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Posted on 8th May 2024

TOP 10 Famous Female Gamblers

From true poker titans to highly influential industry figures, this blog tells the exciting stories of the 10 best females in the gambling world of all time.

Table of contents

  • Vanessa Selbst
  • Annie Duke
  • Claudine Williams
  • Carlotta “Lottie Deno” Thompkins
  • Poker Alice
  • Kathy Liebert
  • Victoria Coren Mitchell
  • Annette Obrestad
  • Kristen Bicknell
  • Jennifer Harman

When it comes to gambling, what’s the first image that commonly springs to mind? Most will undoubtedly think of sharp-suited men, cigars in hand, strategizing at card tables. And that’s no surprise because the world of high stakes has long been surrounded by such figures.

However, that’s only one side of the coin. History boasts plenty of examples, breaking down the stereotype of gambling being only a male thing to do.

Here, we’ll share with you a few bright ones. Get ready to meet some of the most famous female gamblers, as we’re diving right into their fascinating, inspiring stories!

No. 1: Vanessa Selbst

Vanessa Selbst

This brilliant mind isn’t just a name in poker circles; she’s a legend. Selbst studied political science at two universities and was considered to have had a nice career in law. But underground poker clubs and online tournaments have changed the course of things.

Upon joining her first-ever WSOP in 2006, she shined in 7th place with a $101,285 reward. Despite that, this Brooklyn native still didn’t take poker seriously and started working at a consulting firm. However, shortly after, she realized that playing cards offers a far more thrilling way to make a living:

I was working 70 hours a week for $50K. And I knew I could play poker 15 to 20 hours a week and make three times that.
Vanessa Selbst


For many, Vanessa seemed the complete nightmare opponent at the table: she played relentlessly aggressively and made crazy big bluffs and improbable raises. The biggest payday of her career was a whopping $1.8 million secured at the 2010 Partouche Poker Tour.

Although she stepped away from poker in 2018, many impressive achievements will keep Selbst remembered as one of the most celebrated female gamblers:

  • The only woman to ever rank #1 on the Global Poker Index.
  • Over $11.8 million in live tournament earnings.
  • 3 WSOP bracelets with a total prize of almost $1.4 million.
  • The only player to win 2 consecutive NAPT Main Events (2010 and 2011).

No. 2: Annie Duke, the Duchess of Poker

Annie Duke 2007


Annie Duke, aka the Duchess of Poker, was originally building a career in psychology and gambling just for fun. That was her brother, Howard Lederer, a well-known poker star, who encouraged her to play professionally. He guided her in honing her skills, and that led her to the WSOP in 1994.

One of Annie’s outstanding performances was when she placed 10th at the 2000 WSOP… being 9 months pregnant! Other career highlights of this American player include:


  • 2004 WSOP gold bracelet with a $137,860 prize.
  • Beat her brother and 9 former winners in the inaugural WSOP Tournament of Champions.
  • The only woman gambler ever to succeed at the 2010 National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
  • Over $4 million wins in live tournaments alone.

Annie Duke’s story is one of talent, great practice, and a little bit of luck. She’s now retired from poker and has devoted herself to writing. In one of her books, she stated what reflects her approach to both the game and life:

Improving decision quality is about increasing our chances of good outcomes, not guaranteeing them.
The Duchess of Poker


No. 3: Claudine Williams

Claudine wasn’t that typical gambler. In fact, she wasn’t much of a gambler at all. But she’s on our list because this remarkable lady showed that women can shine in the casino industry just as well as men — but did this in her own unique way.

Born in 1921, Claudine stepped on the gambling scene at a pretty young age. By 21, she already owned a whole gambling club in Texas. A really great feat for a female at that time, isn’t it? But her ambitions didn’t stop there. After the move to Las Vegas, she and her husband Shelby bought and ran the Silver Slipper Casino. Soon a big change happened: they sold it and opened a brand-new, awesome gambling hub — Holiday Casino, today widely known as Harrah’s Hotel and Casino.

When her spouse passed away, Claudine didn’t give up — she became the first-ever woman to operate a major casino entirely. This lady, with her tenacity and intellect, proved that women can rule the tables, even without picking up a deck of cards! Later on, she was the first female to be included in the Nevada Gaming Hall of Fame.

No. 4: Carlotta “Lottie Deno” Thompkins

Our top of famous women gamblers would be unfairly incomplete without this person. History keeps her real name under wraps, but she’s presumably Carlotta J. Thompkins — a brilliant lady who was very courageous to make a name for herself in gambling in 1865-1880 and open doors for all women in this industry.

Carlotta mastered poker with her father, a prominent gambler. Her mother wished her married, but she got on a more exciting path — travelled along the Mississippi River and enjoyed poker thrills on riverboats.

As she moved from place to place, she kept improving her skills and picked up many nicknames, such as Angel of San Antonio, Mystic Maud, and Queen of the Pasteboards. But that was Lottie Deno that stuck best — under it, she’s still recognized as the first Old West card queen.

No. 5: Poker Alice

If a single quote could describe the career of another well-known female gambler from the 19th-century Wild West, it would be this:

Praise the Lord and place your bets. I’ll take your money with no regrets.
Poker Alice


British-born but raised in the US, Alice Ivers managed to learn poker thanks to visiting diverse gambling parlours with her spouse, an avid gambler. But life dealt her a bad hand, and her husband passed away in an accident. Struggling to make ends meet, she dived into poker. From that point on, the story of Poker Alice began.

