The Million Dollar Deathmatch
February 5, 2022
My name is Dana Andrews, People say I'm the nicest man they know. Others say I can't tell a lie. They say that honesty is the best policy. And for 20 years, I lived my life around those words. But after coming back from an economics class one Friday evening, the sole principle which has governed my life will be put to the test.
I open the door, everything looks exactly the way I left it. Everything, except for a note which has appeared on my desk. I pick up the note and read it.
Hello, Dana Andrews,
You have gained the right to participate in the Confidence Trick. This opportunity is presented to only one in every 50,000 people. By reading this note, you have signified your irrevocable interest in this event. You could make hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of dollars over the course of this Confidence Trick. At 20:30, a limousine will take you to the site of what could be the turning point of your life. We wish for your success!
I look at the clock. 20:28. They'll be here in two minutes!
I start to think about all the things I could do with the money. Will I donate it to charity? Share it with my friends? If I had that much money, the rest of my life would be smooth sailing. No, I shouldn't spend it on myself.-
I hear a knock on my door. "Is Dana Andrews in there?"
"Yeah, I'll be right out." I tie one last knot in my shoelaces and open the door.
"Mr. Andrews, please follow us." The two men in black suits escort me to a limousine. I open the door, click on my seat belt and close the door.
"Look at the other seat to your left." One of the men instructs me. I see a suitcase.
"Open it." I flip the suitcase open. There appear to be ten thousand $100 bills.
"Is this real? Is this real?! What is this?!"
"All ten thousand bank notes are real U.S. legal tender. No counterfeits."
"So... there’s a million dollars in this case, ...why is it here?"
"We'll talk about that when we get there. Right now just sit tight and relax, you could win a lot of money starting tonight."
The case stays open and I stare in awe at the million sitting right there next to me. Never in all my life have such riches been this close to me. Until the limo stops, I think to myself that this is all some delusion, some dream from which I’ll wake up in the morning and forget before noon. Eventually we arrive at the venue, an old hotel.
"Mr. Andrews, we have arrived at the destination. Take your case with you into the building." I leave the vehicle with case in hand. The blacksuits escort me into the hotel. I see a line of people waiting at the check-in desk, each accompanied by someone in a black suit. One by one, they trade in cases for what look like poker chips. Eventually, I become next in line. I take my case, containing a whole million dollars, to the man at the check-in desk. He puts the case under the desk and in exchange gives me ten poker chips each worth the engraved value, $100,000.
"You will be in room 132." the check-in man says. The suits lead me to the door to room 132. One turns to me and says "Your opponent is waiting.”.
“Any questions you may have will be answered once we enter the room." The doors open and I am escorted into the room.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, Ms. Black." The other blacksuit turns to me.
"This is your opponent for tonight, Gordi Black."
"Professor Black? What are you doing here?"
"I had just as much chance as you." she tells me. I am about to ask her another question when a blacksuit interrupts our conversation.
"Attention, may I have your attention, please?" He continued. "Thank you. Congratulations, The two of you are among the lucky few selected for participation in the Confidence Trick. Each of you has been given ten gambling tokens valued at $100,000 each. Please have them on the table in front of you now." Both of us place our ten chips on the table. The announcer continues. "I will be the croupier for tonight's game. Right now, you each have ten chips each worth $100,000. I will now distribute the other materials required for tonight." Each of us gets a set of cards. Some have a picture of a hand, others have just a number. The announcer continues once again. "Right now you should also have twenty-two cards. four with a closed fist and the letter 'R', four with two fingers stuck out and the letter 'S', four with an open hand and the letter 'P', three with the number '1', three with the number '2', two with the number '3' and two with the number four. Please check to see that you have these cards." Both of us lay our cards on the table to count how many of each there were. Each of us turn out to have the announced number of cards. These cards look surprisingly familiar, one of my friends told me about this Japanese manga with high stakes gambling. Some of these cards look like they were taken straight from that. Are we seriously going to play rock-paper-scissors for a million dollars?
"I will now explain the rules of this game."
- Each player splits their twenty-two cards into twelve "signs" and ten "numbers". These two separate groups of cards are to remain separate.
- Each player discards 3 signs. The discards will be collected by the croupier. They will not be seen by the opponent.
- Each player announces how many chips they wish to wager by laying down a number of that value, face up. The wager for that round will be determined as follows; a) if the numbers are identical, then that number is used as the wager; b) if the numbers are different and the sum is odd, then the odd number is used as the wager; c) if the numbers are different and the sum is even, then the average is used for the wager.
- The two players must place a number of chips equal to the round's wager; if a player does not have enough chips, then their opponent need only equal the bet.
- The players have two minutes to place a sign face down. During this time, the players can freely communicate.
