Roulette Night

by Sharkrags

Chapter 1: Care to Deal?

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Wing dings, buzzers, bells and flashing lights more intoxicating than Christmas saturated several thousand square feet in the velvet-roped gambling center of the Platinum Horsehose Hotel and Casino. Funny thing about the Platinum Horsehose, it was last year's winner for the Best Joint-Species Gaming House award as well as the Most Unfortunate Misspelling Award in its first year of operation.

“I'm going to drink a lot of intoxicating drinks a blow an irresponsible amount of money,” you said.

Octavia shrugged. “This is a casino. That's expected, to an extent. Care to make a contest out of it?”

“No, I don't. Just know if I'm set loose on the casino floor, bad things will happen. Things that may lead to us getting kicked out.”

“You, maybe,” she waved a hoof. “I'll make sure to suddenly forget your name if security asks questions. Did you not see how amazing the bathtub in our room looks? I'm not leaving until I soak in there for three hours beneath a mound of bubbles.”

“Three hours? You'll turn into a prune.”

“The most de-stressed prune you've ever laid eyes on.”

“Yeh yeh yeh.” People crowded penny slot machines, blackjack tables, craps tables, baccarat, and poker tables, everyone with a sprinkle more cash than common sense. Not that you're in any fit place to judge, as the chimes of easy money and hopes and dreams payable in cold hard cash drew you in just as hard, if not harder. You patted your wallet bulging with more bills than you'd normally carry on-person.

“I'm so glad I have you around to get us into places for free,” you said.

“Ah, so that's why you hang around,” Octavia said, looking at passing a barmaid, or rather her tray full of whiskey sodas and screwdrivers.

“Well there's a few other reasons,” you bumped her side just enough to make her sway.

“Hm-hm-hm,” she smiled, bumping you back. “Be sure to thank the casino for inviting me to play. Also thank them for that five hundred dollars credit. As well as the handsome payout for playing one evening's set.”

“When's that again?”

“Tomorrow night at eight.”

“Do I have to watch or can I stay out here and gamble?”

She paused, looking thoughtful. “Are you going to sit quietly or keep yelling for me to play Styx covers?”

“I'm just saying, any musician worth their salt outta have Renegade down pat.”

“We'll discuss that later,” she said, knowing it'll lead to a forty-five minute debate on the value of Paradise by the Dashboard Light. “By the by, it's not 'gambling,' it's 'gaming,'” she said, taking a left in the maze made of slot machines, each one with a bright smiling screen. “Very important distinction. Gambling is for thugs and lowlifes who play in dingy bars or back alleys with lots of knives and broken kneecaps. Gaming is clean and civilized. You've never heard of someone with a 'gaming' problem after all?”

“Remember that time you sat down to play Sega Bass Fishing and-”

“That doesn't count,” she said a little too quickly.

“Thirty hours, Bowtie.”

“And I won every minute of it.”

“Sure did. Ya sure did. Oh, wait waitwait.” You held a hand in front of a slot machine from 1973 that aged like fine wine after decades of absorbing the fumes of cigarettes and liquor. Your eyes closed as an open palm drifted over the dark wooden paneling, divining the future for financial gains and losses. “This one. Right here. I feel it.”

“Is that so?”

You sat firmly into a cushion that bared the weight of a thousand-thousand butts. “Very so.”

Octavia jumped up and leaned on your shoulder. Her smoky hair touched your ear. The soft fabric of her black and purple evening dress brushed your arm. “The slot pictures are all crooked.”

“Beauty marks on a proud old dame,” you said. “That's means she's seen a lot of use. Means lots of people played and win.”

“Or they played, lost, then rocked the machine, maybe punched it once or twice.”

“Such passion.” You leaned close to its scratched glass panel. “Tell me your story...”

“And there you go.” She patted the back of your head. “If you need me I'll be at the bar playing video poker and having a smoke along with a Banana Rum Cream for the next two hours.”

“Knock it out of the park,” you muttered.

Your chin turned towards her and exchanged a quick peck on the lips. She told you to have fun and trotted off.

“Now then,” you slid a card with all your casino credit into the machine. “Show me a good time.”

You bet exactly one penny on one line. The slot machine tumbled over pictures of cherries, sevens, and squares that read BAR, chuffing like a fire hazard waiting to happen. When all faded pictures stilled, the machine rang and awarded you with oh-point-eight cents.

“Oh yeah,” you leaned back, grinning. This'll be good.


Twenty minutes and five dollars, forty-seven point sixteen cents down, you cashed out and strolled around the casino.

Black-domed cameras were placed strategically across the ceiling and pillars. Thaumic rods, tastefully disguised, struck out every few yards, ready to hum if they caught the barest whiff of magic put to play. Octavia said the gambling floor of the Platinum Horsehose was basted in the most powerful anti-magic wards and spells ponies and humans could develop. In fact, the casino floor was closed and curtained off every day for one hour at five A.M. to cast refresher spells on whatever anti-cheat magic they employed. It's even rumored that wizards placed sigils and runes beneath the carpet and above the ceiling tiles during the hotel's construction.

