Madame Moustache – the first great female blackjack player

Today, there are plenty of women who are top blackjack players, and with more and more people signing up to play blackjack at sites like 32 red casino, there will doubtless be more women making their way up the blackjack live tournament rankings in the next few years.

Back in the 1800s, though, it was a different story. Blackjack was a man’s game, and the nearest that most women got to it was serving drinks in the saloons that it was played in. Apart from one notable exception, that is.

Madame Eleanore Dumont was born in France and moved to live in the States in the 1800s. She was a skilled card dealer and made an income through playing casino games such as blackjack. Madame Dumont followed the gold rush out west and settled in Nevada City, where she opened her own blackjack casino, appropriately named Vingt Et Un. Being situated in a gold rush town, many of the players in the casino were miners and lacked decorum, but Madame Dumont had strict rules of etiquette that she demanded her clients adhered to. If not, they were shown the door, and any fighting or swearing resulted in immediate eviction from the premises.

Legend has it that Madame Dumont commanded respect and plenty of admiring glances in her youth, but she gained her less flattering nickname as she got older and sported a fair amount of dark facial hair on her upper lip. In her casino, she always dealt the cards and was often the winner. Many a miner is said to have thought it was better to lose to Madame Dumont than win blackjack anywhere else.

So successful was her business that she went into partnership with a gambler named Dave Tobin and they opened a bigger place called Dumont’s Palace, although when the gold rush was over, the business closed. Madame Dumont went on to open establishments elsewhere in the States, but never to the same level of success as she’d had in Nevada City.

When age meant that she became less of a beauty, Madame Dumont instead became the madam of a brothel. She was living in Bodie, California, when she was found dead in September 1879 – from a morphine overdose. Her death followed a particularly bad gambling loss.

In 2006, Eleanore Dumont was included in the nomination list for the Blackjack Hall of Fame; however she was not elected. She still has a place in the world of blackjack legend and history, though.

Picture (cc) by Ben Alford

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