Sci-Fi’s Most Memorable Gambling Games

Gambling has always held an important role in the science fiction genre. The opportunity to create new forms of gambling was never going to be ignored by those that create the comics, television shows, and movies we’ve grown to love.

Here, we take a look at some of the most memorable gambling games that have become entwined with the science fiction worlds we’ve all got lost in.

Sabacc (Star Wars)

An image of Han Solo playing the game of Sabacc
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The card game of sabacc is arguably the most famous form of gambling to have been created in the sci-fi genre. It is referenced to a number of times in the Star Wars franchise.

The most renowned reference comes when it is revealed that Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from his friend Lando Calrissian in a game of sabacc.

The game was believed to have been invented by The Ryn as a method of fortune telling. However, it soon became played across the galaxy for high stakes.

Hunger Games Betting (The Hunger Games)

An image of the betting odds for different districts
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In modern day society, people bet on boxing, Muay Thai, UFC, and many more aggressive sports. So it makes complete sense that author Suzanne Collins would introduce the idea that humans would be willing to bet on the odds of competitors surviving in The Hunger Games.

There are no special rules or creative gimmicks, just betting on the death of young, healthy people.

During the movie, it is even stated how the odds of the competitors survival change throughout the event. Katniss and Peeta start off as outsiders but as the Hunger Games progress they soon become more popular with the punters.

Triad Cards (Battlestar Galactica)

No other form of gambling has taken the sci-fi genre by storm quite like Triad Cards from Battlestar Galactica.

So huge was the impact the game had on fans, it is now even possible to purchase real-life Triad Cards from Amazon.

The game is characterized by the hexagonal cards. In the original series, Starbuck and other characters spoke of the game. In the more recent series though, there was no rulebook for the game so cast members often improvised.

It consists of a 52-card deck with suits and numbers. “Full colors” is considered the highest winning hand.

Other terms used during the game are Prince High Red, Three Up, and Three On A Run.

Poker (Star Trek)

An image of two Start Trek characters playing poker
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Yes, this is actually poker. So it is not technically an invented game but instead borrows from the traditional poker game that we all know and love.

It is explained throughout the series that poker is a game that was played on Planet Earth in the past. The game is referenced on a number of occasions in the various guises of Star Trek.

In the original series, Leonard McCoy offers to teach Captain Spock how to play. In The Next Generation, the senior staff introduce Data to the game.

Data believes it is a game that can be mastered using simple mathematical processing. Unfortunately, he soon discovers the element of bluffing and cannot work it out.

Poker also commonly crops up in DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise.

Thunderdome Fights (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)

An image from a Thunderdome fight in Mad Max
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The Mad Max movie series starring Mel Gibson became notorious for its brutal interpretation of an Australian dystopia.

The Thunderdome first appears in the third movie in the franchise released in 1985. It is a gladiatorial arena located in Bartertown where two conflicting individuals can settle their differences in a fight.

The Thunderdome is a dome-shaped metal cage with weapons scattered around its edges. The one rule of the Thunderdome is cited by ring leader Dr Dealgood who states “two men enter, one man leaves”.

Eulogy (Killjoys)

An image of Eulogy being played by criminals in Killjoys
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Eulogy is described as ‘one big outlaw casino’ by the character Pree in Killjoys. It is officially seen as a barter town where criminals can visit to drink, gamble, and unwind.

There are two rules that people must abide by if they want to enter Eulogy.

First, they must be a known convicted criminal. Secondly, they must bring stolen goods into the town that can be used to place bets.

In Killjoys, we experience Eulogy when Pree, Dutch, and John must enter the town to find an alleged technology that could help to get past the defensive shield protecting Arkyn so that they can attempt to rescue D’avin.

Things take an unexpected turn when it is discovered that the technology is actually embedded in a girl called Clara who is being held prisoner.

Clarion’s Call Casino Ship (Andromeda)

An image from the Andromeda, based in a futuristic world
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The television series Andromeda might not have left a lasting impression on the sci-fi genre but it still had its moments.

One of these came when gambling was mentioned as Captain Hunt tries to track down the former Commonwealth warship, Clarion’s Call. It soon becomes known that the warship now acts as a casino ship that travels across the Three Galaxies.

No actual gambling is shown during the episode but the insinuation is given that organized gambling is still very much alive and kicking in this futuristic world.

Space Boxing (Arena)

An image of Space Boxing, from the 1989 movie Arena
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Unless you are the biggest sci-fi geek around or you just have an unhealthy penchant for B-list sci-fi movies, it is unlikely you will have heard of the 1989 movie Arena starring Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Camp, and Claudia Christian.

The movie plot revolves around one human’s quest to become the greatest fighter in an intergalactic tournament that is dominated by alien species.

The graphics, script, and production are severely flawed but it was interesting to see a warped version of UFC involving aliens and humans in the 90s.

Time Poker (In Time)

An image from a poker scene during the film In Time
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The 2011 movie, In Time, starred Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Matt Bomer. Set in 2169, the concept of the movie is that everybody stops ageing at 25 years old. They then have a clock that starts counting down for a year. When time runs out, that person dies.

Time can be bought and sold like money. It can also be stolen and gambled.

At one point in the movie, Will visits a casino and wins 1,100 years worth of time playing time poker. Wonder how much time the winner of this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event would have won in that environment?