Professional Gambler

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"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em; know when to walk away, know when to run"
Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler"

Someone whose primary source of income is gambling.

Risking money on games of chance and skill is a pastime that has been around since the dawn of civilization. The Professional Gambler is someone who emphasizes the "skill" part of the equation. She knows the odds, can read the other players' intentions and resources, and knows the best strategies. She may not always win, but wins often enough to feed herself and stay in "business."

A professional gambler may not actually cheat, but certainly knows how to, and how to spot another cheat. Some games may come down to who can cheat the best. Expect to see The Magic Poker Equation come up in stories involving this character—though often for their less-professional targets.

In the Western, professional gamblers are usually dressed in fancy clothes, looking quite prosperous but a bit tacky. Thus the adjective "tinhorn" often attaches to them. Many will wear a fair amount of jewelry, both to show off, and to have something to toss into the pot if the night is not going well. The gambler's weapon of choice is a Derringer or other small hold-out gun; this can make it hazardous to check his sleeve for concealed aces.

A frequent "bit" in Westerns is for someone on the losing end of a Poker game to lose their temper and accuse the pro of cheating—this can start a Bar Brawl or a quick shootout.

Despite his sometimes glamorous lifestyle, the professional gambler is usually a disreputable figure, and will often come to a bad end in fiction.

Compare The Gambler, who uses a gambling motif in his or her fighting style. See also the Card Sharp, who uses cheating and sleight of hand to win. And if you're trying this but losing most of your money, then you might be The Gambling Addict.

Examples of Professional Gambler include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Suguroku Mutou ("Solomon" in the dub) of Yu-Gi-Oh! was a professional gambler in his youth, and apparently very successful until he retired. Mai Kujaku ("Valentine") is also a pro (she works cruise ships), but no match for the gifted amateurs of the story.
  • Akagi sure makes a shocking amount of money from gambling, managing to bankrupt one Yakuza boss after another. He isn't good at spending, however.
  • The D'Arby brothers in the third part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure...well, at least Daniel. He partially, and Terence completely, look for another kind of payment as well: souls.
  • Gojyo in Saiyuki. His main source of income before he joined the others on their journey.
  • Hiroshi Nikaidou in Poker King aka Million Dollar Kid, is a professional gambler decided to play against other professional gamblers around the world.
  • The Gambling King from Ranma ½, who is actually a terrible gambler.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Bat Lash, a Western character from The DCU.
  • "Cutting Cards", an EC Comics story, had two extremely competitive professional gamblers playing To the Pain.
  • Scat Thumbs from the Lucky Luke album "The Stagecoach".

Film[edit | hide]

  • A Big Hand For The Little Lady.
  • 5 Card Stud.
  • "Doc" Holliday from Tombstone. The degree to which his Real Life counterpart corresponded to this trope is debatable.
    • He went back and forth between this and trying to set up honest practice as a dentist, before finally giving up on dentistry and having a career of gambling, and killing people.
  • Rounders, best poker movie out there.
  • Silverado has Slick, who introduces himself as "a gambler looking to run an honest game." His Face Heel Turn comes as no surprise.
  • Sam "Ace" Rothstein from Casino. He is professional to the point of analysing the types of wood different baseball bats are made of, or checking the windspeed during a game in order to analyse every variable of his gambling, so that, overall, he makes much more money than he loses. His associate Nicky, however, feels that he's missing the point of gambling by never having any fun with it.
  • Father Time from Posse.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Gamblers' Guild in the Discworld books. Their Guild House is situated right across the street from the Guild House of the Alchemists, which explodes often enough to be worth betting on.
  • Phaid from the sci-fi novel The Song Of Phaid The Gambler by Mick Farren.
  • Bret Harte created many Western tropes, and had a defining example of this one in the character John Oakhurst.
  • Several of William Makepeace Thackeray's characters, generally impoverished patricians spent time as cardsharps. The Villain Protagonist of Barry Lyndon was one, as was Becky Sharp's husband Rawdon. Throughout his novels, there is an entire family named Deuceace who have this as their "hat".
  • In Walter L. Kleine's The Wolf and the Panther Were Lovers (published in Analog), the protagonist, Ace Craddock, is such a one.
  • In Time Scout, this is one of Skeeter's many vices.
  • Sir Juffin in Labyrinths of Echo, after he moved to Echo and before he became (openly) a Professional Killer "and just as lucky one as he was a gambler". Soon after the civil war ended and he was assigned the Chief of LSIF, Juffin by the King's decree was banned from playing card games in public places (naturally, he considers this flattering) - by that time almost no one would play with him anyway, but a lot of courtiers just didn't dare to say "no" to someone so infamous, to their great financial detriment. There were two people outside of his hometown known to present a serious challenge to him at krak table - one of the Great Founders of the Order of Sevenleaf and one of his own apprentices.
  • Toby Curtis in Scorpion once was almost this. While he is not the best at math on the team his sheer brains gave him an ability in card counting, predicting athletic events, what not. However he gave up this life, when a women he loved demanded he choose between gambling and her.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The TV show Maverick had a whole family of them. Bret, Bart, Beau and Brent. The little seen sequel Young Maverick had Ben Maverick. Oh, and naturally The Movie Maverick had a passel of professional gamblers.
    • Beau "Pappy" Maverick (played by the same actor as Bret and appeared on the same screen as him, a neat trick back then) and Bent Maverick, Pappy Maverick's brother (played by Bart's actor) appeared as well. Of course, those two only appeared in one episode.
      • The Movie revolved around a high-stakes poker game full of these (and plenty of Card Sharps) at the climax. Oh, and Pappy was again played by the actor who played Bret...in the TV series.
  • The Twilight Zone TOS episode "The Grave". Steinhart (Lee van Cleef), a poker player who bets the protagonist he won't go to his enemy's grave at night.
  • Ezra Standish of The Magnificent Seven TV series is a Professional Gambler drafted into law enforcement; he doesn't give up his cards, but he does sometimes have to put them down to go arrest someone.
  • The short-lived ESPN scripted series Tilt featured a new meat professional gambler (played by Eddie Cibrian) learning the ropes from a hardened Vegas pro (played by Michael Madsen).


Music[edit | hide]

  • The song "Life's Other Side" has a verse about a gambler who is finally reduced to throwing his mother's ring into the pot—and dies, presumably from shame.
  • The Kenny Rogers song, "The Gambler", and the four or so TV movies derived from it.
  • The Clockwork Dolls' "The Ballad of Black Jack Jezabel" is about a professional gambler who hunts down the one man to ever defeat her.
  • Sting's "Shape of My Heart" is (at least, in its most literal interpretation) about a professional gambler who seeks to comprehend "the sacred geometry of chance".


Theater[edit | hide]

  • Guys and Dolls is focused on the lives of a few professional gamblers (the "guys") and two of their girlfriends (the "dolls"). Based on several Damon Runyon stories.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • The protagonist of +EV is a successful gambler, specializing in online poker. A fair number of the supporting cast are also professional gamblers, of varying levels of competency.
  • In Next Town Over, Hunter is introduced gambling with a woman of this type, who is indignate, and calls in her guards, to deal with the charge of being a hooker.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • On the Looney Tunes short "Mississipi Hare", Bugs Bunny passed himself off as one when he stowed away in a river boat, and locked horns with a real Professional Gambler, Colonel Shuffle. Bugs won.