"You should know how low the possibility is of getting 7 runs off that guy" ~Yoshida
"A low possibility, so it's not zero than is it?" ~Toua
The line above is from an anime called 'One Outs', a sports anime about a Gambler type pitcher who helps to bring a second rate team into having a chance at winning the pennant. If you don't like Sports Anime, you probably won't like it much, but at the same time if you like Gambler types than it is a very good anime to watch. So what is a gambler? It's someone who sees almost everything as a game, something that can be one. Someone who plays the odds, and works to change them so that the seemingly low probability event they need to occur so they can win becomes almost a sure thing. Its someone who needs to always be watching, always acting, always thinking, all while never letting anyone on that that is exactly what they are doing. It's also the subject of this installment in my Character Types series.
So as a trope, what is a Gambler? Well, first off I need to mention that I'm not talking about 'The Gambler' trope you'll find on TV Tropes. Nor am I - necessarily - talking about an addict. The Gambler I'm talking about is a different take on the Tactician and Mastermind tropes that you see a lot more often. They've always got a plan, they manipulate the situation around them to come out to their advantage, and they seem to specialize in generating that low probability win that makes for a wonderful, and constant under dog story.
The differences with the Tactician and Mastermind types is that you generally don't need to wait as long for the reveal with the gambler. Often things play out with multiple little games affecting the larger event, and as such you get a series of smaller reveals instead of the one big one. This also allows for back and forth as planners on the other side work to stop the Gamblers plans from working, all the while trying to figure out what the real goal of the gambler is. Also, the Gambler is generally much more willing to get involved in the plan themselves. They don't sit back and manipulate others to do everything, they get involved and do some of - if not most of - the dirty work for their side themselves. As such a Gambler usually isn't able to hide as well as your normal Tactician or Mastermind type.
A Sense of Honor
Now, don't get me wrong. Gamblers do some down right mean and dirty things. They are manipulative and they can be cruel, but there is also a sense of honor. Gamblers are playing a game, and games have rules. A gambler won't break those rules, because to break the rules is to violate the game which defeats the whole purpose of the gamble. However, that doesn't mean that they are playing by the rules that you think they are playing by. That also doesn't mean that they are even playing the game you think they are playing.
A Gamblers goal is always to win, but it is they who define their terms of victory. In Sporting Anime it is usually to make their team win, however to do so they can play any number of other games while trying to pull that off. Deception is after all the name of the game. Just keep in mind though, when a gambler gives a rule, that rule is there and will be followed (most of the time anyhow. I refuse to use an absolute here)
You Don't Play the Cards
This is a common thing in gambling, especially Player vs Player gambling, but most gamblers will tell you that you don't play the game, you play the person playing the game. In Poker this means that the cards you have, the actual hand you hold, is a secondary thing. Sure, they are important, but to win long term you play the person, not the cards. This is also true for Gambler characters, the rules of the obvious game are secondary to what they are doing, which is playing the opponent. Reading them constantly, looking for weaknesses to exploit and strengths to avoid. Finding a way to put a person's strengths against them. This is the core operating method the gambler employs, and part of what makes them such a terrifying opponent because no matter what game you bring them to play in your attempt to beat them, they are still playing their own game and not the one you chose.
Playing the Gambler
I've yet to successfully pull off a Gambler type in a game, though not from lack of trying. Much like the Mastermind, this is a highly GM intensive type of character to play. You need a lot of information, and need to be doing a lot of things to get that information. It is also a hard type of character to play, very mentally exhausting as you need to be constantly watching, cataloging, and recording what is going on around you for potential future use. I don't recommend playing a Gambler lightly, and I also highly recommend that you speak to your GM before you do it. Make sure that they are ok with it, and that they understand that you're going to need their help to pull off the character at times. But done right, and both of you can have a lot of fun.
Build wise you need to have your social and ability to notice things as high as possible. Intelligence is also something good to have, but Perception and Social abilities are really key here. Perception to drink in details, Social to read people and manipulate them when that needs to happen. If possible, some ability in psychology and a sharp memory are also good things to have (again, to help with all the info you need to be able to use and retain).
Physical abilities and things not relating to the mental part of gambling are going to be second or even third string. You're going to be pressed for points if you want to be able to hang competitively while still doing this character. So make sure you know that ahead of time..
Next, gamblers understand something. Action is better than not acting, and a situation in flux is more likely to present something able to be worked with than a static one. Keep in mind also that Gamblers love the low probability chance, they specialize in turning it into a near sure thing after all. Many gamblers won't give up until the chance of victory is actually 0, even a 0.1% chance of victory can be enough for them to ply their trade and bring about victory.
Finally, as important as all that taking in and using of information is, you also can't let others read you. You know what is useful, and you know how well it can be used to destroy you. You do it yourself after all, so you can't let other people know where the real you is, or what it is. You need to always be on guard, always acting, and always plotting. Due to this, many gamblers come across as cool and aloof, they have alligator blood (means they're cold blooded when it comes to a game).
Pulled off right though, and the moments when you do pull it off, Gamblers are a lot of fun. They are also just a lot of work. So have fun with it.