Poker Open II at Normandie Casino, Gardena in 1994, but in two-and-a-half decades since has become one of the best poker players, of either sex, in the world. In 2002, she became the first women to win $1 million in a single event, when winning the $8,000 Limit Hold’em on the inaugural Party Poker Million Cruise. In 2004, she won her one and only World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet in the

$1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout at Binion’s, Las Vegas. At the last count, Liebert had total live earnings in excess of $6.3 million.

Victoria Coren Mitchell

victoria-coren-mitchellHammersmith-born Victoria Coren Mitchell is a journalist, broadcaster and professional poker play. Although probably best known to British audiences as the host of the BBC television quiz show ‘Only Connect’, she also has the distinction of being the first woman to win a European Poker Tour (EPT) event and the first player, of either sex, to win more than one EPT Main Event. Her first EPT win, worth £500,000, came in the EPT Main Event at The Poker Room, London in 2006 and her history-making second win, worth €476,100, came in the EPT Main Event at Casino Sanremo, Sanremo in 2014.

Formerly a member of Team PokerStars Pro – although she left in 2014, following the introduction of casino games on PokerStars.com – has total live earnings of over $2.47 million. However, since the end of 2014, she has just one tournament cash, of just $7,580, to her name. In April, 2018, after her first poker tournament for nearly a year, Coren Mitchell initially tweeted that the newly-introduced shot clock ‘bends too much to the impatience of the iPhone generation’, but later tweeted, ‘I take it all back. Get on with it already!’ Tournament poker aside, Coren Mitchell also plays poker recreationally and is a regular at the Victoria Casino on Edgware Road, London.