College literature professor Axel Freed (James Caan) is a compuslive gambler who has fallen deeply into debt, and owes the Mob a great deal of money. The only way to pay off his debt to the Mob is to get Spencer, a basketball star who's in one of his classes, to shave points in an upcoming game. Spencer does as he's asked, so Axel is out of debt Mob- but the Mob now has SPencer under their control.
After the game, Axel's bookie Hips (Paul Sorvino) tries to tell Axel something important that al lcompulsive gamblers have inm common- but it turns out Axel already knows the secret: deep down, all compulsive gamblers want to lose. Hips is astonished that Axel knows this but continues to gamble.
Axel walks to the ghetto, picks up a black prostitute, and takes her to a seedy hotel. Her pimp ambushes Axel and tries to rob him. Axel decides to make the ultimate gamble, and risks his life by fighting the pimp. Axel beats up the pimp, but the prostitute attacks Axel and slashes his face.
As the movie ends, Axel is looking at his bloody face in the mirror. Even though he is free of debt, he is still a compulsive gambler, and seems to be bent on destroying himself. Sooner or later, we know he's going to get himself killed.
Thanks John L!