All carefully guarded stuff. Every practical and supernatural tool against swindlers, grifters, cheaters, and assorted pumpkin eaters was deployed in this building. No one could cheat on their diet without the pitboss knowing about it. You half wondered if goblins tunneled beneath the floor and swam in the plumbing.

Luckily no one had to worry about you or the zero magical capability you carried. You only wanted to spend a nice weekend at the shiny loud gamble house with the Bowtie, gorge into a coma at the buffet, and leave with only a little more or little less cash than what you started with.

A line of the more modern slot machines were commandeered by a pack of asian women all in their sixties. You walked along the wall and saw a man turning irate at a machine with Fred Flintsone grinning on its cover.

“Ya stole all my cash!” He smacked the side of the Barney Rubble's head. “Fred Flintstone, you son of a bitch!”

“Yabba Dabba Doo!” yelled Fred.

You stood there grinning until large men in black suits quietly asked him to calm down.

An elderly mare on the Titanic case next to you shook her head. “Dumb bastard doesn't know how to pace himself,” she said vaguely in your direction.

Laughing, you strolled on. Sure, you could sit down at a poker table, but things might turn a little…heated. Not that you had a gambling problem. Gracious no, not you, momma raised a better boy than that. The lure of sitting at a table or slot machine until nothing was left in your wallet but dust and slips from fortune cookies never appealed to you.

But it's still best that your gambling remained a solo affair. When other people added themselves to the equation, it's more polite to say the situation turned enthusiastic. Each time, every time.

You walked in a slow circle on the floor, seeing what cartoon-plastered machine of chance and vice would provide your next fix of cheap thrills. Too bad they didn't have a Ninja Turtles arcade box.

A few yards ahead, glass panels sectioned off a room. Several poker tables sat inside. Hands in pockets, you approached, only wanting a peek.

Maybe two peeks. Behind the immaculate glass, Celestia sat at a table. Across her sat Luna studying at a spread of cards. Discord leaned on a claw to the right, half his face hidden by a huge pair of sunglasses. The dealer pushed a stack of chips towards Rarity. Rainbow Dash sat at the other end, suppressing a scowl. Two humans were at play as well. Didn't know their names, but their affluence radiated all the way to where you stood.

There's a game worth getting enthused over. You walked towards the room, saw the High-Betting Limit sign with a huge number scrawled beneath it, whistled a quick tune, and turned right back around.

Worth getting enthused, not worth going broke over. That room stretched so high above your league you'd snap your neck trying to look at it. Smiling and sweating, you marched directly towards a table and plopped down without paying attention.

“Hey there.”

You looked up. Oh damn, you sat at the roulette table with people on it. Applejack stared at you, smiling. “Heyyyy-,” you replied, trying to remember when you last met. “How've you been since, the uh...”

“Grand Fields Trade Show.”

“And what a show that was. Really grand, yep.” You struggled to remember that weekend. Vague memories of hay bales and an abundance of whiskey is all that came.

“I hear this year's show'll be even better.” She leaned close, “Don't tell no one, but Whithworth Pearfields may drop out.” Her conspiratorial voice did not sound disappointed.

“That is so fascinating.” You looked behind, trying to find some way to hightail it. “Listen, I thought this was the-”

“Oh, how rude of me, hey, this here's Princess Cadance, I mean, you've prolly heard of her,”

“But please, Cadance will do just fine,” the pink alicorn said. “Really I never stray far from the video poker, but Applejack insisted and the barmaids seem to pay more attention to people playing at live tables.” She smiled and stirred her cosmopolitan.

“She's telling the truth,” said another mare with a pink-blue mane. “Name's Bon-Bon. I hate roulette.”


“But it's the only thing I ever win at, so go figure.”


“It's the worst.”

Applejack spoke up again, “So you down here with Octavia? I saw her name on the show calender. Pretty neat that this place can snag a fancy gal like that. Never been much for the cello myself, but the girl can make them strings sing like sunday choir.”

“Oh yeah, she's over at the,” you waved over to the almost seedy circular bar where she was probably mulling over having another Newport. “reviewing for tomorrow's set.”

“Scuse me,” piped another voice from the end of the table. “You said, 'Octavia,' right? Cellist, gray mare? Wears a bowtie every day of the year?”

The question came from a white-furred unicorn. “Yeah,” you said. “You a friend or a fan?”

Her head titled up and she moved strands of blue hair away from a pair of cadillac-purple glasses. The light cut strong lines across their surface. “Oh, ha, me and Tavi go a ways back. I'm Vinyl. How's that posh teapot doing?”

“Well,” you started, “she's kept pretty busy this past year. Played a show in Chicago two months ago. I think she's got another one in...uh...” you tried to remember the pony version of the place, “Manehatten before the end of the year.”

“Good to hear. And you, hmm...tag along with her? Don't mean to sound nosey, but you her new beau?” Vinyl put a straw between her teeth and lip, smiling.

“I'm not 'new' exactly.”

“Hey, that's cool. Huh. Tavi never struck me as a girl who'd go for the vertical types. Amongst other things. Can never tell with some people, y'know? Girl's like a weather cock, just,” she clacked a stack of chips, “spinning in every direction.”

