He rolled a seven, and in less time than it takes to say "Do not pass go," Dana Terman's playing piece was resting firmly on Oriental Avenue.
Normally, that wouldn't mean much in a game of Monopoly. Oriental is squarely in the middle of the medium-rent district. Boardwalk and Park Place are where the big action and big dollars lurk.
But Dana Terman already owned the other two "light blue" avenues, Connecticut and Vermont. Which meant he had just gotten a monopoly. Which meant?
"Bad news for Mr. Reporter," Terman said, in grave tones worthy of Boris Karloff.
From that point on, it was strictly euthanasia. Terman built houses. Terman built hotels all over the board. When I landed on Baltic Avenue a few minutes later and couldn't get together the $450 fine, Dana Terman had finished crushing me at a game of Monopoly.
But that has happened thousands of times, to thousands of people who play a tougher game than I do. Dana Terman may be a mild-mannered 26-year-old resident of Silver Spring who makes his living as the manager of the Derby Restaurant in the Sheraton Inn-Silver Spring. But since 1977, he has also been the United States Monopoly champion.
Terman seems entirely too polished and courteous to be a Killer Gamesman. Small, dark and handsome, he is given to three-piece suits and to looking you in the eye when he shakes your hand.
If you thought the U.S. Monopoly champ should be an 11-year-old computer whiz with freckles, or a 40-year-old with the desperate eyes of a pool hustler, think again. Dana Terman is the champ, and he has a severe case of the smooths.
But to Terman, that isn't mysterious. "The same skills I use in business, I use at Monopoly," he says. "I play the game for fun, but the dealing's the thing."
I found that out the hard way the afternoon Terman and I played a game in a booth at the rear of his restaurant. About midway through, I had two of the "green" properties. Terman had the third.
"Shall we talk a little turkey?" I asked.
"What's in it for me?" he asked.
I told him I'd give him a utility and an "orange" property in exchange for the third "green." Terman's eyes flickered across the board for a few seconds. He was calculating. Finally, he said no. But he said it this way: "Not at this point, sorry."
Why? "I want to get you thinking, to get you a little off balance," Terman explained. And indeed, he already had, for I was wondering: "Does he see something I don't see?"
Thirteen minutes later, in a game which sometimes never ends, he had wiped me out. His strategy: buy whenever possible and build whenever possible. Mine: take up canasta.
Dana Terman has had glorious moments as a Monopoly champion. Parker Brothers, the game's manufacturer, has paid his expenses to world's championships in Bermuda and Monte Carlo. And he once came close to arranging a game with Playboy monopolist Hugh Hefner, until a social secretary intervened. ("It is just a hobby he plays with a few friends," she wrote.)
But Terman has never won the world title, and it rankles. He finished 20th and second in his two tries. He is not sure he will try again, although he does plan to defend his U.S. title in 1982. "Why not?" he says. "I have to assume I'm the best player in the country."
And the smoothest. But beware. As Dana Terman says, "It may seem ruthless, but beneath my exterior, I believe that the only way to play is to play to win."