Lottie Deno, otherwise known as ‘Lottie Dinero’ or simply ‘The Poker Queen’ – her real name was believed to be Carlotta Thompkins – was an infamous female gambler in the American Old West. Born in Kentucky in 1844, Deno was introduced to gambling by her father – a wealthy tobacco plantation owner and racehorse breeder – at an early age. By the age of 16 she was already a skilled card player and, two years later, following the death of her father in the American Civil War, was sent to Detroit, Michigan in search of better opportunities.
In Detroit, Deno met Johnny Golden, a jockey who had ridden for her father, and together they worked their trade on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers until 1863, when they went their separate ways with a view to reuniting in San Antonio, Texas at a later date. Reunite they did, but not until six years later, by which time Deno was a house gambler at the University Club and had met Frank Thurmond, whose family owned the establishment.
Thurmond subsequently killed a man during a card game and headed to Fort Griffin, in West Texas, where he was joined by Deno, who became a house gambler at the Bee Hive Saloon. In that capacity, she once reputedly won $3,000 from John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday and, in so doing, provided the inspiration for the fictional character Laura Denbow, played by the ‘Queen of Technicolor’, Rhonda Fleming, in the 1957 film ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’.
Maria 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.