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Russian roulette

1. A potentially fatal game of chance involving a revolver loaded with a single bullet, in which each participant in turn spins the cylinder so that the bullet's location is unknown, puts the barrel to his or her head, and pulls the trigger. A student of the university died over the weekend after apparently playing a game of Russian roulette with other members of his fraternity.
2. By extension, any reckless, foolish, and/or dangerous act or stunt, especially that in which the risk of danger or trouble is increased with the number of times one does it. Your company might have passed its audit this year, Mr. Fisk, but every year is going to be Russian roulette so long as this embezzlement continues. You're playing Russian roulette every single time you get behind the wheel of a car when you've been drinking.
See also: roulette, Russian

play Russian roulette

to take foolish and dangerous risks She accused the hospital of playing Russian roulette with the health of poor children.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of Russian roulette (a dangerous game of chance in which you hold a gun containing one bullet to your head and shoot, winning if the bullet does not come out)
See also: play, roulette, Russian

play Russian roulette

to take big risks, in a way which is very dangerous
Usage notes: Russian roulette is a very dangerous game where players aim a gun containing one bullet at their own heads.
(often + with ) I'm not willing to play Russian roulette with people's lives by drinking and driving.
See also: play, roulette, Russian

Vatican roulette

n. the rhythm method of birth control. My parents lost at Vatican roulette, and I am the booby prize.
See also: roulette