Syedyshev Oleg
Syedyshev Oleg

Humorous Essays Based on students' memories

"All have died
except for those who are alive, and those whom we remember"Confucius

Essay 97. And you are a gambler, Paramosha!

In a film "Running" an actor Ulianov, playing a part of a general Chernota, says to an actor Yevstigneyev, who performed a part of Paramon Korzukhin, when playing cards: "And you are a gambler, Paramosha... This is what ruins you". The phrase was abridged to: "And you are a gambler, Paramosha!' and became a catch phrase. Though when our company was affected by a virus of gambling and craving for cards, the film was not yet released. We started gambling long before 1971.

Well, and a year or two prior to it, in 1971 we already quitted that pastime. How the infection affected us, and what the reason was, that we started gambling like crazy, I still cannot understand. Yes, we were affected by gambling - the emotion, vividly expressed, related to anticipation, absolutely inadequate to the objective reality of success in a card game. And a group of gamblers was a fixed one. Its regular members were: your most humble servant, Zhenya Romashov, Kolya Kozlov, Slavka Sizikov, Valera Kaygorodov and Zhora Chernobay played very rarely, more often than Zhora, there came to us to play Volodya Kravtchenko, my Sambo (a type of marshal arts) coach and our friend. Volodya worked at a plant "Progress", and there discipline
was strict, so Volodya did not have a frequent opportunity to tickle our and his own nerves. He was way too emotional when playing. He would jump up from his seat and start swearing at all the players together and each of them individually, if, for instance, someone used a wrong card, not the one he needed. Zhenka and I had known Volodya better, than Slavka or Kolya Kozlov, and did not bother to answer him, but Kolya and Slavka every time were trying to explain to Volodya, that they were playing for their own sake and not to make Volodya win. However, there was never a case that Volodya won. We gambled for kopeks, at least the initial stakes were a kopek from each player.

And we played Azi. That was the game's name. Its main point was that one suit was completely discarded. And the rest twenty seven cards were dealt one at a time, four cards in a hand. The last card was put face up by the dealer and revealed to show what suit would be the trump one. Then everybody discarded one card each, and in order to win one had to have two tricks. The situation when three players took a trick each was called "azi"; those who played, but did not have a chance to take a trick, in order to continue playing could purchase their play for half of an amount of the round. Those who did not play could also trade for them to join the game paying the total amount on the round. So the amount on the round was growing correspondingly to the trading of the players. And each of them could raise the stakes only once, if the suggested amount was approved; and if the sum was overridden, then one could offer a new amount again. And the player, who was the last to offer the amount, started the game and played his hand first. The game was interesting, risky, the azi I'd described could take place several times in a row, and if other players paid for their participation and joined in, then a trifle amount grew very quickly. And here I can say that the winner was the one who was less reckless, who had excellent memory, who was cool and could determine at least approximately by other players' faces, emotions and behavior, what cards they had in hand, the one who could bluff in a cool way. Well, sure enough one had to be very well familiar with a deck of cards and know how to shuffle cards to make so that the last one was an ace when it was revealed to mark a trump suit. I will not say that about the other with one hundred per cent confidence, and will quite modestly hint about myself that maybe not perfectly, but I could do everything of the above mentioned. I could reveal an ace, if there was a decent amount on the round and I was the dealer. I did not do that often, as I was closely watched, but, to be quite frank, I did or to put it more precisely, played such kind of tricks. I also liked to take my wallet out of my pocket in a showy way and slowly, taking my time, take a one hundred note out of it and offer it as the stakes. Wow, what would start after that! I should say that to have a wallet was in itself an achievement back then.

