Kaiji Ito is as pathetic a person as they come; a man who gambles his days away, only winning enough to lose significantly more. He hates himself, is riddled with envy for others, but is ultimately too weak to think of a way out of his massive debts. Then one day he is approached by a strange man who offers him what seems the solution of a lifetime – to take a short journey on a ship called Espoir, during which time he will be given the chance to win more cash than he can dream of in a card game like no other. Ever the desperate, Kaiji takes the gamble of his life; however, the game turns out to be far darker than he expected and the hard lessons pile on thick and fast. Now stuck in a closed world of unsavory characters willing to do anything to destroy him, can Kaiji gather enough courage to outwit them all?