It’s hard to believe that when the World Series of Poker began back in 1970, there were fewer than 50 poker tables in the entire city of Las Vegas. There were only 70 poker tables in the whole state of Nevada. Binion’s Horseshoe, the host casino, did not even have a poker room. The contest that would come to decide poker’s first world champion was held inside an alcove about the size of an ordinary hotel room. Thirty or so gamblers shoehorned themselves around a few poker tables. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were making poker history.
But What If?
The World Series of Poker was played in the DC/Marvel Universe?
We all love to watch our poker heroes in action, but who doesn’t love poker villains too? We love to root on the players we look up to, but we also love to see villains stay in the game, purely because of how entertaining it is to root against them. What’s not to like?
Here are a few characters in the Marvel/DC Comics Multiverses who had poker involved either in their creation or in the development of their stories:
If you have been an avid follower of the X-Men series, just the mention of playing cards would already have you thinking of Gambit. With his own deck of playing cards as his main choice of weaponry (aside from a Bo staff), it would be quite illogical not to think of Gambit as a knowledgeable poker player. Gambit’s initial personality also seems to be inspired by how you should approach professional poker players, with reservation and alertness. In a Marvel forum over at ComicVine.com, Gambit was mentioned several times after someone asked who would be Marvel’s best poker player.
Tony Stark is truly one pompous and extravagant character, especially in recent movie adaptations. If ever there will be a character who you should expect to see in the Bellagio Las Vegas for the Partypoker World Poker Tour or in Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino for the World series of poker promotions. It would most probably be Mr.Stark. He has the financial capabilities to be a daring professional card player. Even in the 2008 Iron Man movie, Stark missed an awarding ceremony as he was playing poker over at Ceasar’s Palace.
It may not be obvious at first, but the strongest member of the Fantastic Four loves playing poker. Ben Grimm’s gentle giant stereotype is perfect for maintaining a great ruse when playing. In one of the issues of the series Thing v2, Grimm even organized a poker tournament amongst other superheroes of the Marvel Universe in celebration of his Bar Mitzvah. His Bar Mitzvah version is for his 13 years of existence after being transformed into The Thing.
The Great Lakes Avengers were invited to the annual Superheroes Poker Tournament. In the end, Flatman won the tournament with a straight-flush, beating the Thing’s four fours. After being discouraged from using the names “Great Lakes X-Men” and “Great Lakes Defenders” by members of those teams present at the tournament, and since Flatman was the champion of the tournament, the team was inspired to rename themselves the Great Lakes Champions, despite protests from former Champions of Los Angeles member Hercules.
The Sensational She-Hulk. Unlike her earth-smashing cousin, She-Hulk has brains, brawn, and good looks. Her outgoing personality will help disarm her opponents at the table but her opponents shouldn’t take her lightly. She-Hulk is a skilled lawyer and her background gives her superior reading ability, allowing her to categorize players faster than a Deadpool comeback. Basically, if you took Vanessa Selbst and exposed her to Gamma radiation, you have She-Hulk.
He has often played in the poker tournaments organized by the other superheroes and each time feigns ignorance of the game designed to lower the guards of his companions. The two or three times that Cannonball is seen playing poker he always manages to leave the tables with a considerable amount of money, clearly pointing to the presence of well-developed poker skills which he doesn’t want to draw a lot of attention to. This is well in keeping with his humble and well-mannered personality that nurtured throughout his southern, rural upbringing.
Out of all the Marvel superheroes, Wolverine is the only one that actually played alongside a real poker professional, Daniel Negreanu. Granted, it was a cameo in the X-Men: Origins movie, but that could still count as Wolverine’s ability to play at a professional level, right?
Just like Iron Man, Bruce Wayne is not someone who turns down a challenge especially when someone questions his (financial?) powers. However, what really includes Batman in this list is his arch-rival, The Joker. It’s his and Joker’s interactions that are very symbolic of how poker rounds operate. It’s always about “who-outsmarts-who.”And as ComicBooked.com opinionates in one of their articles, the Dark Knight has faced so many criminal geniuses and deranged psychopaths that it instilled in him the skill to determine even the most minute of emotions. This skill set also helped him achieve his almost-catatonic expressions, an almost perfect poker face.
Think of the word ‘Joker’ and you instantly think of either Batman’s nemesis or a deck of cards. Whilst that imagery is loosely based on poker, the Joker has been known to play cards and play up to his character’s devious nature. One episode of the animated Batman series had Joker playing with a range of other villains, whilst Alan Moore’s Poker Party painting depicts Joker as part of a game including Batman and freedom fighter ‘V’.
On many occasions, comic book artists have something deeper to convey when they embed simple activities like poker into their panels. It can be their way of expressing social awareness or understanding. At times, it can also be representations of bigger issues. Simply put, just keep an open mind when reading comics.