My wallet was given to me by my Batya (father) for my birthday with a wish that it would be never empty. According to a tradition, one must not give an empty purse or a wallet, so Batya put a new crispy one hundred note in it for me. The crocodile leather wallet was terribly expensive. Batya had bought it secretly from his wife, my dear mother, at a defense ministry retail shop in Frunze; he worked there and bought it only because things of that kind were not available in regular trade. The one hundred banknote was beautiful, though quite rare in circulation, as a price of bread was twenty kopeks and of sausage two and fifty per a kilo. So situation at the game table became tense, and if Zhenya and Volodya happened to be at it together, they started arguing with each other, swearing, insisting that I was bluffing. What was quite amazing was that both of them were stating that I was bluffing, but also both blamed each other for playing into my hand. Volodya was making a lot of noise insisting that Zhenka and I had been in collusion, because we were best friends, and Zhenka was blaming Volodya for the very same thing. Zhenka usually would give the clincher: what kind of friend I was, if by that moment he had lost more than twenty five rubles to me? That was practically never the case. And Volodya used to give the very same argument: what kind of friend I was, if last year he lost three hundred and sixty rubles to my benefit? The money was not his, Volodya's, it was Komsomol dues (Volodya was a Komsomol leader of his shop at the "Progress"), so I refused to give the money back to Volodya, for him not to lose a bigger sum next time. Yes, that really happened. The lesson did good to him. After that Volodya never lost more than ten rubles. He would simply get up and leave. However he remembered about that case every time we played. Fortunately that was only during game time and only when having an argument with Yevgeniy, and our friendship was not in the least influenced by that. So the scenario was well known to everyone: Volodya and Zhenya after having an argument, and promising to tear my head off, if I did bluff, revealed their cards. Then they demanded me to show them my hand. So I with pleasure did that, because that was also a part of the scenario; if I had a good hand, Zhenya and Volodya would hug and call each other wise and me - a lucky schmuck, and if I bluffed, what would start then! They forgot about me and called each other cowards and wimps. The game was stopped for five or ten minutes until the wranglers chilled out. I should say, my dear readers, that the game also had one more point: we played only on weekends. The gain was never appropriated by the winner; it was spent on purchasing of port "777" and "Doctor's" sausage. And, like in the case with my winning of three hundred and sixty rubles, it was difficult to spend the total amount on wine and sausage at once, so the players, knowing the prices, had a clear idea of how much the winner had left. There was also one more nuance, nobody of the players, as a rule, never went to a store. Yevgeniy had and still has a younger brother Kostya. We called him "the Kid". So Zhenka would immediately call the Kid and send him for purchases. Poor Kostya, he even did not try to say no. Neither a test he was supposed to have the next day, nor an exam he would have to take in two days, had absolutely no effect on Yevgeniy. He instructed Kostya about what to buy, offered to the winner to give Kostya the necessary sum, and always added on unanticipated needs and a taxi. So the latter went to a store and we continued playing.

We got cured of the contagion also at once. Everybody was very annoyed that I could reveal an ace, but they failed to find out how I did that. So once I was invited by Zhenka, Slavka Sizikov and Valera Kaygorodov to play a game. I was surprised then that it was not Saturday, and they decided to play. The second time I was surprised when they demonstratively started opening a new deck. I noticed all of that, but did not make any conclusions. So the cards were dealt. I had a queen and an ace, both of trumps, and my chances to lose were less than one per cent. I could lose only in one case, if I was not the first to play my hand, and my opponents had their cards in certain sequence. So when the stakes were raised, I had a feeling that they did not want to let me play my hand, and everything was predetermined, I gave up and lost one hundred rubles in the very first dealing. I was offended; I got up and started collecting my things. They were persuading me to stay, saying that everything would be spent on all of us anyway. I calmly explained to them that, if I was able to reveal an ace, that was my own merit and my risk, and I had always promised to give the well known to everyone one hundred note from my wallet, if I was caught on cheating. And they acted in collusion. I was offered to have the one hundred note back, but I refused to take it and stated that that would be a lesson to me. So I left. However I could not be angry for a long time, so the next day we were friends with Zhenka, Slavka and Valerka as if nothing had happened. I want to say that since 1971 I've never gambled, remembering how I was framed that time.
Since then we somehow shifted to passing the hat, when we made up our minds to buy the "777" and "Doctor's" sausage. Only one thing remained unchanged; Yevgeniy, as he had done before, sent to a store the Kid.

7 January, 2012.

© Copyright: Oleg Syedyshev, 2012
Publishing licence #213101900993

Translated by Viktoria Potykinato content