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The Gambler (Stephen Sharpe) over a white background

Gambler

(Steven Sharpe III)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game
“This is a story of a man who turned his whole life into a breathtaking gamble – a man whose mania for betting on fate, whose indifference to all but chance, turned him into the craftiest and most fearless crook Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles ever battled !”

Context

The Gambler is originally a Golden Age  foe of Green Lantern, appearing from 1946 to 1948. He then occasionally returned as DC revived its Golden Age roots, appearing surprisingly often during the 1980s and 1990s.

Not only is he a vintage heavily-themed villain from yesteryear, but he is styling himself after an even older archetype – the Old West professional gambler.


Background

  • Real Name: Steven Sharpe III.
  • Other Aliases: Number One (the anonymous head of an underworld gambling ring).
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Unnamed father and grandfather (deceased), Steven Sharpe IV (and another unnamed son), Becky Sharpe (grand-daughter, aka Hazard), Steven Sharpe V (grandson, aka Gambler II).
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile, though he often operated in Gotham.
  • Group Affiliation: Injustice Society of the World.
  • Height: 5’7″ Weight: 151 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: White (originally strawberry blond – early on he probably dyed his hair white as part of his costumed persona).


Powers & Abilities

The Gambler’s main asset are his smarts. He’s remarkably tricky, and good both at planning and at improvising. During the Golden Age his main strength was underhanded tactics such as threatening innocents, misdirection, and surprise attacks.

Steven Sharpe’s skills include expertise in knife-throwing and a mastery of disguise, and he’s generally a strong and dexterous man and a good fighter.

The Gambler with his pepperbox pistol vs. Green Lantern (Alan Scott)

His usual weapons include :

  • A five-barrelled pepperbox pistol hidden up his sleeve that fired a variety of gases and bullets. At least one barrel is commonly loaded with ammonia gas, whose caustic effects are akin to potent tear gas. Even a very strong man such as Green Lantern (Alan Scott) will likely be incapacitated by a close-range burst. Another common load is a thick smoke screen.
  • Carnival-style throwing knives – the Gambler carries about 10 concealed within his vest. These are usually used to pin targets to nearby surfaces through their clothing, and it seems that for the Gambler this sort of trick shot is every bit as easy as simply hitting the person.
  • When he carries a cane as part of his costume, it will be a stout one that doubles as a redoubtable melee weapon – and is made of wood.
  • He once used a full-sized Old West-style revolver as his sidearm and at least once had a stiletto hidden in his clothing.
  • There are reports that he used razor-edged throwing card on occasion, and one flashback might display those (it’s hard to say).

Other assets

Sharpe is usually assisted by a small number of armed and reasonably capable crooks, and has occasionally build giant game-themed deathtraps.

The Gambler can be amazingly lucky. If he keeps rolling the dice, sooner or later he’ll get a spectacular break. He can fairly reliably rebuild up his war chest by hitting a casino. When he’s in prison some opportunity he can seize to escape will eventually occur.

He apparently never had difficulties escaping, or assembling a good gang and a fully-operational hideout.


History

Steve Sharpe presumably graduated from high school during the 1930s. He went straight to work for the local grocery store. His goal was to become a partner in the store and marry his girl Helen.

However, she was wary. Both Sharpe’s father and grandfather had been notorious gamblers, and she feared that Steve would walk in their footsteps. Though the young lad wanted to walk the straight and narrow, Helen learned that he knew “Pool-Room” Charlie, a local gambler. This made her too suspicious for marriage.

The Gambler wins a ship

While Steve renewed his efforts to look serious, Charlie won the sweepstake. The shallow Helen, attracted toward his wealth in a time of economic misery, forgot her misgivings and married him. Disgusted, Sharpe left his job.

As he was aimlessly wandering at night, he heroically attempted to save a child that was about to be run over by a cash transportation van. The “child” turned out to be a discarded doll, and the van swerved and crashed to avoid Sharpe.

