A gambling barber gets taken, gets back, gets illegal gambling clubs, and gets arrested.
Nick Venizelos (Edward G. Robinson) loves to gamble in his barbershop. His friends decide to back him with $10,000 to play in the big city. At a hotel Nick gives pretty cashier Marie (Noel Francis) $100 to hold in case he loses. Nick joins a big poker game with Hickory Short and orders new cards; but he loses. The next day he sees a photo of the real Hickory Short in the newspaper. Nick goes back and asks for $3,000 in chips. He wins the first hand and gives back the chips; but Sam (Ralf Harolde) won't pay off when he finds out Nick has no money on him. Instead the exposed crooks beat him up. Nick calls on Marie for the $100, but she says she doesn't know him. Nick vows to get back at them.
Nick helps Jack (James Cagney) who can't find a job and raises big money with the help of Greek businessmen. Nick "returns" cards to the hotel and finds the crooks to play with $50,000. He orders cards from the hotel and asks to see Sam's money. Nick cleans out Sam, and he is rescued by Jack and another man with guns. Nick also wants to get even with Marie and sends her flowers and a diamond bracelet. He gets on a train with Jack and Marie. Winchell reports that Nick won $300,000 from Hickory Short. This enables Nick to set up private gambling clubs with his barbershop as a front. He takes $100 from Marie and gives it to another woman.
District Attorney Black wants to get Nick and asks Sam for advice. He sends a blonde; but Nick sees through her and kicks her out. Although Jack objects, Nick helps Irene Graham (Evalyn Knapp) after she is pulled out of the river. He gives her a bedroom key, and she admits the police want her for blackmail. Threatening her with 2-10 years, Black gets her to betray Nick. His club is raided by men using axes to destroy the gambling tables, as Irene puts a racing form in his coat. Jack slaps Irene and fights with Nick. Black arrests Nick on the technical violation; but discovering Jack is dead, Nick faces a murder charge. Irene asks Nick's forgiveness. In the final scene Marie says good-bye to Nick and cries. Nick tells the press he will bet he gets out before his sentence is over.
Nick finds a way to cheat crooks and builds an illegal gambling business. Others pressure the district attorney to crack down, and he uses a stool pigeon. Nick is kind to those in need, but his winning means others lose. Gambling, which can be as addictive as alcohol, was also repressed during Prohibition, further stimulating a criminal underworld as this story shows.