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"You can't lose if you don't play."
—Marla Daniels, The Wire
The Gambling Addict is self-explanatory. A character who likes a flutter, to the extent where it becomes a habit or starts to cause problems.
At the less extreme end, the character will stick to small bets and simply enjoys the game. In some cases they may even be able to make a profit from their gambling. At the more extreme end, the character is fully addicted and quite capable of ruining their own finances, lives and those of the people around them. Perhaps more common in older works and literature, when people had to make their own entertainment and card games were a much more common social activity.
Sometimes a character develops this trait temporarily, usually in a sitcom. In these cases their new habit will often lead to a big loss, and the rest of the episode will be spent trying to recover the money or property.
Unfortunately this is still very much a case of Truth in Television, especially in a world where Internet gambling allows people to indulge in this destructive behaviour without ever leaving their house.
Anime and Manga
- Kaiji from Kaiji is also suffering from this after the end of the first season.He still hadn't learned his lesson.
- Tsunade from Naruto fits it quite nicely.
- In Pokémon Special, we have Gold and the gaming corner in GSC (hints are towards it being an habit; and his Togepi "inherits" it), and then the Compressed Vice version with Platinum Berlitz and the game corner at Sinnoh years later during the DP arc.
- Eisuke Kitamura in Stepping on Roses (aka Hadashi De Bara Wo Fume), much to the chagrin of the protagonist, his sister Sumi. This combined with his habit of constantly bringing orphaned children home with him has the family up to their ears in debt at the beginning of the series.
- Although its based on market arbitraging, and not gambling for pleasure, Spice and Wolf's Lawrence Craft often takes risks for profit, and makes quite a good living from it. When he hits an extreme debt, he does consider the method of gambling for pleasure as a means to pay it off.
- Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop.
- Lelouch from Code Geass, before Becoming the Mask, was a heavy gambler who often skipped classes to run off to casinos and nobles' residences. It stopped when he donned the alter-ego Zero, but regardless he still used his gambling addiction as a cover for his operations.
- The ironically-named Lucky Smurf in The Smurfs comic book story "The Gambling Smurfs". He hardly ever seems to win at gambling, but he'll never stop betting on something.
- Frankie Four Fingers from Snatch definitely falls under this category. Every single character that knows about his gambling tries to either desperately keep him from it, or trick him into it. He's called Four Fingers for a reason.
- Given the setting of the movie as an underground Poker world, many of the characters in Rounders.
- The title character of Bob Le Flambeur ("Bob the Gambler") is a Gentleman Thief and an all-around great guy, except he's hopelessly addicted to gambling, which he does all day and night, and even has a slot machine in his apartment that he is shown playing several times during the film.
- In The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, both the title character and the Devil. While the Devil controls their relationship, he also gives up several opportunities to win because it would end their game.
- The main character in Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans (among his many other addictions).
- Dr. John Watson is heavily implied to be one in the 2009 Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes film and its sequel.
- Phillipe Bridau from Balzac's The Black Sheep / La Rabouilleuse, who not only loses all his own money, but steals all his family's money and loses that too, becoming (temporarily) destitute. Also from this book, Madame Descoignes, who, in contrast, only spends what she can afford but still puts most of her spare money on the French lotteries.
- Mr Farebrother in George Eliot's Middlemarch, who's actually quite good at whist and can supplement his paltry income by betting. This wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't somewhat scandalous behaviour for a churchman. When his income increases, he gives up.
- Duncan Wedderburn in Alasdair Gray's Poor Things, during his elopement with Bella, visits a casino in Frankfurt and thinks he's worked out a system for roulette. At first he wins large sums, but inevitably loses it all the next day. Then he thinks his true strength is in card games, but gets cleaned out by sharps. For the rest of the trip he gambles away any money he's given at the first opportunity.
- Little Nell's grandfather in Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop believes that his gambling is an investment in Nell's future that's bound to pay off and provide for her once he dies. He borrows from Quilp to sustain his habit, leading to the loss of the eponymous shop when Quilp realises his problem and forecloses on the loans. His constant relapses, and Nell's attempts to keep him from temptation, lead to their exile from London and inability to settle in one place for most of the rest of the book.
- In Robert E. Howard's "Shadows in Zamboula", Conan the Barbarian claims to be this, that he hired his room in advance to avoid losing the money to do so at the gambling table.
- Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire gives us Ludo Bagman, a Ministry of Magic official who, according to George, "lost everything gambling. Hasn't got two Galleons to rub together."
- Morley Dotes from the Garrett P.I. novels was this trope in the early part of the series, which is why he so often had to assist Garrett on a case to pay off his debts.
- Nozdryov from Dead Souls.
Live Action TV
- David Scatino from Season 2 of The Sopranos.
- Booth from Bones.
- Kevin from the US version of The Office.
- In an episode of Black Books Bernard Black is introduced to horseracing by Manny, promptly develops a full-blown gambling addiction and loses £20,000 in a poker game. Fortunately Fran turns out to be a bit of a Card Sharp and manages to win it back.