- The two signs are then turned face up; rock defeats scissors, scissors defeats paper and paper defeats rock. If both players play the same sign, then the round is a draw.
- The winning player takes all of the chips at stake for that round. In the case of a draw, then those chips remain at risk for the next round. If the last round ends in a draw, the players split the chips equally.
- This game lasts for eight rounds.
- If at any point, either player accumulates all twenty chips in play, the game immediately stops.
- The number of remaining signs and numbers of each kind as well as the number of chips each player has will be displayed. These counts will include the six signs discarded.
- The winner will be the player with more chips at the end of the game.
- If any cheating should occur, then the offender will be considered to have lost their entire stake to the opponent.
- Win or lose, the chips are exchanged for cash at face value.
- After the game, both players must repay the $1 million loaned to them. Please note that we will do whatever is necessary to collect outstanding debts.
- The winner is given a choice, to continue in the Confidence Trick for a chance at even more money, or to withdraw and forfeit half of the winnings from this game.
- In the event of a draw, both players must continue in the Confidence Trick.
"Are there any questions?"
"Yes." I respond. "Define "whatever is necessary".
"Just that. We will do whatever is necessary to collect outstanding debts."
"Another question." I reply.
"Why are we playing this game?"
"We have not lied to either of you yet. We have given you both an opportunity to gain large sums of cash. Don't tell me you are abandoning this unique opportunity. Should you walk away at this point, your opponent will win by 20-0. Any more questions?"
They will do whatever is necessary to collect any debts from this game or from any game relating to this “Confidence Trick”. What’s going to happen if I lose. Wait a second, I know Professor Black! What do I have to worry about?!
Professor Black shakes her head, giving a negative response. I myself give a negative response as well. I have nothing to worry about.
"Then Part One of the Confidence Trick shall begin!"
"Please discard three signs."
I look at my twelve signs. Four rock, four paper, four scissors. It doesn't take me long to decide to throw away one of each sign. Three paper, three rock, three scissors. Professor Black does the same and lays down three of her signs.
"Select your wager."
I look at my numbers. I can wager any number between 1 and 4. For no particular reason, I choose 2.
"Reveal your wagers." I reveal a 2, the Professor shows a 3.
"The wager for this round is three chips. Please place three chips in the center of the table." The two of us throw in three chips. Six hundred thousand dollars are up for grabs.
"Your two minutes start now."
"Dana, do you think they're actually telling the truth? Do you really think this game is real?" Professor Black asks me.
"They haven't lied to us yet. They wouldn't lie now that we've started."
"Once these eight rounds are over, no matter who wins, neither of us will end up with a single cent."
"The money will be secretly 'stolen' by someone who works for Confidence Trick Inc.. Whoever loses this game will drown in debt. But the winner will be told that the cash got stolen or something. Both of us will leave with no more than what they came in with."
"So, why are you telling me this?"
"Dana, let's play to a draw, 10-10. We may be forced into the next game, but neither of us will have to pay a cent. It can't fail. All eight rounds will end in a draw and we'll each get out ten chips back. They won't make a penny."
"Good idea. I don’t want to find out what happens if I can’t pay. I'm with you." In all my years in school and college, she was my favorite teacher. I knew her since the ninth grade. When I graduated, she took a job at the university I’m going to. It was coincidence, but we got to stay in touch and here we are. There’s no reason not to go along with her plan.
"Let's go with paper."
"OK." With time to spare, we each laid down a sign.
"Reveal your signs." I show paper. Professor Black shows...
"Oh, no. I thought I said scissors. Sorry about that. I'll let you win the next round." A simple mistake, I shake myself off and prepare for us to correct it.
"Alright then, I'll play rock, you'll play scissors, we'll both play 3." I tell her.
"Fine by me."
"Round Two has started, select your wager." After a few moments, we both lay down a 3 as planned.
"The wager is three. Your two minutes start now." We throw three more chips into the center. If this goes right, we're back to square one. She inspects her card, making certain that it is indeed a scissors. She doesn't want to make another mistake. At the same time, I play my rock and she plays her scissors.
"Reveal your signs." I show rock. She shows...
Paper? I thought we had a plan! Why throw paper? We agreed to a draw! Do I really know this woman anymore? There’s no way she would do this to me. After all she said about working together? I want to trust her, but she’s already betrayed me twice!
"Ha ha ha ha ha …"
"You don't get it? They call this the Confidence Trick for a reason! I'll take your million without breaking a sweat! You were just tricked oh... so... easily, Dana." Damn! I'm down $600 thousand. What am I going to do? I'm literally two steps away from god knows what. My heart races, I sweat bullets. I have to find my way out of this mess. I have to win somehow. There's still six rounds left, but we might not even play three. If I can't win back those chips, my life is over.
"Round Three has started..."