In the acclaimed 1992 action thriller Passenger 57, Wesley Snipes’s character, John Cutter, shares a tidbit of indispensable knowledge when he advises his nefarious nemesis, Charles Rane, to “always bet on black” when playing roulette. Cutter then proceeds to beat some serious ass at even more serious altitude—ass that may or may not have belonged to vampires and/or been headed to Sizzler; don’t remember.

Fast-forward a decade and a half, in real life: me and you, inexplicably aboard a flight to Luxembourg, playing Yahtzee in first class. Not Travel Yahtzee, either—full-blown Deluxe Edition Yahtzee: the golden dice, the pimped-out tray with the dice holders, the cup with the fuzzy felt lining. You are losing—badly—and you don’t understand why or how. As I consummate my third Yahtzee of the game, you inquire impotently, “Eric, what is the secret? How are you able to do this?” I mark another hundred points on my score pad, look up gravely, and, like a slightly more intellectual version of Dolph Lundgren, utter:

“Always go for Yahtzee.”

Out of nowhere comes a jolt as the craft encounters an air pocket, sending the plane on a precipitous drop and the five golden bones careening into the air. Just to prove a point, I call out authoritatively, “Hotsy-totsy, gimme a Yahtzee!” as the airborne dice come off their arc. They touch down perfectly, softly, back on the tray. Five fives.


“As I was saying,” I continue, “always go for Yahtzee.” Flouting FAA regulations, I take a puff on my pipe, rubbing one die between my thumb and forefinger pensively, almost sexily, as I do so. “Even when you are not going for Yahtzee, you must go for Yahtzee. This is the secret to the high score. The high score is victory.”

You seem confused still—afraid even—as you reach down to pick up the dice and place them in the rolling cup.

“No!” I admonish, grabbing your forearm and applying one hell of an Indian burn. “Do you not know your Yahtzee etiquette?” Your eyes indicate that, no, you do not. I take the cup from you and place the dice in their velutinous cylinder. I then place the cup down on the board before you.

“Like so. You will do the same for me on the next turn.”

“Oh … OK.”

“Now roll as I have shown you,” I instruct.

In an undulating radiocarpal movement that actually instills me with hope, you shake the cup and its contents with purpose, concentrating on the maroon felt between us. You hesitate, though, looking up at me with shameful eyes—eyes that ask, “Do I have to?” “Say it, you bastard!” I scream. A surge of adrenaline encompasses you like a wave, and for a brief moment you float serenely, like a drowned body, in an ocean of courage.

“Hotsy-totsy, gimme a Yahtzee!”

The wondrous cubes spill out of the cup, lining up in perfect order, like chorus girls commanded by an obstinate stage director. One, two, three, four, five. A pure large straight. Remarkable.

“But I said gimme a Yahtzee,” you complain, “not gimme a large straight.”

“You do not get it,” I reply. “This is a Yahtzee. Everything is Yahtzee.”

Your head lowers in shame. The plane, as if cued by your movement, begins its descent. To you, the failure is real, immediate. To me, it is simply the first step in a metaphorical journey of a thousand miles. Much like saying “Hotsy totsy, gimme a Yahtzee!,” failure is necessary in this game. Because of what it teaches us, failure is the only way to greatness, both in the game and in life; and when you are playing Yahtzee and winning, the world is your oyster, open and full.

“We’re landing,” I announce.


“Come with me when we’re off the plane.”

“Where are we going?”

“We’re goin’ to Siiiiiiizzler,” I proclaim as I bust out the cabbage-patch dance in my seat.

Luxembourg be damned.