The four sat around the gaming table, eyes riveted on the board, faces set, teeth clenched, fingers drumming. A crowd of 25 hovered over their shoulders whispering. They looked worried - the stakes were high.

"Okay, Lone Ranger. This could be your last trip around the board," said one player. He rolled the dice one at a time. They hit the table spinning, first a four, then a five, then a gasp. "I could be in trouble gang . . ."

States Avenue, with a hotel: $625.

Elliot Jefferson shrugged his shoulders, mortgaged his property and went bankrupt, the first finalist eliminated in the U.S. regional Monopoly tournament Saturday at the Capitol Hilton.

All of his competitors and fans applauded his efforts, save one. Patricia Majewsky, the 10-year-old owner of States Avenue, was too busy counting her money. She looked up at Jefferson and smiled. One down, three to go.

She was cool, calm, collected and about $600 richer.

"Monopoly is a game played by people who are fascinated with cause and effect and it's one of the few games where all ages can compete for money and power," said Maxine Brady, world Monopoly expert and tournament officials. "Some of them are really maniacs about the game."

How true.

Parker Brothers toy company, in true capitalistic fashion, has made a fortune off the game. They've sold over 80 million copies of Monopoly in 14 languages and Braille to make it the most successful copyrighted game in history. More than 2,560,000,000 little green houses have been built and the factory mint turns out over $40 billion in fake money each year.

But we could go on and on . . .

And with its incredible popularity among the masses, Monopoly has become, well, "trendy."

Hugh Hefner plays the game like a true maniac, on a Monopoly table (not just a board) with tiny figures of himself, girl friend Barbi Benton and other friends who play regularly. The money has a picture of the great man himself on one side and his Playboy mansion on the other.

Alfred Dunhill, an English silversmith, made six equally self-indulgent Monopoly sets for the maniacal player with money (a select group).

The houses are sterling townhouses, the hotels solid gold.

The set costs $5,000.

Some Monopoly players are maniacs.

Unfortunately, the maniacs don't always win. Though avid players claim there is a lot of skill in trading real estate and going to jail (do not pass GO, do not collect $200 . . .), luck is still in the roll of the dice.

Patricia Majewsky, the Monopoly cham from Dundalk, Md., found that out.

Afterr 2 1/2 hous of hard-nosed, back-stabbing play, after she almost single-handedly put two players out to pasture, after slipping past her opponents' hotels five times . . . it happened.

Pennsylvania Avenue, with a hotel: $1,400.

She calmly counted out the cash, able to cover her losses for now, but not for long.

Majewsky eventually lost her hotels, houses, property, money and a chance to go to the U.S. finals in New York this fall.

Easy come, easy go.

THe winner was Dana Terman, an assistant manager of a food chain in College Park, Md. His total assets at the end of play were $12,727.

The winner was Dana Terman, an assistant manager of a food chain in College Park, Md. His total assets at the end of play were $12,727.

"I attribute my magnificent play to literally years of gamesmanship, expertise in mathematics and my great humility," said the 21-year-old champ.

A sense of humor is a rare thing among Monopoly players. Most of them are maniacs.