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  The Gambler




whom does she belong? Do you know her? Who is she?" "She is, I believe, a Frenchwoman," I replied. "Ah! A bird of passage, evidently. Besides, I can see that she has her shoes polished. Now, explain to me the meaning of each round in the game, and the way in which one ought to stake." Upon this I set myself to explain the meaning of all the combinations--of "rouge et noir," of "pair et impair," of "manque et passe," with, lastly, the different values in the system of numbers. The Grandmother listened attentively, took notes, put questions in various forms, and laid the whole thing to heart. Indeed, since an example of each system of stakes kept constantly occurring, a great deal of information could be assimilated with ease and celerity. The Grandmother was vastly pleased. "But what is zero?" she inquired. "Just now I heard the flaxen-haired croupier call out zero! And why does he keep raking in all the money that is on the table? To think that he should grab the whole pile for himself! What does zero mean?" "Zero is what the bank takes for itself. If the wheel stops at that figure, everything lying on the table becomes the absolute property of the bank. Also, whenever the wheel has begun to turn, the bank ceases to pay out anything." "Then I should receive nothing if I were staking?" "No; unless by any chance you had PURPOSELY staked on zero; in which case you would receive thirty-five times the value of your stake." "Why thirty-five times, when zero so often turns up? And if so, why do not more of these fools stake upon it?" "Because the number of chances against its occurrence is thirty-six." "Rubbish! Potapitch, Potapitch! Come here, and I will give you some money." The old lady took out of her pocket a tightly-clasped purse, and extracted from its depths a ten-gulden piece. "Go at once, and stake that upon zero." "But, Madame, zero has only this moment turned up," I remonstrated; "wherefore, it may not do so again for ever so long. Wait a little, and you may then have a better chance." "Rubbish! Stake, please." "Pardon me, but zero might not turn up again until, say, tonight, even though you had staked thousands upon it. It often happens so." "Rubbish, rubbish! Who fears the wolf should never enter the forest. What? We have lost? Then stake again." A second ten-gulden piece did we lose, and then I put down a third. The Grandmother could scarcely remain seated in her chair, so intent was she upon the little ball as it leapt through the notches of the ever-revolving wheel. However, the third ten-gulden piece followed the first two. Upon this the Grandmother went perfectly crazy. She could no longer sit still, and actually struck the table with her fist when the croupier cried out, "Trente-six," instead of the desiderated zero. "To listen to him!" fumed the old lady. "When will that accursed zero ever turn up? I cannot breathe until I see it. I believe that that infernal croupier is PURPOSELY keeping it from turning up. Alexis Ivanovitch, stake TWO golden pieces this time. The moment we cease to stake, that cursed zero will come turning up, and we shall get nothing." "My good Madame--" "Stake, stake! It is not YOUR money." Accordingly I staked two ten-gulden pieces. The ball went hopping round the wheel until it began to settle through the notches. Meanwhile the Grandmother sat as though petrified, with my hand convulsively clutched in hers. "Zero!" called the croupier. "There! You see, you see!" cried the old lady, as she turned and faced me, wreathed in smiles. "I told you so! It was the Lord God himself who suggested to me to stake those two coins. Now, how much ought I to receive? Why do they not pay it out to me? Potapitch! Martha! Where are they? What has become of our party? Potapitch, Potapitch!" "Presently, Madame," I whispered. "Potapitch is outside, and they would decline to admit him to these rooms. See! You are being paid out your money. Pray take it." The croupiers were making up a heavy packet of coins, sealed in blue paper, and containing fifty ten gulden pieces, together with an unsealed packet containing another twenty. I handed the whole to the old lady in a money-shovel. "Faites le jeu, messieurs! Faites le jeu, messieurs! Rien ne va plus," proclaimed the croupier as once more he invited the company to stake, and prepared to turn the wheel. "We shall be too late! He is going to spin again! Stake, stake!" The Grandmother was

The Gambler page 39        The Gambler page 41


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