Her tone made it feel like you missed a point that'd leave a vicious prick if you weren't careful.

Before you could ask Vinyl what exactly a 'weather cock' is supposed to be, she straightened up and said, “But hey, we're not here to talk about old times, let's gamble. Dealer, five on red.”

“I'll have two on black, if ya please.”

“Hello waitress, if I could get another cosmo, thank you. Oh, and two on thirteen, and four on even.”

“Five on odd,” Bon-Bon huffed. “I guess.”

The dealer shuffled chips into their respective squares on the grid. He looked to you and asked “Sir, would you care to deal?”

You snapped to attention. “Me? Yeah, sure.” You got a stack of chips form the dealer. “Give me two on eight, five on black.” He took your chips. He raised the ball, spun the wheel and threw it into the groove where it bounced around its circle.

The ball spun in a silver blur around the wheel. The dealer waved his hand over the table, signaling that no more bets can be made until the next round. Just play one or two rounds to be polite and not look like a weirdo. Get up and say you heard lady luck calling elsewhere and clear out. Go touch base with Octavia and ask her to tell you to stay on good behavior. Your hands clenched in your lap.

The ball rolled to a stop on a red slot. “Twenty-seven,” the dealer announced.

Applejack said a good-natured, “Aw shucks.” Cadance fished an ice cube from her glass. Bon-bon looked at the five dollars worth of chips she won like jokes she grew tired of a long, long time ago.

Vinyl rubbed her shiny new chips and snickered. “That's a bag of trail mix at the gas station. Maybe before the day's out I can get the big gulp too.” She pointed her nose towards you. “If I can, I'll snag a bag of gummi worms for Tavi. She loves those things. Especially the sugar-coated ones.”

Your thumb rubbed the outer seam of your pant leg.

“I love the colors on them. Can't say much for the flavor.” Highlights swirled on Vinyl's glasses as her head shook. “But she's always had strange tastes. Total weirdo, but good luck getting her to admit it.”

You shrugged. “She does have an odd fixation towards collars, bows, and bowties, but I wouldn't peg her as weird.”

Vinyl mused over her chips and said in a small voice, “Stick around long enough and you'll see it, trust me.”

“You'll get to know her,” she added in a smaller voice.

“But not like me,” in a voice so small it got lost beneath Applejack saying something about gas station snacks.

“I'm sorry, come again?” you said, but uncertain who you meant to ask. You noticed Cadance bit down very hard on her ice, its sharp crack making her jump.

“I said gas station trail mix really ain't something you want to get involved in. Or the pies.” Her voice dropped. “Specially the apple ones. You can see it in the packaging, no love in it at all. Just sugar. Better to get local when you can.”

“Yeah, I'll remember that.”

“Eh,” Vinyl shrugged. “Call me cheap, but sometimes you just want the sugar.”

“Well if you're positively yearnin'...”

“And sometimes you want to put two on black and two on evens,” Bon-Bon pushed her chips forward.

Applejack nodded. “That's true, too. Sometimes you even want to say five on second dozen.”

“Another five on red,” Vinyl said.

You looked at Vinyl. “Ten on black.”

The dealer waited, looking at Cadance. “Ma'am?” The alicorn kept her mouth tight on a straw leading to an empty glass. “Lady Cadance? Would you care to deal?”

“Hm? Me? Yes, erm,” she pushed two chips forward. “Two on odds, yes.”

“At the Lady's pleasure.” The dealer spun the wheel.

The Princess looked distracted. In fact, her wide eyes darted between you and Vinyl. She noticed your glance then looked back to her glass.

“Twelve,” said the dealer, and marked its red square on the table grid.

Bon-Bon remained silent at breaking even. Applejack pursed her lips and ran a hoof along the rim of her hat, muttering “One off, are you serious?”

Vinyl smirked, watching you roll a shiny new chip in hand. “Guess you can get her those gummi worms now.”

“I don't know about gummi worms. She always asks me to get a pack of peanut butter cups.”

“That a fact?”

“There's an empty wrapper of the stuff in our room right now.”

“Probably the only wrapper that room'll see this weekend.”

“The hell does that me-”

“Ma'am, your cosmo.”

“Oh thank heavens!”

Cadance slurped the drink as fast as the thin straw would allow. The alicorn seemed to have taken on a deeper shade of pink since you sat down. “Any chance you could bring another, thank you.” She placed a generous tip on the barmaid's tray. “Keep them coming.”

“Cadance, are you alright?” asked Applejack.

“Fine,” she held her forehead. “Oh, brainfreeze.”

Octavia stepped up behind you and put a hoof on her shoulder.

“There you are. Was wondering where you went to. I kept zig-zagging through the slots and thought 'Oh no he got too weird with one and they shooed him out already.' Hey look, I won sixty at the poker bar and-”

“Hey Tavi.” Vinyl waved a hoof.

Octavia's attention snapped to the voice. Her purple eyes widened and her smile dropped, mouth moving to say, “Oh shit.”

“Ah hahaa, what a brainfreeze.” Cadance giggled in stifled horror.

Next Chapter: Start of a Winning Streak Estimated time remaining: 31 Minutes
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