Games of chance are often used to spice up fictional narratives, and on the comic book scene, there’s even more leeway for gambling to inspire writers and artists.
There’s ample evidence of this in the righteous and nefarious characters from throughout the history of superheroes that have been influenced by poker. Here are just a few examples to get you started.
While his powers may be related to energy manipulation, Gambit’s skill with playing cards is the most memorable thing about him.
His affinity for gambling ties in neatly with his back story, as he’s Louisiana born and bred, and being a fan of poker melds well with imagery of back street gambling dens in New Orleans.
While a standalone Gambit movie never got out of development hell, there’s still ample fan interest in an adaptation. Perhaps the rise of interest in gambling among modern audiences will convince studio bosses to revisit the character on the big screen sometime soon.
Batman’s arch-nemesis has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance recently, with critical acclaim heaped at the feet of the most recent cinematic adaptation starring everyone’s favorite deranged clown.
The Joker is of course inspired by the card in a standard deck that’s usually discarded to play table games. And if you learn the rules of poker for beginners, you’ll appreciate that most variations don’t include a joker.
However, there’s a real sense that Gotham City’s psychotic antagonist wouldn’t play by the rules, and would probably have more than a few tricks up his sleeve if he ever sat down at a casino table.
An entertaining piece of trivia about The Thing that most casual fans of comic book movies won’t know is that he’s quite the poker aficionado.
The reason behind this is simple; because his skin is effectively as tough and immovable as a rock, he can control his facial expressions completely. So his opponents in poker won’t be able to read his tells, because there aren’t any.
This character trait is covered in quite a few comic book appearances of The Fantastic Four, most notably in a 2006 publication during which The Thing organizes and oversees a full-blown poker tournament. Superheroes from across the Marvel universe attend, and it’s an intriguing example of how gambling can be portrayed in media aimed at younger audiences.
Tony Stark is the man who has it all. He’s an immensely wealthy man and has a huge intellect that he can turn to almost anything. He’s also funny, handsome, and capable of changing his mind, rather than stubbornly sticking to his beliefs without good reason.
All of these things make him a stellar poker player, and he’s not just a theoretical high roller either; back when Robert Downey Jr. first stepped into Iron Man’s suit back in the 2008 film that helped launch the entire MCU, Stark is shown to have avoided attending an awards event due to being caught up at the poker tables of the iconic Caesars Palace casino resort in Las Vegas.
While we’ve yet to see a crossover involving Iron Man, The Thing, and Gambit, it would certainly be entertaining to explore what a poker game featuring all of them might look like at the movies. And until DC decides to intermingle its IP with Marvel, the chances of the Joker getting a look-in in such a mashup are minimal.
Great superheroes and dastardly villains all have to take risks and weigh the odds of their actions succeeding, so playing poker is a natural fit for more comic book characters than you might think.