Further demoralised by his rotten luck, Sharpe had an epiphany. Only blind luck mattered in life, and virtue was irrelevant. He decided to be one of the lucky ones, and that meant taking chances and cheating if need be. He started by helping himself to the cash in the crashed truck.

On a warm summer evenin’

Sharpe reinvented himself as a character called the Gambler. He patterned that persona after his grandfather who lived as a riverboat gambler. After a daring job in Des Moines against heavy odds, the Gambler continued to develop his style and persona as he robbed banks, trains, etc. throughout the Midwest.

The Gambler was one of the earliest criminals to adopt a costume, code name and spectacular modus operandi. He was apparently quite popular – much like the big-name gangsters of the Roaring Twenties . Many in the underworld considered him a genius.

The Gambler's pepperbox derringer

It was apparently in 1944 that the Gambler started clashing with costumed adventurers. At this point he was a spitting image of his grandfather, apparently dyeing his hair and eyebrows white to further the resemblance.

This was but one of his appearances, though. As part of his development of the Gambler modus operandi he had worked as a carnie for a while, learning such skills as knife throwing or disguise artistry. The later was an important asset for his daring crimes.

On a train bound for nowhere

Reaching Gotham, the Gambler robbed the stock exchange by triggering a panic via false prices on the blackboard. He escaped when Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and “Doiby” Dickles intervened. The Gambler, excited by the risk, challenged Green Lantern twice more but was then defeated.

The Gambler (as Prisoner #131313) was convicted for grand larceny, arson, piracy, forgery, burglary and second-degree murder. However, he escaped within weeks and reached Opal City. There he participated in an insurance scam and stole a small statue – a study by Michelangelo .

Six persons were killed during the heist, and Starman (Ted Knight) chased the Gambler all the way to New York City. The criminal captured the hero, but Starman’s friend the Sandman (Wesley Dodds) intervened in time. The Gambler briefly stalemated Starman by holding a knife to Sandman’s throat, but was nevertheless captured.

At an unknown point — presumably in 1945 — the Gambler had a smuggling operation wrecked by the Atom (Al Pratt), Dr. Mid-Nite (Charles McNider) and Wildcat (Ted Grant). He and his henchmen were defeated and presumably arrested.

And he drank my last swallow

Mere months later, a prisoner wearing the exact same clothing as Doiby Dickles came to share the Gambler’s cell. Stealing his clothes and disguising himself as Doiby, the Gambler escaped under Green Lantern’s nose.

He then went to a gambling boat and proceeded to break the bank then win the boat. He had the boat armed, armoured and rigged, recruited more gunmen, and had all the games aboard rigged. The Gambler then came back to challenge Green Lantern.

The Gambler vs. Starman (Ted Knight)

However, though the Gambler initially outmanoeuvred Green Lantern, Scott eventually picked the fortified boat, immobilised it and moored it to the prison’s dock. This effectively turned the vessel into an annex of the penitentiary.

The Gambler was condemned to death, and detained on death row for several months. During that time he continued to run his mob using coded letters. Sharpe prepared a spectacular escape on the day of his execution, set in the summer of 1947. He also set up a vast underworld gambling ring betting against his survival.

Then he bummed me a cigarette

However, Green Lantern noticed in the nick of time that the electric chair technician had rewired it to electrocute the officials rather than the Gambler. Scott faked his own death and that of the officials, then shadowed the escaped Gambler.

The Gambler collected the large amounts of money from the underworld bets against his survival. Green Lantern and Doiby intervened, but thanks to a stroke of luck the Gambler defeated them and sent them to die in a sabotaged rowboat. Green Lantern and his sidekick escaped. They then rushed to an establishment that the Gambler had promised to rob later that night.

However, the place was full of random men who had been paid to wear the Gambler’s mask and costume. But Green Lantern tricked the Gambler into revealing himself by uttering the “hey Rube !” carnie call for assistance, and arrested the villain.

