The Gambler

Category: Archetype of the Week
Created on Friday, 20 November 2009 Written by Steve

The gambler is a character who makes a living (or tries to) by wagering on contests of skill or chance. Most professional gamblers prefer games that rely on personal skill, such as pool or poker, but a few play games of pure chance (such as slot machines) or bet on the outcomes of events that they don’t personally participate in (horse races, football games, even election results). Because gambling can be highly addictive, making a living doing it requires considerable self-control and the ability to know when to stop playing. A gambler who keeps playing a losing game, assuming that sooner or later his luck will change, is more likely to end up broke than rich.

 

Likely Stories

The earliest set of dice every discovered is around 5,000 years old, and it’s probably safe to assume that people were betting on whether Og could outrun that saber-tooth tiger long before craps was invented. Therefore, gamblers are fair game for nearly any genre of role-playing. Gamblers are most common in modern games (especially in games that focus on cops or criminals), games set in the old west, and space operas.

The Name Game

Gamblers often have colorful nicknames. Most nicknames in the gambling world are based on the gambler’s style of play (“Always In” Charlie), place of origin (“Louisville” Joe McElhinney), or personality (“Slick” Mike Williamson). “Lucky” is also a common nickname in gambling circles, for obvious reasons.

The Numbers

The gambler’s most important number will depend on his game of choice and style of play. Pool players who rely on their skill will need a decent Body Number to play the game well (and a good Nerve Number if they’re hustlers). Poker players, who need to be able to bluff as well as read their opponents’ “tells,” will need high Nerve Numbers. Card counters and sports betters who rely heavily on statistics and handicapping will need a high Brain.

Suggested Jobs: Actor, Bagman, Bartender, Baseball Legend, Bird Dog, Bookie, Bouncer, Boxing Promoter, Cage Girl, Card Mechanic, Card Shark, College Student, Cop, Cowboy, Crime Boss, Croupier, Day Trader, Dealer, Drug Dealer, Dentist, Grifter, Gunslinger, Handicapper, High Roller, Hooker, Horse Farmer, House/Proposition Player, Jockey, Lawyer, Lone Shark, Lounge Singer, Noble, Pit Boss, Pool Hustler, Professional Poker Player, Riverboat Gambler, Rounder, Sports Journalist, Spy, Stage Magician, Swashbuckler, Texas Oilman, Tipster, Trainer

Gimmicks: Ace Up Your Sleeve, Bankroll, Beginner’s Luck, Card Sense, Comp Magnet, Connected, Good Instincts, Hot Deck, House Credit, Insider Information, I’ve Got A System, Knows A Guy, Lucky, Midas Touch, Nerves of Steel, Owed Favors, Poker Face, Reputation,

Weaknesses: Alcoholic, Bad Liar, Bad Luck, Bad Reputation, Barred, Chaser, Compulsive Gambler, Cooler, Dames, Debt, Enemies, OCD, Superstitious, Wanted Man

Skills: Bar Bets, Bluff, Card Counting, Card Tricks, Cheating, Cock Fighting, Craps, Game Theory, Fast Talking, Firearms, Handicapping, Hedging, Hit and Run Artist, Odds Assessing, Pool, Progression Betting, Self-Defense, Side Spin, Sports Trivia, Spread Betting, Statistics, Trick Shot

WWPHITM? Powers Booth, Kate Bosworth, Pierce Brosnan, Nicholas Cage, Keith Carradine, George Clooney, Larry Cedar, Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Robert DeNiro, Johnny Depp, Jodie Foster, Vivica A. Fox, James Gandolfini, James Garner, Mel Gibson, Jackie Gleason, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman, Famke Janssen, Peter Jason, Jack Kelly, Val Kilmer, John Malkovich, William H. Macy, Roger Moore, Nick Moran, Paul Newman, Edward Norton, Kevin Pollack, Robert Redford, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Spacey, Sharon Stone, John Turturro, Billy Dee Williams, Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, James Woods

Tag Line: “If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”—Mike McDermott, Rounders

Tools of the Trade: The house generally provides everything a gambler needs to ply his trade, with one important exception: Cash. Still, traveling gamblers often carry their own cards or dice for use in “friendly games.” Those who play dishonestly will need marked cards, loaded dice, mirrors, mechanical gadgets, and all sorts of additional tools, and possibly a weapon in case things go wrong. Since gamblers are often superstitious, it’s not unusual for them to own “lucky” items. Gamblers will also have tools appropriate to their chosen game. For example, pool players may have a custom cue, those who spend their time at the horse or dog track will always have racing forms, and sports gamblers might wear jerseys or caps branded with their favorite team’s logo.

Where You'll Find Him: Vegas, baby! Also Indian reservations, riverboat casinos, smoky backrooms, bars, garages, race tracks, sporting events, and just about anywhere else where there’s something worth betting on.

Social Circle: Other gamblers, dealers, waitresses, bartenders, and other people found at places where gambling takes place. Those who are unlucky or have gambling problems will probably be familiar with pawn shop owners, loan sharks, and other potentially shady characters.

Sample Character

Bret MaverickThe Real Bret Maverick (Maverick (c)1957, Warner Bros.)

Body: 12

Brain: 15

Nerve: 13

Job: Card Player (15)

Gimmick: Smooth Talker (14)

Weakness: Prefers to Take the Road Less Likely To Get Him Shot (14)

Skills: Brawling +3; Snappy Dresser; Gunslinging +1

WWPHITM? James Garner

Dumb Fact: In 2006, a ten-foot tall statue of Bret Maverick was unveiled in Norman, Oklahoma (James Garner’s home town).

Tag Line: “My Pappy always said, ‘A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies but one.’ A thousand to one is pretty good odds.”

HP: 12

YY: 4

Inspirational Material

Authors

Ian Fleming

Edmond Hoyle

Movies

21

Casino

The Color of Money

The Cooler

The Gambler

The Hustler

Several James Bond movies

The Last Boy Scout

Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels (Eddie)

Maverick

Rounders

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Lando Calrissian)

The Sting

Tombstone (Doc Holiday)

Music

“Ace of Spades,” Motorhead

“The Baron,” Johnny Cash

“The Card Cheat,” The Clash

“Casino Queen,” Wilco

“Deal,” The Grateful Dead (Dr. John does a great cover)

“The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers

“Good Run of Bad Luck,” Clint Black

“Hardin Wouldn’t Run,” Johnny Cash

“House of the Rising Sun,” The Animals

“The Jack,” AC/DC

“Kentucky Gambler,” Merle Haggard

“Lonesome Loser,” Little River Band

“Mr. Gold and Mr. Mudd,” Townes Van Zandt

“Queen of Hearts,” Juice Newton

“Still the Same,” Bob Segar

“Tumblin’ Dice,” The Rolling Stones

“Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis Presley

TV

CSI (Warrick Brown)

Deadwood (Wild Bill Hickock)

Maverick (Bret Maverick, Bart Maverick, Beau Maverick, Brent Maverick, Pappy Maverick)

The Sopranos (David Scatino)

 

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The Gambler.
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