Of all the Russian short stories the Queen of Spades by Aleksandr Pushkin is probably the most famous and combines some of the favourite Russian past times – gambling, an interest in the supernatural and social position.
The condensed story
* The story starts with a bunch of friends all sharing gambling stories with one man telling of his aunts amazing story that involved her winning with three cards. One of the assembled audience, a Russo German named Hermann is transfixed by the story and starts to court the old Aunt’s ward in a bid to gain entry into the house.
* He manages to get in and confronts her but after she appears to be unwilling to help he pulls out a pistol and the old lady dies. He is visited by her as a ghost and she tells him the secret of the three cards but tells him he can only play once and must marry her ward.
* He goes and gambles and wins big with the first card, the next night does the same with the second and then on the final night he expects to draw the ace, the last card in the sequence and win but as the card is turned over it is the queen who looks like the old woman and she winks at him sending him mad into an asylum.
If there is a moral then maybe it’s quit when you are ahead or better still don’t gamble at all…