The Gamblers

Saturday nights were not Honza's favourite. Twelve hours spent mainly in close proximity to drunk men who were loudly overjoyed at winning or aggressively miserable at losing; the croupiers weekend.

Honza sighed as he lazily spun the roulette ball. "Place your bets." He didn't mean that. He meant, 'keep your money in your pocket and sod off so I can watch the football'.

A fat man in a pink shirt with wine stains on the impossibly large white cuffs threw a few chips at him, "Seven and the neighbours," he belched.

"Seven Neighbours." Honza repeated and dropped the chips into place. "No more bets!" Honza called it, and watched the faces of the people around the table hungrily watching the ball trickle round the wheel for the last time. The ball bounced into the winning number,  Honza glanced and put his marker on the number,"twenty seven red", he called. The number had no chips on it; Honza cleared away the losing chips and went to collect his marker. The fat man grabbed his arm:

"I said Twenty-Seven neighbours." The man said quietly.

"Sir." Honza responded loudly, the Pit Boss turned. "Your chips are on seven and it's neighbours. One of us appears to have made a mistake. Do you think it is me?" Honza stared at the man without blinking, his voice was amicable, his eyes were not. The fat man held his gaze for a minute then sat back, snarling something inaudible.

"Place your bets." Honza spun the ball.

A man approached the table. A tired looking man with a suit that would have been expensive when it was new. He pulled a few crinkled notes out of his pocket and held them close to his chest. Honza knew the tired man was waiting for the next spin; Honza knew the tired man thought that the next spin would be lucky for him.

"No more bets." Honza quickly marked the winning number eleven, the tired man looked happy. Honza knew that number eleven was not one of the man's numbers. Honza knew this man; he had never seen this individual before, but he had seen others like him. The Gamblers.

This man was on his last pennies. He handed Honza £100 made up of three £20 notes, three £10 notes and two fivers. Honza doubted tired man had his taxi fare behind this buy-in. Honza changed the notes for twenty, five pound chips.

"Place your bets!" Honza shouted. The man placed his bets calmly, his fingers moved the chips like a croupier. His betting strategy was bold, he bet on just four numbers, £25 pounds on each. 4/37 chance of having £900, 33/37 chance in having nothing. Honza often thought that he played on the right team in the game of gambling.

Honza watched as the man's eyes fixed on the wheel, following his four numbers round, his hands were clasped and his breathing was shallow. He could not blink and beads of sweat were forming where old sweat had dried on his brow. Honza didn't care if the man won or lost, Honza knew that man, or one like him, would return tomorrow to pay his wages; what Honza did not know was that the man was called Tom, and he really needed to win this bet.

Tom stared at the wheel, he willed and willed his numbers. He shouted them in his head, 20, 17, 34, and zero. He believed one of them was coming now.

"No more bets!" Tom barely heard the dealer as he watched the ball slow down and bounce, bounce, bounce....   

The End

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