Poker has held a special appeal for creators of comic books superheroes and villains, who drew inspiration from the game to sketch characters that are complex and strategic, yet unpredictable and volatile.
Some of these characters have links with poker that go back to their earliest history, others like Gambit and The Joker are wholly inspired from cards. In this article, we explore five comic book heroes and villains who one way or another are based on or closely associated with the game of poker.
Naturally, the first superhero to spring to mind when mentioning the word poker is Gambit. The dashing superhero uses his own deck of playing cards as his main weapon to cut down enemies to size. Part of the X-Men team, Gambit is very knowledge in card-throwing techniques so it’s not too farfetched to imagine that he’d be a formidable opponent around the tables when he’s not battling villains.
This can be assumed from Gambit’s personality who behaves in very much the same way a poker pro does, always alert and careful not to reveal too much. It is no wonder then that this superhero is the one that people also vote as most likely to be the best poker player of the bunch. Of course, in reality, more and more poker players are as savvy and slick as Gambit. The sensible player, superhero or not. would look at the which sites are best to find easy to beat opponents on. Using their skills of cunning and guile (but perhaps not x-ray vision), they’d then make a fortune and it invest it in comics!
The Thing (Marvel)
Maybe a lesser known facet of The Thing’s background, especially for fans who are mainly familiar with the movies, is his love of a good poker. In the comic books, The Thing is always ready to throw in his stake for a hand or two and he is considered a master at concealing emotions from his opponents, who have no way to read his inscrutable face.
In fact, The Thing even organises a poker tournament to celebrate his “Bar Mitzvah”, or his 13th anniversary since Ben Grimm became a mutant, in one of the comic book. Though his skills are a bit rough around the edges, many of his superhero companions let him win for fear of his irascible temper.
Iron Man (Marvel)
The ultimate gambler, Tony Stark knows his way around the casino, which gives him the perfect opportunity to flaunt his well and his love for the finer thing in life. In the movies, Iron Man is seen playing craps at the casino however he is considered a deft hand in poker in the comic books and manages to score big time on several occasions.
With his superior intellect and ability to think strategically, Iron Man gives all the other superheroes a run for their money. The same gambler’s mindset serves him well in action, with a lot of his successes (and failures!) occurring as a result of his reading of situations.
The Joker (Warner Bros/DC Comics)
Another character that’s synonymous with the game is The Joker. The enigmatic and unpredictable villain is truly a wildcard among all other villains, living up well to his card counterpart. Even in his relationship with Batman, one sees the cold, calculating mind of The Joker ticking away and testing all possibilities before choosing the course of action that will surprise Batman the most.
Small wonder then that despite his crazy behaviour, the Joker is Batman’s most cerebral opponent and his best match when patrolling the streets of Gotham. When the time is ripe of a good bluff, The Joker pulls that off as well and gets exactly what he wants from his unsuspecting victims.
Another member of the X-Men team makes the least of superheroes influenced by poker. Although not as closely linked to the game as The Thing, comic book fans will know that Cannonball has often played in the poker tournaments organised by the other superheros and each time feigns ignorance of the game designed to lower the guards of his companions.
In actual fact, the two or three types 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.
It’s always good to have some tricks up your sleeve
This cadre of superheroes and villains shows how highly regarded the game of poker is in the eyes of their creators, who obviously perceive knowledge of the game as giving some sort of edge personality-wise and in some cases even in the way their characters act.
As such, the easiest way to start becoming like your favourite heroes (or villains!) is to pick up some poker skills from books or online. Certainly beats the hassle of dressing up in costume or putting up makeup, but who says you could do both and have your own superhero-themed poker tournament like in the old comic books!