St Petersburg, 1899. Obsessive gambler Rubashov has played every game in town. Now on New Year's Eve, he finds himself on the brink of ruin, and decides to make a bid for the ultimate rush, the biggest gamble ever, to challenge the Devil to a game of poker.
Rubashov loses. His punishment is not to go straight to Hell (Hell is full and has been for years), instead he is condemned to immortality. And so begins a monumental trip through Europe, as Rubashov encounters some of the twentieth century's most notorious characters.