The Gambler bet that he wouldn’t be executed, and won. It turned out that the murder he had been charged for had been faked. He was sent back to death row where he could scheme anew.

You got to know when to hold ’em

The Gambler escaped within weeks and joined the Injustice Society of the World. This was a group of JSA foes – the Wizard, Vandal Savage, Brain Wave, Per Degaton, the Thinker. The Society launched a major scheme, freeing the inmates of five large penitentiaries. They turned these into a criminal army that they armed, commanded and supported.

This late 1947 large-scale attempt at conquering the US led to multiple clashes with the US military. It ended in an attempt to conquer Washington, D.C. – which was narrowly foiled by the JSA.

One flashback establishes that this roster of the Injustice Society clashed with the JSA a second time, but no further details are known.

The Gambler and two mobsters open fire

The Gambler clashed twice more with Green Lantern in 1948. At a ski lodge, he bet their entire fortune to three successful professionals. Though all three reneged after he won, he killed two of them and made it look like a suicide.

Green Lantern stopped him before he could murder the last person. But the Gambler kidnapped both Scott and the surviving bettor. In a curious preview of the Silver Age , he trapped them both in a giant pinball machine set to kill. Green Lantern escaped and defeated the Gambler, who jumped to his apparent death.

Know when to fold ’em

Of course, he soon came back with a new scheme. Assembling Gotham City gang leaders, he offered to spin a prepared wheel. Each possible result was a series of security measure at a crime target, which he could then remove for $25000 in cash ($235K in 2012 USD) to make a theft there a sure shot.

The wheel came on the Gotham City Bank’s burglar alarm system. The Gambler warned Green Lantern and the police that he would make it trivial to rob the establishment, then sent a hireling disguised as himself disguised as a policeman to the bank.

Green Lantern did spot the fake cop and unmasked him as “the Gambler”. But by the time he realised that it was but a second mask the bank had been left defenceless. It was thus robbed by the Gambler’s client.

The next turn of the wheel had the Gambler remove Green Lantern himself. The Gambler staged a crude attack on Green Lantern, then disguised himself as Doiby Dickles and waited nearby with a tricked-out taxi. When Green Lantern boarded “Doiby”’s taxi to chase the fleeing attackers, the Gambler gassed him unconscious.

He then placed the emerald gladiator within a large plastic sphere, which was launched onto a giant roulette wheel with every compartment but one set to explode. However, “Green Lantern” was actually a disguised Doiby Dickles. The real Green Lantern flew in, saved the day, and sent the Gambler to prison.

Know when to walk away

Like most wartime and demobilisation-era costumed criminals and heroes, the Gambler then vanished for decades. He was briefly glimpsed but almost 40 years later, during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. During this event, the Gambler’s native Earth-2 merged with other realities to became New Earth. But his history during the 1940s presumably remained largely unchanged.

The Gambler puts Green Lantern (Alan Scott) in a roulette deathtrap

It was eventually revealed that on New Earth the Gambler was still active as late as in 1952. He, the Icicle (Joar Makent) and the Fiddler (Isaac Bowin) attempted to kill Starman (Ted Knight) by engaging him in a street brawl.

That was a distraction. The actual plan was the five snipers hidden on nearby rooftops. However, the Jester (Charles Lane) came to help. This would not have been sufficient, but two criminals — “Bobo” Benetti and the Shade (Richard Swift) — took out the snipers in secret.

And know when to run

In 1986, the villainous team Injustice Unlimited captured Infinity, Inc. and the Global Guardians. They forced these heroes to do their bidding. Hazard (Becky Sharpe) thus commandeered Wildcat (Yolanda Montez) and the Tasmanian Devil (Hugh Dawkins) to invade a casino in Nevada. It was the Taj Mahal, run by one Seymour Taj.

As she forced the casino to pay its entire bank to gamblers, Sharpe announced that she was the granddaughter of the Gambler. She also explained that her grandfather, after having been paroled in 1985, had been ruined by gambling at Taj’s crooked casino. According to her, Steven Sharpe III had committed suicide as a result.

