New York City English professor Axel Freed (James Caan) outwardly seems like an upstanding citizen. But privately Freed is in the clutches of a severe gambling addiction that threatens to destroy him. After a heavy loss betting on basketball, he relies on his mother to bail him out to the tune of $44,000. Unfazed, he continues to gamble recklessly, winning big at a casino, only to blow it all just as quickly. When his debts become more than he can handle, the loan sharks begin to circle.