Daniel kept looking across the table. Bob was losing, again and again. They were young, Lilly was even younger—it just seemed too good to be true. There must have been someone else that had his strategy because things don’t just come as easy as this. Bob was going to lose everything, and it wasn’t going to end well.
Daniel Chouinard had just turned twenty, and he decided to take his girlfriend and his best friend to Reno to toboggan for the weekend. The hotel they arrived in had a casino as its first floor, which stank of cigarettes and beer. They did not pay much attention.
“I’ve got the toboggan from Big5. They’re a youth, but they should still fit us, right?” Daniel asked. He unloaded the plastic disc from his bag, which was smaller than his single bathtub at his apartment. Bob and Lilly stared at him in disbelief and proceeded to unpack their things.
“Sure thing, Daniel. I suppose it’s alright to ride on a kid’s bike too? Let’s go grab some youth helmets while we’re at it, eh?”
Daniel rolled his eyes and set down the toboggan. “It’ll be fine. One person can go at a time.”
The group peered down the mound of snow before them. It was a good fifty feet to reach the bottom, and they all were reluctant to take another step. The sun beat down on their backs as they stood frozen in place, eyeing the other families pushing their children and friends down the hill.
“Daniel, you go first, mate. Let’s see how this goes.”
Daniel clutched the toboggan in his hands, which appeared to be even smaller compared to the other toboggans the people had. He decided to test out the strength of the ride and released it down the hill, hoping it would reach the bottom. They watched as the disc jammed into a rock and toppled down the rest of the snowy mound.
It snapped in half.
Back at the hotel, the friends were pacing the casino out of boredom, looking for another cafe to spend time at. They passed clusters of people at their slot machines, focused on nothing else but the money that the machine had taken from them. They passed alcoholics and smokers dumping their trash on the ground and yelling at the machines.
“People actually live like that! Can you even imagine?” Lilly whispered in Daniel’s ear. Daniel nodded and scanned the room. He wasn’t particularly interested in the machines, or gambling in general, but he was curious about what it was that these people were so focused on.
And there it was.
An empty green table separated from the machines in its own corner of the room, with a shiny roulette wheel next to it. Daniel stared at it and pulled Lilly to walk with him. Bob followed, wondering what it was that they were walking towards. Daniel approached the table and saw the table in better detail—numbers spread along the surface and chips piled on the sides of the board. He turned to the wheel, a colorful array of black and red stripes along the insides of the spinner. Clean wood bordered the wheel, and a small white ball sat on a slot that read “20.” He looked at the number. Twenty. That was how old he was. Twenty.
Daniel, Lilly, and Bob were seated on stools on the opposite side of the dealer, who stared at them suspiciously.
“Your IDS, please, ” he said.
Daniel pulled out his wallet and showed him his card. The dealer hesitantly glanced at it and placed chips in front of them. Lilly and Bob gulped as the atmosphere around them grew uncomfortable. They felt as though the people at the casino were staring at them behind their backs.
Lilly nudged Daniel’s arm.
“Daniel, are you sure you want to do this? We’ve never gambled before!”
Daniel ignored her and handed him a one-dollar bill. He took a white chip from the stack in front of him and placed it on red.
The dealer nodded and shifted his gaze to Bob and Lilly, who were sweating with dazed looks on their faces.
Bob placed a red chip on black after handing the dealer a five-dollar bill. Lilly placed a white chip on red.
“No more bets.” the dealer announced.
He walked over to the wheel and released the ball in the spinner.
The ball spun faster than their eyes could keep up until it gradually slowed down and fell into a black hole that read 15. Bob smiled as the dealer placed a glass cup onto the number, and the others chuckled as the game continued.
Hours had passed. It was approaching midnight, and everyone had played around six-hundred dollars at the roulette table.
Bob had come up with a strategy during the game. He handed the dealer a sum of 250 dollars, which he had lost immediately. Feeling sick to his stomach, he racked his brain for a strategy to win it back.
Then it hit him.
He handed the dealer another 250 dollars and let out a shaky breath. He placed his bet on black and closed his eyes nervously. The others gawked at him, as he was behind by more than 5oo dollars. The dealer showed no emotion as he spun the wheel. The ball fell on red.
Daniel and Lilly felt lightheaded, as they pushed themselves off their stools.
“Wait,” Bob said.
They paused and looked at him in disbelief. Bob handed the dealer 450 dollars.
“I would like to double my bet.”
He placed his bet on black, the dealer nodded and spun the wheel. The light from the casino reflected off the glass that sat on a red spot on the table. The ball spun around and around the wheel for a good minute until it slowed and fell into a hole.
Daniel peered over and saw that it had landed in a black slot.
Bob sat back and covered his face with his hands in relief. He collected his chips and got up in celebration. Daniel and Lilly pulled him towards the exit of the room, but he abruptly refused.
“I’m not done yet.”
“What are you talking about? You‘ve already lost a couple hundred dollars, you’re lucky you got some of it back!” Daniel exclaimed. Bob shook his head and confidently sat back down at the table. He placed 700 dollars on the table in front of him. The dealer remained silent as he switched it with more chips.
“One more round, please.”
He placed his bet on black again, and the dealer spun the wheel.
“It’s 50/50 guys, don’t worry. If I lose it, I can get it back.” Bob said.
The ball spun around and around the wheel, finally landing in a slot.
It was red.
The sick feeling hit their stomachs once again, as they watched the dealer swipe the chips from the table.
“You fool! You just lost 700 dollars! How are you going to pay for transportation fees?” Daniel yelled. Lilly forced back tears, unable to look at Bob.
Bob breathed hard through his mouth as he looked the dealer in the eyes.
“Double my bet.”
The others were yelling at him from behind as the dealer stared him down, not lifting a finger. Bob tapped his chips to get his attention, but the dealer didn’t say anything.
“Sorry, sir. You have reached the casino limit. You have played a total of 2 grand, and are unable to place any more bets. Thank you for playing.” The dealer clicked off the light and exited the roulette corner. Bob, Daniel, and Lilly stood aghast. They were the only ones left in the room of the casino as the clock struck 2:00 in the morning.
Daniel and Lilly had gone back home in their car, leaving Bob to take the train back through the mountains. They were both speechless during the ride as they drove through the long stretches back to the city.
Daniel side-glanced at Lilly, who was pretending to be reading a book. He sighed and shifted his gaze on the rocky mountain roads ahead of him.
“Why, Daniel,” Lilly muttered. He didn’t respond and continued with his eyes locked on the road.
“You think he’s coming back?” she asked.
Daniel paused. “No.”
“What about the money?”
“He’ll get it back.”
“He’ll play again. And again. He’ll play until he’s lost all of his money but win it back in the end. And then lose it again. That’s what roulette is—what gambling is. What can you do?” Daniel sighed. They sat through a period of silence until they reached Sacramento. The snowy mountains had disappeared from their sight. It was all vast roads from that point on.
“Is it our fault?” Lilly asked.