A few years later another grandchild, Stephen Sharpe V, claimed the mantle of the Gambler. We will be assuming here that this new Gambler was the one seen in JSA Classified in 2006, as it prevents continuity problem. Furthermore Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore) recognised him as having led the Royal Flush Gang, which is indeed what the younger Gambler did.

During the Blackest Night crisis, the Gambler was briefly spotted among the Black Lantern zombies.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

The Gambler is obsessed by chance, and lives to take major risks. But he’s very rational about it, and is constantly and accurately assessing his odds. This skill in gauging chances leads him to constantly make bets with his underlings, which he will fairly pay in those rare cases when he loses.

The Injustice Society cuts up a map of the USA with daggers

His passion for games of chance, bets, cards, risk and the like lies well past the point of mania.

He sometimes takes risks simply for the rush. But it’s always situations from which he can extricate himself if they go wrong. In his world view, one has to take chances to show one’s worthiness to fate. It’s almost a religion, with Fate being anthropomorphised and female.

Other traits

The Gambler is forever giving odds for everything – three to eight, six to five, etc.. He can occasionally be recognised when in disguise because of this.

Though he doesn’t rant about it, the Gambler likes to clearly outsmart his opponents with multi-layered plans, diversions, subterfuge, decoys, death traps and the like. This is his core modus operandi when he operates alone.

His gambling theme also leads him to favour former gambling dens, games-themed deathtraps and the like. But that does not reach the point of mania. He’s not quite a themed Silver Age criminal. For instance, one of his main assets is his ability to disguise himself and thus trick people. This has no relation to gambling but is a demonstration of intelligence and daring.


Quotes

“What frightened little men you are ! The Gambler *always* takes chances — and I took this one merely to prove I can operate in this city.”

“I’m going to gamble with you, Green Lantern — for your life ! If you lose… it’s curtains ! If you win, I’ll let you go free – to entertain me some more…”

“You get under there out of sight, Mr. Benson. If you make a sound, I’ll bet eight to three you’ll never make another.”

“Seven to three I walk off this boat a free man. And here’s why…”

Judge: “Gambler, for the murder of Rocks Morton you must die !”
Gambler: “Judge, five will get you ten you’re wrong ! In fact, I’ll double the odds that I break jail on my execution night !”

(With a statuette in his left hand, and his right hand holding a knife to the Sandman’s throat) “I have a priceless thing of beauty in one hand. I have Sandman’s life in the other. One is smashable, one is sliceable. Looks to me like I’ve a full house. You, on the other hand, don’t even have a pair of deuces. I’m thinking that Lady Luck is a woman who chooses not to partake of your manly charms too often. Am I correct, sir ? A ’course, with me… I have sometimes trouble keeping her away.”



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Gambler I

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 08 Wil: 08 Min: 06 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 06 Aur: 05 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 007
Init: 019 HP: 040

Powers:
Probability Control: 10

Bonuses and Limitations:
Each use of Probability Control is Seriously Marginal.

Skills:
Artist (Actor): 09, Charisma: 06, Thief: 09, Weaponry: 08

Advantages
Familiarity (Quick-change artistry, Carnie culture), Headquarters (Expansive), Luck, Scholar (Disguises, Card games and gambling).

Connections:
Underworld (High), Street (Low).

Drawbacks:
MIA toward Stating odds aloud.

Equipment:

  • Compact pepperbox revolver [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Fog: 12, Knockout gas: 10, Bonus: Knockout gas is Lethal (+1)].
  • Throwing knives [BODY 05, EV 04, Glue: 07, Ammo: 10, Note : Glue can only be used if target has clothing that can be pinned to a nearby surface by the knives – even a typically tight super-hero costume is sufficient for this purpose.].
  • Stout cane [BODY 06, EV 03 (04 w/STR)] or another mundane (albeit Old West-styled) weapon such as a knife or gun.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Universe.

Writeup completed on the 24th of October, 2013.

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