- Barney in How I Met Your Mother is repeatedly portrayed as a gambling addict, whether it's playing a Chinese game at a casino, betting on sporting events, or just accepting any challenge that comes his way. On one occasion, he actually commented how a certain activity (namely, seducing a woman while wearing overalls) was impossible. He then immediately said, "Challenge accepted!"
- Dave Charnley from Drop the Dead Donkey.
- Warrick from CSI. In one episode, a rookie dies on his watch because he leaves the scene to place a bet.
- Joe Tranelli in Men of a Certain Age. Many episodes focus on the consequences of his gambling addiction, for good or ill.
- Alan Townsend in Reaper.
- The victim of the Cold Case episode The River. He got so heavily addicted to gambling on card games that he became financially ruined in spite of working as a rather well-paid surgeon.
- One episode of The Golden Girls has Dorothy being this, upsetting Sophia. According to Sophia, Dorothy had been this once before, which got her deep in debt. And she wasn't the only one. From Sophia's account, Salvador, Sophia's late husband, "was a gambler right up to his dying days."
- Toby from Switched at Birth is a teenaged version.
- Pearl Forrester from Mystery Science Theater 3000 has a weakness for gambling, particularly slot machines. It even comes into play in one episode when Mike challenges her to a Shell Game and ends up winning his choice of the movie that he and the 'bots will watch. He picks Hamlet, but ends up getting more than he expected.
- The Twilight Zone episode "The Fever" featuring a man who abhors gambling travels to Las Vegas with his wife (who won a contest) and is forced by a drunk to put a dollar token into a slot machine, and winds up winning some money. Despite his efforts to run away from the slots, he hears the slot machine literally calling his name, and winds up addicted to the point where he thinks it's alive, and he might be right.
- Gerry in Luck. He's a whiz at horseracing, but a terrible poker player, blowing all of his track winnings on cards.
- Max Holden on One Life to Live, who within a few short months, went from a blissful newlywed to someone who nearly destroyed his business, his friendship with his partner, and his marriage with his rapidly developed addiction.
- Detective Ed Green on Law & Order was implied to be one. It's never established how severe a problem it was, but his despondency over his partner's retirement and later, his death, was enough to trigger a relapse.
- One of the Un Subs on Criminal Minds was a hopeless gambler who kills a Loan Shark and subsequently has great luck in the casino. When his lucky streak ends he kills another person and his luck seemingly returns. This convinces him that he has a super power that makes him lucky if he kills someone he knows.
- Kenny Rogers' signature song The Gambler details the train-rider narrator having a conversation with a man of this sort.
- The classic song "House of the Rising Son" has the male singer relating his depressing life and his slide into gambling addiction and habit of picking up prostitutes at the eponymous house of ill repute in New Orleans.
- In Impure Blood, evidentally a problem: defaultors are threatened with being thrown into the Gladiator Games next time.
- The Simpsons: Marge Simpson becomes addicted to slot machines when a casino's built in Springfield, and shows this trait occasionally in subsequent episodes.
- In the South Park episode "Red Man's Greed", Gerald Broflovski loses $37,000 at a Native American Casino, underwritten by the family's house. Later, when the Native Americans threaten to take over South Park, the townsfolk pool their resources and bet it on a single roulette number in a last-ditch effort to save the town. They win, giving them the money they need and a bit extra on top, but Gerald convinces them to let it all ride on another spin, and they lose everything.
- In The Flintstones, Fred Flintstone had a severe gambling problem, to the point where simply mentioning the word "bet" in his presence caused him to get a crazy look in his eyes and start repeating the word over and over.
- The Looney Tunes cartoon "Early to Bet" has a literal gambling bug whose bites causes gambling addiction.
- Soccer-themed cartoon Hurricanes has Jackson Black, a casino owner who would take any bet. Stavros Garkos won Black's ecosphere and his soccer-themed resort in a rigged roulette game. Because Garkos had to agree to offer Black a chance to win back whatever he lost, Black decided to bet the Hurricanes would win the upcoming Hurricanes versus Gorgons soccer game. The Hurricanes won. Hurricanes coach Jock Stone considers Black as someone with more money than common sense.
- In The Ren and Stimpy Show episode "My Shiny Friend", Stimpy has an addiction to watching television. At the end of the short, he appears to have reformed, but it turns out he switched to...gambling.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky is host to an Octillery explorer who — once the café opens early in the game — will subsequently spend all her time there continuously trying to win that Big Prize Draw run by Wynaut and failing. She knows she shouldn't continue, but does so anyway!
- In Dragon Quest IV, Maya's gambling addiction leads her to spend all of her sister Meena's fortune-telling profits at Endor's casino, leaving them stranded in the city until The Hero arrives to recruit them for his quest.
- Makalov, from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and its sequel. Both he and his sister Marcia lost their jobs in the Begnion Army because of his gambling (and the huge debts he got into).