Once a year, the five richest men around gather in town for a high stakes poker game, among them Henry Drummond (Robards), who puts his homely daughter's wedding on hold so he can play. This year is a bit different, however. Meredith (Fonda), his wife Mary (Woodward) and their young son are on their way to Texas to buy a farm. As their wagon wheel is being fixed, Meredith, who has a gambling addiction, hears about the big game. Despite Mary's protests, he sits in, risking all the money they had saved to buy the farm. (The regulars are more than happy to let a weak player in.)
Then a very big hand comes up. There are raises and reraises, until an enormous pot is built up. Finally, Meredith has no more money to call the last raise. By the house rules, he is out of the hand. Before his hand is folded though, he passes out. After Doc Scully (Burgess Meredith) affirms that Meredith can't continue playing, the ill man begs his wife to take his place. The other players are scandalized by the idea of a woman playing poker, but grumpily give in. There is still the matter of the uncalled bet, however. When she insists on going to banker C.P. Ballinger (Paul Ford) for a loan, the regulars are disgusted, but give in. To their surprise, after seeing her hand, Ballinger, a notorious tightwad, gives her unlimited credit. The other players fold.
All of the men are greatly touched by Mary's courage and determination. When Drummond returns to the suspended wedding ceremony, he takes the groom aside, hands him a wad of money, and tells him to flee (advice the young man takes).
Later, it is revealed to be a gigantic scam. Meredith, Mary and even their "son" are con artists and expert card sharps, and Mary is actually Ballinger's girlfriend. The banker wanted payback for a swindle perpetrated on him.
Best part of story, including ending:
The twist ending was totally unexpected.
Best scene in story:
Drummond's talk with the groom was rather touching.
Opinion about the main character:
She had the audience completely taken in.