Ivers claimed to earn $250,000 (now worth $3 million) on poker games. Many would say this lady was blowing her wins on the newest dresses from New York. However, that was the secret tool she combined with a smart playstyle to keep her male opponents off balance.

Despite being described as a petite beauty, Alice was a tough girl — always with a .38 revolver and often a cigar between her lips. One more interesting detail — she strongly kept to the value of not gambling on Sundays.

No. 6: Kathy Liebert

Liebert’s journey started predictably — with a business & finance degree and a steady job. She, however, quickly realized that poker is a much more fulfilling thing. Kathy first practiced as a prop player, later switched to tournaments, and soon came out as a champion at the first 2002 Party Poker Million. This made her the 1st woman in poker ever to grab a $1 million prize.

It’s pretty hard to miss this lady at the tables — she always wears purple and pink clothes and accessories. Speaking of her gambling career, it’s nothing short of remarkable. Her multiple successes strengthen her status as a respected American gambler:

  • 6 WPT final tables.
  • 2004 WSOP gold bracelet with a $110,180 prize.
  • 3rd place at the 2008 WSOP with $306,064.
  • 2nd place in the longest final WPT table at the 2009 Shooting Stars tournament.
  • Won the series 2005 Poker Royale: Battle of the Sexes.
  • A 2010 member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.

No. 7: Victoria Coren Mitchell

That’s a true original from the gambling world. Why so? This charming lady from the UK excellently blends being a talented writer, a captivating BBC presenter, and an unbeatable strategist at the poker table. To be precise about the last, Victoria is one of the best-earning female poker players ever, with total live tournament wins going above $2.5 million.

Her gambling resume is just as incredible as her personality:

  • The 1st female to win at the 2006 EPT London with £500,000.
  • 2nd place in the IFP’s 1st World Championship with $100,000.
  • Won the 2014 EPT Sanremo with €476,100.
  • The 1st player to have 2 EPT titles.
  • A 2016 member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame.

By the way, Victoria’s never afraid to show her unconventional side, saying that she gets up too early just for:

Smoking and drinking and gambling. But I like cooking and gardening too, which makes me sound like a very strange mix of an old lady and teenage boy.
Coren Mitchell


No. 8: Annette Obrestad

Annette Obrestad1 EPT

Without a doubt, Annette is one of the most renowned Norwegian poker players. She now holds 3rd place in the Norway all-time money list. Considering the age she managed to get there — that’s a wow!

Having cashed at only 4 live poker tournaments, this girl surprisingly but confidently entered the inaugural WSOP Europe in 2007, just the day before her 19th birthday… and succeeded! She grabbed a £1 million win, beating the 2004 record of the Duchess of Poker.

Annette’s style is aggressive; she’s good at anticipating competitors’ moves and prefers to hide her facial expressions under sunglasses when playing. Here’s what makes Obrestad famous in professional poker circles:


  • The youngest-ever gambling woman to get the WSOPE gold bracelet.
  • 2nd place at the 2007 EPT Dublin with €297,800.
  • Almost $4 million in total wins from live tournaments.

No. 9: Kristen Foxen (Bicknell)

Kristen Bicknell 2020

A college student with a passion for poker — that’s exactly how Kristen’s story began. What were simply online gambling sessions swiftly became a top-level game. The Canadian rightfully calls herself Ultimate Grinder — between 2011 and 2013, her volume of hands played was approximately 7.5 million in total. That’s some serious dedication!

This lady is married to Alex Foxen, a recognizable poker star, and this poker couple appears to be arguably the most talented one ever! Kristen herself has a strong focus, resilience, and strategic mind that have paid off multiple times. Some of the most brilliant moments of her poker career are:

  • The GPI Female Player of the Year four times.
  • 4 WSOP bracelets with wins totaling $913,243.
  • Won the 2017 WPT Five Diamond Series at Bellagio, collecting $199,840.
  • Cashed 9 times in the online Super High Roller Bowl.
  • Lifetime live tournament earnings have passed the staggering $7 million mark.

No. 10: Jennifer Harman

Harman perfectly closes our rundown of famous female gamblers — she’s quite a unique lady on the poker scene! This Nevada native battled her way into this competitive environment mostly through high-stakes cash games, her true calling. Despite that, her lifetime live tournament wins are close to the $3 million mark. What speaks best about her poker talent are her career achievements:

  • The only regular female player in the “Big Game” at Bobby’s Room.
  • 2 WSOP bracelets with $358,690 in total wins.
  • 2nd place at the WSOP Circuit Championship at the Rio.
  • 4th place at the WPT Five-Diamond World Poker Classic.
  • The Poker Hall of Fame member since 2015.

Here’s what John Juanda, a terrific player & holder of 5 WSOP bracelets, once said about Harman:

Jennifer is one of the most competitive players I have ever met. This girl just hates to lose. It doesn't matter if she's playing $4-$8 or $4,000-$8,000, she'll be trying her hardest to beat your brains out, and most of the time she will.
J. Juanda


Known for her daring and aggressive play manner, Jennifer also finds reading her opponents a highly effective poker tactic. In one of the interviews, she explained that:

The best players are the best at reading other players. They know what hands a player will raise with, whether they play loosely from an early position, what types of hands they`ll defend blinds with, how often they check-raise on the flop, if they like to slow-play made hands, whether they`ll often fold on the flop or call to the river, and stuff like that... The more you focus on your opponent and know about his play, the more you can take advantage of his tendencies.
J. Harman


…And that’s the wrap! Taking a look at these diverse gambling journeys, we’ve again proved one thing for certain: the card table is no stranger to brilliant female minds. 

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